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Being Hit By A Bus And Other Disasters

Summer 1994

Nancy MacNeil's Memorial To A Friend: Roxy Ventola McGrath, Winter, 1996

I am a person living with AIDS. Since my diagnosis in 1989, I have consumed approximately 60,000 pills, had at least 150 blood draws, been hospitalized twice, lost more T-cells than most healthy people start off with, dipped into psychotic dementia, lost my family to AIDS, gone broke from the disease, been forced to hang out with the medical establishment, lost my hair and my modesty (every doctor in L.A. has seen me naked!), buried good friends, lost my emotions, received 300 injections, lost a year in down days due to fatigue and diarrhea, shit my pants about 20 times, had myself electrocuted with lightening in a box for a year, smeared myself with bee venom, seen my body turn into a troll doll, got an impressive collection of healing crystals from well-meaning friends, and received my official AIDS diagnosis on January 1, 1993.

I joined the media circus by appearing on TV and in printed articles, doing work for AIDS organizations, turning myself into an AIDS pet for the do-gooders, and doing speaking engagements. I've written an AIDS play, had a TV movie made, and demonstrated on the streets with ACT UP, all while waiting for my first OI to arrive.

Okay, enough self-pity. We all go through these things, right? I can live with it. Not gladly, but somehow we cope. Here is where I draw the line! In the last four years I have been tormented by literally thousands of uninfected people saying "Well, we all have to deal with death. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow."

At first, when I had the consciousness of an ant, I would nod my head and agree. Yes, you're right! No one gets off this planet alive. After a while though, I realized that the concept of being hit by a bus did nothing to comfort me personally. In fact, as I thought about it, I realized I didn't know one single person who was ever actually hit by a bus. Over 300,000 people dead from AIDS in the U.S. alone, and not one of them got hit by a bus! Yet people insist that they could get hit by a bus at any second.

With so many people getting hit by busses, you have to wonder about the accident rate of bus drivers. Why doesn't the DMV do something about this outbreak of manslaughter? Is this some new mass psychosis, like the post office employees phenomena? Is running people down on the street part of their job description? Or are bus drivers innocent? Will we soon see bus drivers on the talk show circuit bemoaning this discrimination? Will a 12 step program spring up for them? Will criminal attorneys use the "bus driver defense" to acquit hard core criminals?

My own theory is that being hit by a bus has become a modern myth in the United States, much like the folk belief that alligators live in the New York City sewer system. Science has robbed us of magic in this technological twentieth century, and people do need their myths. After all, how many people would believe in 1994 that a giant bird or sea monster could arrive at any time, swoop a person up, and kill them? Alas, the collective unconscious has shifted, just like everything else. The bogeyman has been replaced by the bus driver.

Let's get back to my rage, which is endlessly fascinating to me. My friend Rico and I discuss this all the time. (Rico is a hemophiliac with AIDS and has about seventeen terminal illnesses. He stays alive and active out of revenge. He's so mean that everyone hates him.) I am not fond of this plan because it would save the insurance companies and the government a lot of money, and I intend to take these two uncaring institutions down with me by living as long as I can.

Since being hit by a bus has become my obsession, I have heard two rumors about this. One from my friend Rick, who swears that a negative member of his group was actually hit by a bus. I have discounted this report because Rick will say anything for a laugh. The other rumor comes from my husband, who says his friend's roommate had to fly home because his mother was hit by a bus. I discount this story too, until I can see the accident report.

As unlikely as being hit by a bus is, this peculiar story remains embedded in people. It's driving me up the wall! If one more person tells me this, I swear I'm going to grab them by the scruff of their neck and throw them in front of a bus. Since the January earthquake, there are a lot more buses in Los Angeles to chose from!

I am now at the point of considering a few different options. First, PWA's (people with AIDS) in a unified protest, hijack buses across America and run down as many healthy people as possible. This will allow us to make a political statement, and we can advocate for decent health care plans, housing, food, etc. for PWA's within the prison systems. We could invent a new form of terrorism and become famous, like the Chicago Seven or the Black Panthers.

PWA's, throw themselves en masse, on a pre-selected day, in front of buses in every city in the U.S. After all, what do we have to lose?

I am not fond of this plan because it would save the insurance companies and the government a lot of money, and I intend to take these two uncaring institutions down with me by living as long as I can.

Scenario number three, is we hijack buses and run down prominent figures in the AIDS establishment, in a concerted terrorist attack. While this may provide some fleeting headlines, I'm convinced that these people would be replaced immediately with new Stepford doctors and researchers, thus maintaining the status quo.

My last idea is simple, but brilliant, in my humble opinion. When it's close to the end for me, I roll myself in my wheelchair in front of a bus, while one of my trusted buddies video-tapes the event. This accomplishes a number of goals. It eliminates the six hundred dollars I'd have to pay for Dr. Kervorkian to fly from Michigan to California. My friends use the videotape, á la Rodney King, to collect from the city. I envision a couple of million dollars in settlement. I do have death on my side, not just a lifetime of headaches!

The most wonderful thing about my plan is that I will have one-upped the "neggies" (uninfected people). A new mythology will displace the old. Now we can say, "NOT ONLY DID ROXY HAVE AIDS, BUT SHE WAS ALSO HIT BY A BUS!!!!" He who laughs last laughs best.

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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
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