Held down by Negroes: John’s Brother’s Tale

I stepped off the train in Washington, into a blinding rain-storm – a storm like all the lost souls of creation driving against the earth.

It was a strange night. As I drove up to my house, a car came up the street the wrong way and a strange voice inquired for 2130 Le Roy Place. I said, “This is iT!” and went and opened the door but the man disappeared.

I came in and my found my brother sitting listening to a record play itself over and over again. Darling, please destroy this letter when you have read it and I know you are deep as the hills for secrets and this is me –but between us there can be none. He said he had something to tell me and I got out the whiskey and he was going to speak when the door bell rannd the strange man reappeared –a friend of my brother, a nice navy man named Brady.

We sat and talked and drank for hours, joking about women and liquor etc in a sort of strange way and finally Brady had to go to Baltimore. Then I asked my brother what he had to tell me and he said, “I’m a leper!” I asked what he meant. He replied, “I just learned yesterday that I have incurable syphilis.”

The story as he told it was simply that one night last spring he and some friends had got drunk and gone on a binge and ended up somewhere with no recollection of how they had got there. In the course of the summer, he had met and fallen deeply in love with a girl and then, when he was in the south, he had fallen ill, called a doctor and discovered that he had syphilis. He was in a hotel – on the 8th floor- and had run to the window to jump out. The doctor had called for help and negroes held him in bed for two days, while his friends persuaded him that suicide was stupid.

Then he lost his job, his money and had no money for treatment—however he went to a local doctor here and had all the tests. He is incurable. He cannot communicate the disease except sexually but any woman he slept with would get it and his children would inherit- and he is in love. Every week he has to have a injection and each time there is a chance it may kill him. He says that he feels unclean and is afraid to die and wanted to leave for South America – somewhere, anywhere. I have never felt so unhappy for another man.

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