The day I found out I was HIV Positive I was working security at the Faultline for a Sunday Beer Bust. It was October 13, 2013. I’m sure there is some kind of numerological magic to the date. A testing truck was parked in the parking lot. I don’t know what made me think to get tested. It just seemed like the thing to do. The tester was bored. He wanted to be inside getting drunk. He looked at the results and then at me and he said,
“Oh, I’m really sorry.” Then he looked outside and waved to someone in the parking lot.
“Excuse me?” I said. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so surprised. There had been clues. Choices made that should have made this less of a surprise, but still…I just didn’t think I would find something like that out from such an uninterested asshole in the parking lot of the Faultline.
I think it was the banality that upset me more than anything else. And the fact that he was so unattractive. It just didn’t seem fair.
“I’m sorry,” he said, and kind of shrugged. “The results are positive. Would you like me to make you an appointment with someone?”
“Other than you? Yes. Please.”
I made up some excuse to leave work. I think I said that the sink exploded at the house, or that Alex had set himself on fire, something outrageous. I had to get home. Away. Just for a few minutes. I had to see Alex.
If I could just see Alex than maybe this might make some kind of sense.
And I had to know if he would still love me.
We had guests staying at the house. I told Alex I needed him to come outside. I needed to talk to him. And I stood there, on our front porch, and I looked at him and my heart broke. I burst into tears. He wrapped his arms around me, holding on to me and he kept saying,
“Baby, what is it? What’s wrong?”
I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to answer. I just wanted to stay like that, wrapped in his gigantic arms, forever, safe.
But if I have learned anything in life, it is that the world will keep going: life will keep flowing, and that we are never safe from the inevitable. When I found out that my mother had cancer I learned about inevitabilities: everything I love, everything I hold dear, everything that I find beautiful and wonderful will one day die. That is inevitable. It is a rule of life. When I found out I was HIV Positive I learned that I too will die. Like everything else. One day I will die.
But I also learned something else. I learned that Alex did not pull away from me, he did not tell me to leave, he didn’t yell at me and he did not reject me: instead he held me tighter, and he cried with me, and then he said,
“Okay. We will be okay. We will take care of this.”
And we did. We found me a doctor. We learned that HIV never really leaves the body, it just hides out, in the belly or the brain, always vigilant, so I have to be vigilant too. Every day I have to take my pills. Every day at two Alex sends me a text to remind me. He has been doing this for a year and a half. Together we are vigilant. Together we stand guard.
And I made a decision: that day, October 13, 2013, will have power for me. It will have meaning for me. This thing that lives inside me: it will matter. I will let it change me. I will let it affect me and alter who I am: I will take my inevitable death and I will do something with it: because what is not inevitable is happiness, or success, or beauty: I could fail. It is possible to lose everything. To end up alone. I might relapse, shoot dope, become homeless: these things are all possible with a man like me. But I decided that the world would be different for me: even if I failed I was going to try, I was going to succeed in the doing: my life would have meaning because I was going to give it meaning.
I hear a lot that being HIV positive in this day and age doesn’t mean anything: it’s manageable, it’s not important: it doesn’t mean I will die or get sick, not anymore, and they are right. I am healthy. I am strong. I am not sick, and for today, I am not dying.
But it does mean something. It is like a sign along the way: a reminder: none of this is forever. My mother will die. Alex will die. Jon will die. You will die. Everyone will die. It sounds like such an obvious thing. Of course. But feel it. Really know it. And it changes you. At least it changed me.
I am lucky. I have always been lucky. I have a beautiful life. I am surrounded by love. I’m happy. Happiness is one of those things that comes easily to me. I want to be happy. I like it. It feels good.
Recently, when the three of us are all together: Alex is gone right now, in Spokane, working on season two of the TV show he is on: But when we are all together I like to lay in bed and listen to the two of them while they sleep. Their breathing encases me, it wraps me in warmth and love. There is a magic in those moments, a power, that is another one of those signs along the way: Yes, you will die, but you will also live. This is living. This is it. Right now.
Sometimes all we are doing is watching TV. Sometimes I am sitting at the desk writing and they are on the couch showing each other stupid tumblr cat gifs and giggling: they do that a lot: look at cat gifs and giggle, sometimes we are arguing or we are fucking, sometimes we are eating ice cream and pop tarts till we are sick, sometimes we are cleaning up cat piss or dog puke or stressing the fuck out or going for a walk: sometimes we are doing nothing and I will see them, or I will catch the light as it falls across them, and I will think: I am the luckiest man alive.
This life is a kind of magic. It is a spell: we are like magicians: conjurers. My mother once told me, you have two choices in life: You either believe in magic or you don’t. It doesn’t matter if it is real. Just choose. Which seems more interesting to you?
Three weeks before we got married we asked Jon to move in. This, in retrospect, seems like a strange choice. Maybe we should have waited a few months, let married life settle in: not just for us but for our families. But things were moving: life was moving. So we kept going with it.
We decided that we would introduce Jon to our families at our wedding. This made a kind of sense at the time: I wonder though, if maybe a pizza night before hand would have been easier. I can still see Jon, in a corner, surrounded by all our family and friends, a little lost, so handsome, and people asking him, “How do you know Jeff? How do you know Alex?” And he would say, “I’m Jon. I’m their boyfriend.”
…TO BE CONTINUED