As the city bus pulled away from the curb the rain continued. Gray, wet, constant. We sat toward the back, on the left side. Me, here in this city I knew a few things about from my numerous visits, and him, a friend I'd known for only a year or two. Always a smile. Always up. Everyone knew him. "Oh yea, he's a great guy," they would all say. And he was, that's for sure. I had seen him earlier that same day in the office with several of our mutual friends. I had walked into a closed-door meeting and noticed that a couple of them had maybe been crying or something. Definitely a meeting for some particular reason but I didn't give it too much more thought. I just knew that I'd come for a visit with him....and boy was I happy. You know those people you really enjoy being around? That's the kind of feeling I had when I had packed my bags for the trip early that morning. And now, with no car, we were on the #12 Sandy Boulevard bus on our way to his apartment in downtown. I really liked it here. Rained a lot. But it sure was pretty. Everything green, lots of flowers, and not so cold in the winter time. He said he had something to tell me. Okay. We had just returned a week or so earlier from a great time in Mexico with eleven of our closest friends. Cabo San Lucas. All thirteen of us at a resort that was getting ready to close. So there were no other guests at the resort, just us. I can't remember if it was the first or second day when we turned the pool area into a clothing-optional area. But we did. He said that he had been to the doctor and had some blood work taken. The results were not good. HIV, he said. "Do you know what that is?" Nope, I didn't know that much about it. I mean, I knew what it was. But certainly no one I knew had it. Oh, but they did....he did. And he was in the painful process of telling his friends. You see, on this Mexico trip, we had become much better friends than we had been. I had been divorced earlier that year and he was nearing the end of a not-so-good 12-year relationship. We had become close. So close that we were now going to spend the week together at his place. And now he was telling me what? HIV? I was ignorant, knew very little. But I knew it wasn't good. And I knew that I was now crying, my head turned and staring through the fogged-up window of the bus as we splashed our way down the road. And then, the words that still ring in my ears......interesting because I can't totally recall exactly what they were.....but the heavy emotion behind them hits me like a ton of bricks even today. Was it "Will you still be my friend?" or was it "Do you still want to keep on having this relationship with me?" It felt, for that one fleeting second of time hanging in the air, like he was on one planet and me on another......miles, universes, apart. Space and major distance. I could feel him separating himself from the rest of "us." Those without HIV on one side and those who didn't have it on the other side. I could tell that he had struggled to bring himself to even deal with it let alone the fight to tell others that, at some point, he'd been exposed to one of the world's worst plights.....and now it was his plight.....and now he was trying to reach across what seemed like miles of inky, murky distance and grab onto my hand of friendship. It was a dark moment in my life. But at the same time, I reached right back. He needed the hand and I needed to extend it. Of course I'd still be his friend. Who cares what he had. I mean, my dad had died of Lou Gehrig's disease. My god, that was a living hell to go through. I'd had many cancers in my family, suicide, multiple sclerosis, alcoholism. Those were the times that we drew together, not separated. And this should be no different. I don't think I had any idea of what I was truly saying or doing that day.....but I thought I did. You know those surreal times when everything seems to happens all at once. Decisions are being made and words are being said at rapid rates of speed. I just knew that, as sad as I was and as nervous and scared as he was, that we needed to be friends and hold on tight. Sort of like when a hurricane or tornado is coming....head for the cellar, all together......one. The road has been bumpy, up and down, crazy at times. But it was that day that started it all. Fear of rejection on his face and in his voice. And my weak struggling words "Of course I'll be your friend." I reached out and, for the very first time ever, pulled his hand and mine together.....down between the two of us where it was warm, dry, and safe. I knew it was time to draw together and not be apart. That's what friendships are all about. For healing and not for hurt.