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Thursday, November 30, 2006

When HIV Strikes Close to Home



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.





15 comments:

Shaney said...

Thats a gorgeous story Lewis, really inspiring!...Your choice indicates the kind hearted natured with in you...Also wonderful to see!
big hugs to you!
xox

Anonymous said...

Beautiful words. So close to home. May you always be blessed.

BIL

Spider said...

Beautiful post Lewis - you have such a way with words...

Brad said...

Your friend was lucky to have you...

Michael said...

What a beautiful story. Thank you. Last year a gorgeous man I knew (in all ways) was the second friend of mine that was HIV+ who passed away.

It kinda brought up a lot of memories but mostly, that I could have cared less if he was HIV+ or had 15 toes. He was a sweet wonderful man.

Thanks again Lewis
Peace

Tony said...

Great story Lewis. I have said this myself once or twice in posts and or comments...No one should feel that sense of isolation and loneliness.

Thanks for sharing.

Ryan said...

thanx 4 sharing that story with us i am so glad that i know u and call u a friend!

Kelly said...

Thanks for sharing that story...

dbv said...

what a touching post! and thanks for the tips, i'll email you if i have any questions...

Matt said...

I just left a comment on "It's Raining Men" as well. Beautifully, beautifully written. Perfect. Thank you.

Derek said...

Lewis, thanks for sharing this story. I'm glad you were there for him. This brings up memories for me as well!

Erik said...

Arnie-
It has taken a while for me to get onto your blog....and I love it!!!! It takes me to my home, and the winter which I am missing this day here in Nicaragua. Thank you for sharing a part of your world with me and all of us.
-Erik

Minge said...

Beautiful.

hello, my name is danny. said...

i just recently found out that someone i care about has tested positive. he's young and it bothers me that his future has become even more uncertain now, but i want to be strong like you were for your friend and be available to him during the good and the bad days.

thanks for sharing!

don said...

Good for you Lewis. Many gay men would walk away from any level of commitment with a person who is HIV+.