[My regular readers need no introduction to Toby, he's been participating here for quite a while, and there are stories about him peppered throughout this site. This is his first guest post here at Jestertunes, and likely to be the most controversial.]
When Jester mentioned writing a guest post I had no idea what I would write about. I pondered rather or not I should share things that have happened in the past to me, something debatable (as I love to debate, regardless of my personal opinion, I will debate either side, just for the fun of it), or if I should write about something that truly means something to me.
I finally decided to write about something that entails all three.
For you to understand, you will have to keep a completely open mind. The journey you are about to go on is not for everyone. If you cry easily, donâ€™t even begin, just stop now and never read the comments left. If you have a short temper, move everything spillable away from anything electronic and read on. You are about to get an emotional roller coaster that Iâ€™ve been riding for the last three years and am prepared to ride on until Iâ€™m forced to get off.
I have to start this from the beginning, jump to the end and then go back to the middle. If you need help following along, just ask Jester, he knows some of this story, and if you leave a comment, Iâ€™ll reply as soon as possible.
I am from a small town in Missouri that at the time I lived there, I thought I was the only gay boy around. Anyone else that was gay either lived in England, or California, or was the guy that got booted off of the soap opera for not stirring about enough drama. Never had I imagined that there were other gay people near me, let alone people that I already knew. This is just to give you an idea of how naÃ¯ve I could be at times.
After a horrible marriage to a girl I knew in high school and a relationship with someone whom I thought I loved [Jester's Note: He's not talking about me.], I was sooo done with men and women both and just wanted to get my degree, get rich, and move on.
Then I met someone who was a total ass hole at first. He told other people that I walked around with my nose in the air and that I probably had always had everything handed to me. That was the first day we met. I had started working at this restaurant (one of the three jobs I had at time) only a few days before and he was only about two weeks ahead of me in training. I was oblivious to all of this so befriended him. He was funny, attractive, funny, witty, funny, and could quote every episode of Designing Women and South Park that had ever aired. Did I mention how funny he was?
Anyway, I casually mentioned that he should come over and that we should watch some of these movies that he was always quoting so that I could play along while at work. It worked!
A few days later he came over and we watched Bubble Boy, Scooby Doo, and a South Park DVD. That night, since it was so late, I allowed him to sleep in my bed, and I slept on the couch. Of course he had to wake me up the next morning to go to work (at one of my other jobs) because he had the alarm clock. I had to be at work by 7 and he knew that I had my first break at 9:15.
At 9:10 I got a voice mail that went something like thisâ€¦â€Hey, itâ€™s me. Just wanted to thank you for letting me come over last night. I really enjoyed myself and had a really good time. Theâ€¦umâ€¦only thingâ€¦.umâ€¦.that I wish was differentâ€¦umâ€¦was that I wish I could have shared that bed with someone. I havenâ€™t held anyone in a really long time and it got kind of cold. I really had a great time though. Anywayâ€¦.umâ€¦.I hope you have a wonderful day and Iâ€™ll see you tonight at work. â€œ That was May 23rd, 2003. Steve and I have been together ever since. I often joke that he came over to watch a movie and has never left.
Six months later, I decided to do something special for him and got him a half dozen of his favorite flowers (that arenâ€™t cheap by the way, cause they have to be special ordered) the white Calla Lilly and a huge balloon that said I love You. It was the first mention of love. Steve knew my past with my cheating ex-wife and identity stealing ex-boyfriend [Jester's Note: Again, not me.]. He knew that I have major trust issues. When he understood that I loved him, he just criedâ€¦..
Ok, time to jump ahead.
A little over four years later, weâ€™ve had only one argument. Thatâ€™s right, one. And that argument was only a couple of months ago. Steve and I are the type of couple that when we go in public, other people usually are disgusted because itâ€™s so obvious how much we love each other. I have taught him the meaning of Christmas and that itâ€™s more that just a required visit to your familyâ€™s house and gift exchanging. He now gets excited for all of the holidays that are spent with family and actually puts thought and effort behind each one of his gifts and finds it enjoyable. He has learned that patience is a virtue that heâ€™s never known because he had never been given it. Iâ€™ve learned that too much patience isnâ€™t always a good thing. Heâ€™s learned that medicine isnâ€™t a crutch, but something that is there to help you. He used to refuse to take any kind of medication. About the only thing he would take was ibuprofen and in large amounts when needed. In our four years, weâ€™ve laughed, cried, had many nights together with nothing better to say but I love you, and still Iâ€™m not sure why Iâ€™m here.
This is where it get good.
Lets jump back to May 21st, 2004. One of those jobs I was working was at the hot spot dance club here. I had been bartending for a few years and rather liked the job. I could flirt with no commitments and didnâ€™t even have to know their names. And they paid me for it! Who wouldnâ€™t love to flirt for money? Anyways, we always had something going on and I usually participated in one way or another, whether that be the fundraisers, drag shows, or free tests for HIV.
On May 21st, 2004 I found out that I was HIV+. Keep in mind this is only 2 days from our 1st anniversary. I went through the most depressed day of my life. What did this mean? Was I going to die? What would Steve think of me? How did this happen? Who would have given me this disease and when did this happen. It had been almost 2 years since I had been tested and had slept with my share of partners.
Shamefully, I suspected a few right away. Why would I do this? Was it their reputation? Our experience? Did the condom break? I had always been pretty safe and besides oral sex a few times, couldnâ€™t think of when I had not used a condom. Even Steve and I began using condoms for about the 1st 6-7 months. I was devastated. I knew that Steve and I would be over so I went straight to where I was working at the time and told them that I would not be in that afternoon and of course had to explain my hysteria. It was the first time I had to tell someone that I was HIV+ and it took me nearly 10 minutes to say it.
Luckily, the manager was very sympathetic and told me to take however long I needed and to just call when I wanted to come back. (I went back the next day afraid that if missed too much people would start asking why.) I then went straight home, pulling over twice to wipe the tears from my eyes, and called a select few people that I knew I could trust. These were people that not only werenâ€™t from here, but had no ties to home town either. I guess subconsciously, I wasnâ€™t ready or family. This was around 2 in the afternoon and Steve wouldnâ€™t be home until after 9 so I had plenty of time to talk, cry, throw things, have thoughts of suicide, and laugh. Yes, laugh! I actually was amused that this was happening to me, donâ€™t ask my why, I really donâ€™t know. I guess you could call it emotional hysteria.
I was so scared of Steve coming home but just wanted him to hold me and tell me that I would be Ok, and that we would be Ok. It happened just like thatâ€¦kind of.
After he made it home and I finally got it out why I was so horribly upset (it took longer to tell Steve than to tell my boss), I immediately felt relief, then frustration. You see, this is when I found out that Steve too was HIV+ and had been for the last (at that time) 12 years. Why did I not get upset about his not being totally honest with me? Why didnâ€™t I turn those thoughts of suicide into murder? I can truly say that itâ€™s love that kept me from those. To this day, I still am not upset about how this has played out.
I commented earlier to a post on Jestertunes and said that I think everything happens for a reason, Iâ€™m just not sure what that reason is or who decides. More than once I have had to protect him to my friends, those that I choose to tell anyway. Most of my friends will never know, and my family? I have it specifically stated not only in my will, but in letters to my PCP and other important health care individuals that unless it is the disease that kills me, my family is to never know. Donâ€™ t ask me why cause after I die, Iâ€™m not sure that Iâ€™m going to really care. But thatâ€™s how I feel and thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve requested.
Almost everyday (well, maybe weekly is more like it) Iâ€™m reminded by my friends that Steve did something very shitty to me and I again have to say â€œI know, but I have always loved him and always willâ€.
So the next time you tell someone you love them, ask yourselfâ€¦â€If they gave me a disease that will kill me, will I still love them knowing that they could have prevented the whole thing with a little bit of communication?â€ I have and do ask myself that same question often. My answer is always the same.
Yes! It is that exact same love that gets me through everyday. You can say whatever you will, but know that in my house, love is a word not taken lightly and that when I say â€œI love you,” I mean it!