Something, something, silver lining.
You know what I realise I haven’t done yet? The compulsory seen-everywhere-else “My diagnosis” blog entry. Duh, I should have started with that! Truth be told, I prefer opinion pieces over write-your-heart-out ones. Just like I prefer people singing on talent shows over their “I cut my finger when I was 3 and have been singing about it ever since” backstories (yes, X-Factor, this one’s for you!).
Nonetheless, it is one of my happiest memories, so, hey, at least it shouldn’t be too depressing a story!
Flashback. December 2009. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have the flu that winter. Or so I thought. I was surprised at first, confused: I had never had the flu before. As I was stuck in bed for days trying to recover, I just hoped it would get better in time for Christmas.
I was stupid, too; driving back home, a good few hundred miles in the snow, tired like never before. I just didn’t know any better. I wasn’t really the type to get sick and definitely not the type to moan about it. I carried on with my business.
Fast-forward to June 2010. I never remember the exact date. It was at the beginning of the month. I’m pretty sure it was a Thursday. *Opens calendar*
So… that would make it Thursday 3rd June 2010. Maybe I should make a note, but then again what for? I won’t be buying a cake on that day or commemorate in any way.
The day my life changed, forever?
Dum dum dum, dramatic drums! Well, it did. It did change, but I wouldn’t say it got worse. It just became different.
I had been dating since January and, as I was in Central London for the afternoon, I just decided to go to 56 Dean Street and get checked. I didn’t think I would have anything. I didn’t even do it thinking of my relationship or the way we had sex. I was just there, had nothing else to do, and hadn’t been tested since the previous summer.
I went in, answered the usual set of questions from the nurse and a student. Sexual orientation? Last time you had sex? Top / bottom? Protected or not? How many different partners in last six months, blah blah blah.
Blood was taken. They left to do some rapid testing. I felt as usual, a familiar mix of 99% « Nothing to declare » vs. 1% « What if? ».
They came back a few minutes later and there it was: « you tested positive to the quick test for HIV.» I didn’t react at first. Surely, it couldn’t be. They must have been joking, trying to shock me maybe. “From our conversation, we weren’t expecting it.”
Thinking back, a strange thing to say. But, indeed, how? When? Who? The questions started to pop up randomly, bouncing all over my brain. They took another sample “to make sure”. It could have been a false positive.
They needed more blood to run more thorough tests. I still felt fine at that stage, until I was told to « Breathe normally, please » whilst more blood was being drawn. That’s when I realised that whilst my brain had frozen, my body was in shock.
I’m not sure anymore what happened exactly in the few minutes afterwards. I think I was told to come back another day, when detailed results would be in, to meet a doctor and maybe talk to someone if I needed to.
Too late for me, but what about him?
As soon as I went out, I called my then boyfriend. It was in the middle of the afternoon, he was at work and I’ve never been big on phone calls. He immediately knew there was something wrong.
« I went for a check-up… and it wasn’t good news. »
He told me later that he turned a whiter shade of pale, went to his boss who let him leave straight away, sensing that something was genuinely wrong. We met in a park and my legs gave up on me as soon as he arrived. I fell in his arms, fell on the grass and started sobbing. I wasn’t too concerned with my health at that stage, I was worried he was infected too. He tried to comfort me but I could sense the same thought was going through his mind.
Not the ‘couple check-up’ I had in mind.
We went back to 56 Dean Street. He went in, I waited outside. I was nervous. We had always used condoms for anal sex, but never for oral sex; cum had been involved at times. Boys will be boys.
Have I passed it on to him? How would he feel? What if, maybe, he had it first and passed it on to me? How would that make me feel?
I called 4 friends whilst I was waiting, to tell them about my diagnosis. It was something to do whilst he was in to get tested. Whether male or female, gay or straight, they all were supportive despite the initial shock and surprise.
He came out of the clinic. Negative. Relieved. He would need to come back in a few weeks, to be sure, but it was a good sign.
After the storm…
We made our way back to mine. Not much was said. There was an awkwardness, a silence to let what had just happened sink in. It was fine and it was going to be fine. I felt no different from 2 hours earlier, how could I. I wasn’t sick, I didn’t need treatment, I wasn’t sad. I was just unsure. Unsure about what the future would hold for me, for our relationship, for our sex life.
I did not know then what I know now: it wasn’t going to change anything. We would carry on dating for another 6 months, having as much sex as ever (albeit being more conscious of what to do and not to do), we would still be the same, able to care for one another, able to live a normal life.
…comes a rainbow.
He kept asking me how I was, as you do when you are worried and can’t get your mind off it.
“- I don’t want you to hate me”, I said.
“- I don’t hate you. If anything it’s quite the opposite, I think I love you.”
“- Me too.”
It hadn’t been voiced before. I hadn’t even realised it was there, but in that instant, it felt right, it felt true.
No matter how cheesy it sounds now, what was said or what I feel recalling it: love was to be stronger than HIV. Both were in my blood, but only one could make it boil with passion.
No matter how tough life can get, no matter how the virus affects me; love made the day of my diagnosis a happy memory.
It always will be.