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Loving Myself Too Much to Accept Stigmatized 'Love'

Part of the Series Our Stories of Stigma

March 26, 2016

River Huston

River Huston

I met someone.

I felt this instant connection. He responded in kind. Big smiles and little touches that led to kisses. Kisses that led to "fly me to the moon, feel the earth move, curl my toes" kinds of kisses for hours.

In the days that followed, we shared our stories. Finally, it came time for me to disclose. So, I did. There was silence and some questions. I understood because he was my age -- in his fifties -- and hadn't learned much about HIV except by way of the mainstream media.

I gave him a crash course in AIDS 101. He seemed okay; we even kissed goodnight, but then I didn't see or hear from him for a few days. I wrote it off as another disclosure casualty.

I was surprised when he stopped by the following week, and we picked up where had we left off. Bodily fluids were kept safely at bay. He was cute, funny and single. I was ecstatic.

Our kisses took us to the bedroom where we fooled around a little -- no penetration, just some skin. We lay in each other's arms and listened to the sound of the ocean, felt the Caribbean breeze on our bare bodies.

He snuggled his face into my neck and said, "I think this works." I was all smiles and said, "I do too." And he said, "As long as you don't tell anyone we are together because of the AIDS, you know?"

Long silence that neither one of us kills. My stomach hurt like it was punched, my heart was squeezed with sadness, and I didn't know what to say.

I know what some of my friends would say, "Fuck you, asshole." Maybe even slap him.

Some of my Jersey girls might knee him in the testicles. Instead I sat in sick solitude trying to understand. Unspoken words lay dead in my mouth.

My silent reaction must have signaled that this sentiment was okay. He tried to kiss me again.

I stopped him and asked, "Why do you think this needs to be a secret; what are you afraid of?"

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He thought for a moment and said, "Well, my job."

"But you're self-employed," I replied. "What do you think will happen if someone found out you were dating someone with AIDS?"

Silence.

I helped him out; I'm a professional at this stuff. I said, "Do you think they won't want to work with you anymore or just think less of you?"

He said, "Well, yeah, I guess."

I let it go to silence while we both digested this. I am not confrontational. I try to understand and to forgive. That is about as far as I have gotten in this journey when faced with ignorance.

My immediate thoughts were that there was no way I could be with someone who thinks that the brilliant, amazing person that I am is tainted because of a virus, or that I am less than others because of a disease and by association he would be less too.

River Huston is an award-winning poet, journalist, performer and activist. She travels through the United States speaking on issues related to sexuality, communication, overcoming challenges and change.


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