February 7, 2018
"I don't think you love me," he said. I wanted to reply so badly, but I bit my tongue, as usual. Some conversations are left unsaid when you live together and have nowhere to go -- and no money to get away once you have spoken.
"No, I don't love you; I don't even like you," I wanted to reply. How do you love someone who has been afraid to touch you for over seven years? Someone who had claimed to be OK with your diagnosis, someone who had claimed to have done his own research but would still not consider going on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) because "he didn't trust the government." Yet, my status came up in every argument about our lack of physical contact for the whole seven years we knew I was positive.
I never thought he and I were forever. We both seemed to have checked out long, long ago. I was waiting for it to be bad enough to leave; that was my game plan. Living together and "not working" is really no one's fault, especially when it's been that way for years. You cannot work on something that never existed; you cannot give a dead marriage CPR and wake up one day to a miracle.
"Overweight HIV-positive single mother" did not sound like a great headline on any dating website. But those labels could not be my crutches anymore. It was time to go.
Related: My Miscarriage
There were signs I should have left long before. He was afraid to get retested for almost seven years. He had no interest in condoms. He finally got tested in June 2017 just after my miscarriage. He was negative and still afraid of me.
"I should have left when you were diagnosed," he drunkenly said one night in our garage. We were supposed to be working on us at the time. I was blindsided to learn his issues were about my status, still. I cannot change that; I cannot work on it or make it go away. I cannot erase this part of me. I was off my meds at least half of our relationship, he was still negative, and it was still an issue. I was so tired of it or me being his scapegoat.
"I'm done," he said. In that instant, I was set free, not broken. I had not said those same words months ago when we had our first of many "is this savable, can we fix this" conversations, even though I was just as done as he was. I lived with the lie inside, thinking we could live as friends for our son's sake.
The last few months he was anything but my friend, so when he finally had the balls to say it, I was relieved. I walked inside to gather my thoughts and plan what I was going to do. Where I was going to end up? Being on medical leave from my job, I had no money saved to go anywhere. Having been home from work for almost two months, I had no income, and we were sharing my car. But living with him and being his taxi was not one of my plans. I was going to try to brainstorm what unemployed people do when they break up and have no family in the state, which was also an issue.
Most of my break ups have been sad, on my side at least. This was so different. This had no tears, not from me, not for him. I did not cry for the loss of us. I ran out of those tears long ago. Being stuck with someone is not the same thing as being married.
He did not kill my spirit, my drive, or my desire to better myself. Away from him, I shine, allowing our son to do the same. My self-esteem returned; the fog of lies he fed me was left back in Texas. I'm going to be one hot single mother. Not everyone is afraid of HIV like him. One day a man will treat me so much better.
In the end, I thank him for setting me and our son free to leave and search for happiness -- because we deserve it. Now, we're living in the California sun repairing the damage that was caused. I am an empty shell full of brick walls I've been building for years. My therapist wants to help tear them down. I look forward to my transformation and re-meeting my glittery, cares-too-much-about-everyone-else old-new self.
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Brooke grew up in San Diego, Calif., and from a young age she wanted to change the world with her words. She has been writing poetry since 1992, and majored in journalism in school.
She was diagnosed with AIDS when she was eleven weeks pregnant in her first year of marriage. She is now a single mother living in Long Beach, Calif.
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