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Pickett Fences: Getting to Know You

By Jim Pickett

March/April 2003

"So," I say, "since you want to know more about me ... there is something very important I want to tell you."

Pretty smooth, eh?

You know what came next. And he was silent for a moment, as is the custom, and then he didn't say a word. He just leaned over and kissed me, and he held me, more sweetly than he had ever leaned, kissed or held me prior. In the whole entire week we had known each other, this was by far the best kissing, the best holding ever. And the leaning! My mind was racing, however, amid all of it, good as it was. I wanted to say, "So, are you okay with this?" I wanted to ask, "So do you have any questions?" I wanted to process, I wanted to talk about it, dammit! Let's talk about me and my HIV!

So he's holding and kissing away, and it's really good, as I've indicated, and I'm all up in my head, going, "We're not talking. Okay, fine, we're not talking. We're not going to talk about it. No talking. We don't need to talk about it. What's there to talk about anyway? Why do I have this need to talk about it? There's really nothing to say. He's telling you what he thinks right now. So stop processing shit, ya crazy old hen. You don't always need words for expression, case in point being the tonsillectomy he's performing on you ... that is some kind of tongue ... proof in the puddin' he's simpatico with your disease."

Our next date was a no-call, no-show. And there were to be no more calls, or shows, thereafter.

Was it my fragrance?

I dated this guy once, he was in his late thirties at the time, about 10 years older than me, and he always had to have his friend and roommate along with us on every dinner, date, outing, whatever. The only place he was never invited along was bed. Anywhere else, and he was there. It was the third wheel from hell, and what made it worse was that I had been there. I had had a little fling sort of thing with the third wheel way back in my spirited, shoulder-padded, high-haired, bangle wearing, you spin me round, round Milwaukee days. Just a lamb off the farm I was. And having him hanging around was just kinda dirty and creepy.

Well, that's HIV, the dirty third wheel that manages to insinuate itself in every seamy, steamy chapter of your telenovela. And getting it drunk and "losing" it in a remote woodland area, for example, still won't get rid of it. It will come back, it will find you and it will sit its big stank rump roast right up on your grill. "Hi, how ya doin'?"

"Ya know, I didn't have to stay with you and put myself at risk." This from my most recent ex, who I recently spent some time with over the holidays. He said this calmly and without spite. He was responding to something I had said, probably to the tune of, "You never loved me" or one of those. We were, yes, processing, processing our year-long relationship which had just ended in September. "Well, you don't have to ever put yourself at risk again," I said, all tiffed. And then I rehearsed the rest in my head -- how any sex with anybody is a risk, and how will he know with other guys, and what if they lie, and what if they just don't know, and how DARE you say that!

But I kept my mouth shut, odd as that sounds, because he was/is right. He didn't have to make the choice he did. He decided to be with me, acknowledging and accepting the risks. "Hi, how ya doin'?"

I'm dating someone new. Yet another negative guy, but he's totally cool with my HIV status. He's informed, he says, so he isn't flipping out on it. He said he might have reacted differently if he hadn't gone to some workshops and classes on the subject. God I'm glad he went. Anyway, he's done a lot more than remove my tonsils since my disclosure. He's more than comfortable I'd hazard.

Yesterday he went to get tested. He has to wait two weeks for the results and he's nervous. He says so, a couple times. I feel a little sick in my heart. I finally ask him, "Are you nervous because of me?" He says he's not, that he was just as nervous the last time he took the test, about a year ago. We've known each other about a month. I ask him if he has always used condoms for fucking, every time? He says he has. I tell him he probably has nothing to worry about, that he'll be just fine. And even if, by some oddity, his test comes up positive, I will help him, it's not the end of the world.

"Hi, how ya doin'?"

The next day I'm checking my e-mail. A brief note informs me that a friend in St. Louis died last week. She had AIDS and died in her sleep.

I'm nervous, too.


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