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Safe Sex


Things are heating up. I can hear his breath coming faster.

"Ay, sí , papi!" he moans. "Sí, que rico!" He is under me; his legs are spread and his head thrown back. I feel a drop of sweat race down my neck and fall. It hits his throat and I lick it off, tasting my own saltiness and his sweetness beneath. I reach for a condom on the nightstand as I try to remember his name, but he grabs my wrist to stop me.

"No, papi," he says in a low voice. "Quiero sentirte a ti..."

He wants to feel me. Just me. And then I know that I must face the thing I have avoided all evening.

"I can't," I tell him in Spanish. "It's dangerous."

"But I'm negative."

"And I want you to stay that way."

His brow wrinkles. "Are you telling me you're positive?"

"Yes," I say. I try to look him in the eye but I can't. I should have told him before now. What the hell was his name again?

"But you weren't going to tell me..."

"You never asked," I point out, but we both know it's no excuse. "I guess you want to go home."

His eyes are open, alert. My hard-on is gone. He takes a deep breath and is silent for a moment. When he speaks, it is with a distant voice.

"No, not yet," he says. "What made you tell me?"

"It came up, I guess."

"But a lot of guys would lie. Thank you for not lying."

His thanks are small comfort; I still feel guilty. I know that I haven't always been this honest. I can only hope I haven't hurt anyone yet, and try to make sure that I never do.

"You're welcome," is all I can say.

"I wonder," he says, "what kind of guys would lie?"

"All kinds."

He smiles and looks away. "Like the guys who've fucked me without a rubber when I've told them what I told you?"

"Maybe. When was the last time you were tested?"

He thinks for a moment. "July," he says finally. "A year ago in July."

"Fourteen months."


He shrugs sheepishly. I don't have to tell him how reckless he is -- he knows. But it's like me not telling him about my status until the very last moment. Knowing a thing doesn't make you ready to face it, much less to keep facing it, day after day, year after year, every time you have a hard-on, a man in your bed, a handful of pills....

But that's how it is, and how it will be. HIV is always there, chasing me 'til I die. AIDS is my shadow, but it is also his. It is a shadow on the world. I am only one person, and all I can do is try, knowing there are times when I will fail. I try to keep my shadow from lengthening, from growing and attaching to others. I try never to infect anyone else. I may already have failed -- who knows? But I must try; I must keep having awkward moments like this. I must be better than my virus.

Finally, I look over and see that he is staring at me, calm and frightened and slightly aroused. He leans in and rests his head on my chest; I put my arm around him and kiss the top of his head.

"I need to get tested again."

I can only nod and hope he's serious. He turns his face toward mine, and I see something in his eyes that reassures me. "Will you go with me to get tested?" he asks. "I might not go through with it if I have to go alone."

I feel awkward again but this time it makes me laugh. I never cease to be amazed at the intimacy of strangers.

"Of course," I say. "But one thing -- what's your name again?"

He laughs, and I see color rise to his cheeks.

"I told you my name's Jose," he says.

"Right! Jose…"

"But that's not my real name. I lied -- my name's Jorge."

We both laugh then, and suddenly I kiss him. He kisses me back, and when I reach for the condom he only kisses me harder.

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This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

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This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Breaking the Silence... (Rompiendo El Silencio).