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To bitch or not to bitch

October 1998

Readers of Positive Living met Ron Dennis for the first time in a 1994 article that chronicled his experience with AIDS. Since then, Ron has checked in with Positive Living from time to time to update readers on his life. Here is the latest from Ron.

Well, I do believe that I was quite remiss in checking in with you last year about my on-going survival. (I am not keeping up on my Ginko Bilboa like I probably should.) But I have forgiven myself for that lapse because I am compliant to the max on all the other meds that keep me trucking on and checking in with you, when I do.

Nineteen-ninety-eight: the year of the Total Return. Unlike the Saturn Return of the Horoscope, no earth-shattering revelations for me, except that I have learned once again that life is a BITCH! Lovely, but still a BITCH! Year three into the famous "cocktail regimen" -- even after switching this year -- I am once again undetectable, viruswise.

I recently have come to learn of my demise late this summer, having succumbed to AIDS. Wrong and wrong again. I received a phone call on my message center from a concerned physical therapist who had rehabilitated my shoulder after surgery a few years back. Calling him back ASAP, the concern in his voice was quickly followed with great relief upon hearing my voice. A present patient of his had passed on the rumor that I was kicking up daisies, as had the program from the AIDS Project Los Angeles Summer Party. I guess one of the perks of a long survival is the rumor of one's demise. (According to Liz Wheeler of APLA's Development Division, the name "Ron Dennis" was submitted to a memorial page in the Summer Party program in memory of an APLA staff member's partner. -- editor)

Let's see: 1985, I found out I was positive; 1989 the year the s_ _ _ hit the fan, two years spent with symptomatic pain, strange crap occurring to my wasted body, still I had 190 T-cells, too many to be classified as full blown. Ha! Couldn't tell my body that then. 1990: full blown -- finally. The hospital hell that ensued for the next five years no human should ever have to experience and endure again, even though too many folks still go through this hell but usually for a much shorter time. Even as I write this, I was interrupted with the news of the loss today of one more friend to AIDS. So, back to the BITCH part.

Having survived longer than I or my care-givers had ever expected until these cocktails came along, I am caught in between a rock and a hard place financially along with many of my HIV brothers and sisters. Trying to figure out how to re-enlist into the ranks of show business again which would definitely get me out of the dough doldrums. Then, I had a terrible thought that I could commit a really newsworthy crime and then be acquitted, or bite someone without their permission which for a gay male is no big deal as long as one bites parts that enhance the bite-ee, if you will.

Then came the BITCH part again, as a gay African-American (an oxymoron) male I would have been crucified and burned at the stake for any of the above deeds, as would any of my non Af-Am brothers or sisters.

So I continue to be honest sometimes to a fault. I endure the BITCH of being told that I was resented because the individual in question interpreted that I was saying that he was less than me, when I stated that I don't expect many people to really understand just what it is that I and the other long-term survivors have gone through in the pain/hospital hell department. Because he hadn't shared this experience. Duh? You share a meal or jokes with people not AIDS-suffering.

The BITCH of that one hurt a lot and won't be forgotten ever. AIDS doesn't make everyone insightful or kind. The BITCH pain of the racial-gender division I witness among our gay and lesbian citizens. Religious zealots who continue to promote homosexuality as a 99-cent special on your fast-food menu of choice. How many more of us will have to step forward before our hetero citizens "get it;" we don't know why we're queer either, it isn't a choice. Otherwise, I am sure we'd all be choosing to be rich and certainly free of the BITCH of living with AIDS!

The BITCH of ongoing compliance, keeping up this routine, is hard for everyone and there are days that I look up and ask: "What's it all about, Alfie?" And the answer comes to me that I am alive to write to you and share these thoughts with the hope that someone else out there will also keep trucking on and share their truth with whomever they choose. That word again. I choose to stay ahead of the BITCH of the hurt of having to rearrange friendships that are no longer working for me in my life. And of watching my mother who rowed with me on the AIDS voyage, lo these many years, as I am conscious more than ever that I may outlive her as she often stated to me during my/our hell years.

And I live and survive to bitch (little b) about whatever -- but only in small doses. I have learned and continue to learn so much more about myself and life that keeps me kicking that BITCH of the unpredictability of my actual demise in the huevos. In the hope that all of us living with HIV/AIDS will get to grow old and gorgeous gracefully, with a minimum of pain, to tell of these dark days to our youth and historians. That is, if I survive until there is a total and complete cure found.

Now, wouldn't that be a BITCH?

P.S.: Oct. 2, I turn 54. Didn't expect to see 43. Amazing!

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 Positive Living.
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