A Day of Reckoning
by Wayne Brown
It was a beautiful morning. It had been raining for a few days and the air was fresh, no smog insight. My mind was in overdrive as I thought about kicking ass at work. I was in charge of collecting, I had to psyche myself up to be rude and non- caring. Since my wife had been in & out of the hospital it was easier to take out my frustrations on strangers than with her doctors.
You see, no one could give me a clear reason of why she kept getting infections, why I was spending so much money on Monostat 7, and the helpless feeling I had when I couldn't explain to our children what the doctor's were saying. I didn't know that my life, as I know it, was about to change.
The phone rings. It's the doc. My wife says he wants to see her right away. We have one car, I'm gonna be late to work. My wife seemed different. I sensed an urgency that something wasn't right. My mind was really goin' now. Then it hit me. My worst nightmare. She had Breast cancer. OK, when the doc tells her, I'll be supportive. I'll give her the "we can work through it" speech. "I'll still love you with one breast, I could only handle one at a time anyway".
We arrive at the office. I've got my reaction down, I'm cool. We check in. He's got a good lookin' office. Hey great wallpaper. The nurse calls her in. I'm pretending to read Time magazine when the nurse says the Doc would like me to step in. I walked down the small hall to his office. My wives face was flushed. A look of devastation was in her eyes. I knew this wasn't cancer. Hell, we'd come a long ways. Now'a days we can beat cancer with one hand tied behind our backs.
As I sat down, I said: "OK doc, what's going on?" My wife had given him permission to disclose to me what she had just found out. She had been tested for the AIDS virus. The test was positive. My God, how am I going to get us through this? I know she is not informed on this. I knew I was going to lose the most important thing in my life. I had to make plans for our life to go on and be productive. Suddenly, I was in a "high risk" category. I knew that the risk of being infected for myself was high. Yea sure, we will protect ourselves now but it might be too late. If it is, so what.
I love my wife and that's why I married her. I take what I say seriously. Leave the woman who stuck with me when I was out of work? No! Leave the woman that supported all of my hair brain ideas on how to make a fast buck? No! Leave the woman who has helped make me the kind of man I could have only dreamt of being? Hell, no!! My feelings are: let's live, let's get the best help available, let's help others, but most of all, let's stay together.
That was the first day of the rest of our lives.
Aint The Way It Used To Be
by Flora Brown
When people say, "I'm out of the closet" they can wait for national coming out day or do it on a TV talk show, or call home and tell them they're gay or lesbian. Now'a days, at least in my case, it's a whole different meaning. "Coming out" means revealing that I am living with the HIV.
I remember my visit at UCLA, as I waited to be called I spotted a magazine called; "Women Being Alive". I figured what the hell, let's see what it is about. It was about people like myself, women speaking about their feelings and things that they were going through. I thought: could I do that ? Could I actually speak about myself? They did it. So I took the magazine home. I began to put down on paper things that brought me to this point in my life. I thought back to my childhood. I went back to events that took me places I had no business being.
I wrote it all. I gave it to my husband. As usual, he was watching sports and said he'd get to it at half-time. He read it and told me it was great. He felt my story could help people. Deep down I wasn't ready to expose myself yet. So I didn't mail it in to the editors at Women Being Alive. On my 4th visit I saw the magazine again. After speaking to my nurse, I decided to send it in. We had talked in the past and she always felt that my story could inspire others.
After my article was published, I felt a sense of a relief. Yet, I knew it wasn't enough. My work was just beginning. How could I get the message to young people, to married couples & most of all to women? I spoke with my Pastor. I gave him my story to read. He read it, he consulted with me, and said that he wanted me to speak at an event he was planning. This was the first time I was speaking in a public forum.
It was a young adult program at the church. For a week-night, church was packed. There had to be a thousand people there. I thought; how are they going to feel about me? I was afraid and nervous. This was my first time. Some of these people knew me as a child. What was going to be their reaction? I looked up and all of a sudden, I had been introduced. My pastor had set the stage. I rose walked to the podium. My body began to shake, my eyes were cloudy. My mind wondered to the consequences of "coming out". I was starting to cry. I began my story.
I started with my childhood, through abuse with men and drugs and finally arrived to my disease. I told about, when I first found that I had been stricken with the virus, I began to make funeral arrangements. I went to Rose Hills. I picked a beautiful spot overlooking the lights and stars. This was the state of mind I was in. I spoke about the guilt I felt. Did I infect my husband? How could I let this happen to me? Was it the men I had known before my husband? Could it have been my children's fathers? They were all into outside relationships as well as drugs. I guess I will never really know. But so far my husband has tested negative twice and he is by my side.
Since my article was published I have had many opportunities to speak about women and HIV. I find this experience has been very powerful and fulfilling. I think they call it empowerment.