This is only a test…

Me, in 2002, prior to testing HIV positive.

This is a test. 

This is only a test. It’s harmless. It’s the second weekend of May, 2006, at a Bear Run in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Everyone is doing it. It’s cool…and it’s been over a year since you had one.

You will fill out some paperwork. Someone will stick a needle in your arm and take some blood. Not much blood—just a couple of two millilitre vials, that’s all—so you can get tested for HIV and Syphilis. It won’t take much time, maybe 5 minutes total. Then you can go back to partying, drinking, and sitting by the pool. Then you can go up to that partnered guy’s hotel room and fuck some more. You can put out of your mind how sick you felt three months ago, in the middle of an ice storm in February when you were in New York City, headed to an acting gig, and you spontaneously up-chucked your bagel and cream cheese shmear into a rusted green trash barrel on the perimeter of Gramercy Park and thought, “Huh. That was weird. I felt fine last night.”

You won’t immediately draw a straight line from vomiting into a barrel to the night three months before that when you got stoned and drunk with Brenden and he politely neglected to use a condom when he topped you in the Bohemian comfort of his West Village studio apartment. He’d used condoms before…and that night you were too stoned and too fucking sad to care. You wanted to disappear, didn’t you dearie? You wanted to hide within the wanton safety of this muscular, hairy man’s arms. He had a low voice, the warm, calloused hands of a sculptor and the cock of a porn star. The connection you desired, had wept for since the well-timed and orchestrated demise of your five-year relationship with David was answered, conveniently, by dark, sexy Brenden, the bad boy catch du jour. Ask, and ye shall receive. Wish, and your cup runneth over…but be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

Never mind that Brenden lied about his status. Never mind that he probably didn’t know his status at the time. Never mind that there were two of you in the futon bed that night with one thing in mind and nothing discussed…not with words anyway. Much was discussed with tongues and bodies and the merging of blood and cum, spit and tears, and soon enough, white blood cells and a bad-boy biker’s virus who rode into town on a Harley, carrying a bag full of nasty tricks to rewrite your DNA on a single strand to produce a new pedigree next to your Harvard MFA.

Three new letters like an invisible yet ever-present tattoo across your forehead: HIV.

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