Three or four years ago, while living in New York, I met a guy. When I first saw him I honestly thought I was being featured on Punk’d. Dude looked like he had stepped straight out of a magazine and for whatever reason, was attracted to me. How Sway?
Transparent moment (TM): For years my insecurities and I were at war. I didn’t think anyone as beautiful as I found him to be would ever be attracted to my ass so I couldn’t understand what had piqued his interest.
Anyway, we exchanged numbers. After a few conversations through text and a phone call or two later, we scheduled our first date.
The first date was popping. We talked like we were old friends, laughed like we were children and ate like people who have slept naked together do (without any reservations). When it came to an end, we did so by exchanging hugs and went our separate ways. It was very straight-out-of-a-romantic-comedy like. I can still remember how amazing I felt walking back to the train. At the time, I hadn’t had much luck with dating since moving to New York and to me, he was the jackpot.
Later that night we talked and did so for a few more days after that. The vibes were heavenly. I remember very distinctly having a day where I was unable to be on my phone because of work or something. By the time I was able to check my messages, I saw that I had received a few text messages from him.
The first message was asking what happened to our usual exchange of greetings which we both had started to expect from one another. That message was accompanied by him also telling me he needed to tell me something.
The second message was him telling me that he really liked me and could explore the possibility of being with me. And in that possibility, he wanted me to know before moving any further that he was positive.
Keep in mind, I hadn’t responded and so the third message was him assuming that he had fucked up by telling me based on that lack of a response. He felt that I’d no longer be interested. Fearful really, that his truth would scare me away. The way his text read, I knew he saw the beginning of an end. I saw bravery and courage and if you know me, you know I fell for him right then.
So, I called him.
We talked about how my interest in him had not changed and also how honored I was, really, that he decided to tell me. I knew just by navigating within this community, that the stigma attached to those living with HIV causes many people to either not date or not disclose. This man laid his status out for me to know before we even held hands. He showed up as his non-filtered, truest self and because of that, I was all the way in.
Needless to say, things escalated quickly after that. We dated for about 6 months (actually longer but it was off and on so it doesn’t really count). I think we were equally crazy about each other. He got on my nerves in so many different ways as I am sure I did him. His status never became an argument, though. It was sort of like a magazine on the side table that we’d pick up from time to time because our experience was one that neither of us had explored, especially in the manner in which we were exploring it in. He typically didn’t date people that were not living with HIV. Before him, I hadn’t ever been given the opportunity to date someone who so quickly disclosed their status.
Because of him, I was introduced to PrEP. This was still during the trial phases now that I think of it. Because of him, I learned what it meant to be open to trusting when the connection feels right, even if it comes with something we weren’t expecting. It was because of him, that my eyes were opened to dating someone regardless of their status, especially when they have arrived at a place of being able to have honest conversations about it. It was in our time together that I became more intimately aware and sensitive to all things within my community.
Ultimately our love affair ended but not because of HIV. I can be really honest and reveal that we ended in large part due to the fact that I tried to mold myself into who I thought he wanted me to be. Failing to realize that who I was behind the mask I was showing up in was actually the man he needed me to be. As a result of that, disconnect and bad decisions happened on both of our ends.
This post actually is part of a status I originally posted on Facebook 11/4/16. I wrote it then and am expounding on in it now because what I the lesson my experience with him taught me is this: HIV is a big deal. It doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, though.
We live in a world where everyone claims to be open and desire openness, and in the same breath, refuse to allow people a space or opportunity to live openly. At least not without judgment. I understand that everyone has preferences, right? Not dating someone, committing to someone, or loving someone because they are living with HIV may just be one them. That is okay.
However, it is my truest desire for all of us to start unpacking our preferences and making sure that they are not based out of ignorance. I think when we are able to do that, the lenses we look through life out of become less cloudy. And when our vision is clear, we can navigate life better. That’s what my experience with him showed me. That’s what this is all about.
Also published on Medium.