Saturday, February 12, 2005

Love in a life like this

All I ever wanted to do was fall in love with a man and have him fall in love with me. If only matters of the heart could be so simple, if only life could be without complexities. Well, if it were I guess it wouldn’t be called life.

Several weeks ago I met a man who was handsome, intelligent, and emotionally available. I thought I had struck gold finding a man like him in a life like this. After a few days of phone conversations and just one date, I had begun imagining spending the rest of my life with this man. Perhaps more than anyone, I know that when it comes to building a relationship you have to take it one day and one step at a time, but if only in my mind I thought it was okay to imagine forever. Just imagine.

Shortly into our courtship during what had become our daily evening phone conversation amidst talk about how our days went and what was ahead for tomorrow he told me something that would have a profound effect on my imagining our tomorrow together. In one sense I never thought I’d have this conversation with someone, and in another, I knew that as I grew older it was just a matter of time before I inevitably would.

He told me that he wanted to disclose something that he wanted me to consider before our relationship grew into something more and the feelings that I had for him intensified. He told me that he was HIV positive and had been for the past several years. What was I to imagine then.

Was I to continue to imagine life with him as my lover or to imagine him now on the list of people that I call, “those who can only be my friend?” Was I to imagine myself loving him passionately mind and spirit, and his body ever so delicately? Was I to imagine myself afraid, unsure, a hypocrite or a bigot?

It is very clear in my mind that I’d like to meet, fall in love with and build a life with another man of color around my own age. It is also very clear from data yielded from numerous studies that young men who have sex with men of color, particularly blacks and Latinos represent an increasingly large number of new HIV infections and that men of color overall represent a disproportionate number of HIV infections across the board. Therefore, it is likely that one in every few men in the pool in which my heart desires may be HIV positive, known to him or not.

As someone who is HIV negative I have recently, by my recent involvement, been forced to examine my thoughts on this subject. So often our community talks about HIV/AIDS in the sole contexts of prevention, living and dying but hardly ever, love and relationships.

One source offers that love is a feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair. The initial attraction based on things like personal appearance, geographic location, and for some social status, is what generally draws us to the people we become involved with. It was the first step, or choice, in deciding if that other person was someone we could get to know, and perhaps one day love. But as there is an initial attraction, can the disclosure of someone’s HIV status be an initial detraction, and should we allow it to be? After meeting my friend a few weeks ago that was the question that I posed to myself.

Twenty years after the first known cases of HIV, people are now living longer and healthier lives, but there are still many who fight losing battles with the virus, something to consider, the days you will spend with your lover, and the possible days you will have to spend without. It has been proven that safe sex and use of condoms can prevent new infection, but condoms are not 100% and may break, something to consider, one event may change your whole life. But what must also be considered is the beauty of the days, months, years and perhaps lifetime you may share with someone who truly loves you.

I began to imagine again a few weeks ago. I began to imagine, what if it were true, that there is one person out there in the world for everybody, what if my person was this man that I just met and if I let him go, just because he was positive, my life would never be what it could have been if I had chosen to see if he was the love for me. Perhaps at that moment my imagination got the best of me.

There is no other virus, illness or disease that carries the stigma that HIV/AIDS does. That stigma built of ignorance, fear and many untruths stands in the way of what could probably be numerous love connections. When people see that threshold they see only that and not the person on the other side.

When disclosure is made early on both HIV negative and positive people are given the choice, sometimes easy, and sometimes hard to consider walking down a road that could lead to a place where they can love and be loved. Sometimes, not always, we are given a choice. I will not share the choice that I made with the man I became involved with a few weeks ago. I’d much rather leave that a question to linger in the minds of those who will examine this topic on their own, choosing love in a life like this. Loving, what a powerful choice to make.

All I ever wanted to do was fall in love with a man who was also in love with me. If only love could be so simple, if only love could be without complexities. Well, if it were I guess it wouldn’t be called love.

june 2003