Please Don't Infect Me, I'm Sorry
The article “Please Don't Infect Me, I am Sorry,“ written in 2012 by Rich Juzwiak talks about HIV/AIDS from a prospective not often heard. I would say it resonated with me, and was my main inspiration and the source where I derived the concept for the title of this project-
“Where having HIV is concerned, you’re damned to a life of uncertainty and anxiety if you don’t, condemned to one of shoddy treatment from your gay brothers if you do. Even if I never contract HIV, it will remain a concern of mine for life. I have contracted an issue.” - Rich Juzwiak
Click here to read the article- Please Don't Infect Me, I'm Sorry
I think I was so touched by this article because I, as I am sure many other gay men have, dated HIV-positive men in the past. A number of years ago I dated a particular man of whom I still have the fondest memories. He was very young, (I was also much younger). Over the years we stayed in touch, but were not super close. When I began this project he was one of the first people I thought of, and reached out to. But to my surprise he refused to do an interview with me. I initially felt it was irresponsible, cowardly, but only at first. I was a little hurt, then a little angry: he had been positive, and out about it for years. From the beginning of the Contracting an Issue project, before it really took shape I am sure it was his response of “NO” and my inability to understand why, which became the small thorn that helped me not lose interest in this heavy topic.
Shortly after I asked him to interview he, for the most part, stop talking to me. He would not return my calls, and sent vague text messages, half apologizing. I am sure he did not want to be pressured into it, I would guess. I of course did not see it that way. But he was probably right. I can be thick headed at times, and I probably would have done my best to try and break him down to interview. Now, caring less about the interview, all I really wanted was for him to explain why he wouldn't do an interview.... for me? Why couldn't he just give me a reason?
I was mainly taken aback because I wanted his support, and blessing for this project. There was also the fact that we had been “friends”, intimate in the past, and had already talked about his status at length before; what was the big deal?
I guess I will never know why he chose not to. Time can be a funny thing. I understand now a little more of the fear or trauma he might be carrying. Even after dropping the whole interview idea I did not see, by just wanting an explanation from him,as to why not, what I was really asking. If I had gotten him to open up and answered why he wouldn't interview, his answer may have been as revealing or personal. If he answered that, he might as well have done the stupid interview with me to begin with!
So when it came time to transcribe all the San Francisco interviews, and write out the script for “Always Waiting”, I couldn't help but feel there was one interview missing. So, I decided I would write one for him, from my point of view, of course.
In the end it turned out his silence might have shed more light than an interview would have. I started to see how unaware I had been of my own biased feelings regarding HIV/AIDS. Looking back, I can’t say if it was just youth or flat out ignorance, which kept me from truly understanding what my behavior was saying. I thought I was being “open” to the situation, non-judgmental. I remember talking to a friend, preaching that I was not quantifying his “dateability” or worth of investing time in, based on his status. Reflecting on how I truly acted then, I wish I knew whom I was trying to fool. Today I feel differently about the whole subject, but that's another post.
The following is the excerpt I wrote “for him” and included in “Always Waiting”
“Lying together in the shower, water beads rolling off his hair and onto his beautiful soft skin, both of us at attention from the excitement of someone new. As I smiled, and looked into his brown eyes, that’s when he told me. I did not know what to do; it did not make much sense to me at the time. He was so young; he was also already naked, wet and cuddled next to me in my shower. In that moment he seemed innocent, harmless, and vulnerable. He looked back into my eyes and all I wanted to do was not shame or hurt him.”...
“In the morning we ate eggs and toast together, I looked across the table and knew I could not take this further… I could never love him. Him smiling back at me made it even sadder. It seemed he felt safe, safe because I had not rejected him cause of his status but I knew that’s what I was going to do”.