It had been too long. Way to long. The excuses in my head played like a broken record. Over and over I gave the lame reasons of why I couldn’t go. Until I stopped the excuses and just went. To the Doctor. I had put off the visit due to a strange fear… The fear of the test.
When I had just turned twenty, my family went to our cabin high in the Rocky Mountains. It was on the shores of Grand Lake, Colorado. It was February, so the lake was frozen over. As I sat on the sunny back deck, I watched the ice fishermen drive their 4X4s across the solid surface of the lake. Bound for their recently drilled holes through the ice in hopes to catch some fish. I wondered what would happen if the ice cracked. The lake swallowing the truck whole. I shuttered from the thought and turned back to my book. My new book I picked up before leaving town as a way to waste away the afternoons. My family was all inside watching some-sort of football game on the battered television set. I can’t remember which book in the Tails of the City series it I was reading; but, Michael Tolliver just started his journey as a survivor of the HIV epidemic. Every paragraph dripped with fear of AIDS, of HIV. But, our protagonist was strong. The epidemic was spreading. The strength to survive was there. In the pages, as I turned them one-by-one. With every page I turned, I realized I had made a huge mistake. And, I had to get through the longest week of my life.
A couple of days before bumming a ride with one of my sisters on the way up the mountain to the cabin, I took my first HIV test. Now, I was on the frozen shores of a mountain lake awaiting the results. Unable to speak to anyone about it. It was just me and Michael Tolliver. Every instance of where I put myself at risk played through my mind. I was playing lose and easy, messing around as a twenty-year-old does. I sat around the fireplace, my mind a thousand miles away. My large extended family at times angered at my aloofness. My detachment. My only thoughts were on the clinics opening hours the next Monday morning. Only a fictional character in a far off land understood.
Flash-forward twenty-three years. I have had countless tests for HIV, but this one way different. I had blocked it out of my mind, really thought much of it, at the office.Then when the needle entered my bloodstream and the phlebotomist filled his cylinder, I was twenty again. I had waited too long. Was it the nine years in a serodiscordant relationship? Or, was it the playing lose and easy, messing around as a forty -year-old does? I thought of the promise I made to myself on that grey February morning. Play safely and test often. Somehow I had forgotten that promise. The one I made to me. It’s funny how time lets us disconnect from our selves.
The Doctor entered the room. All fear of the test was gone. Now it was time… I debated if the doctor was alive when I received the results of my very first HIV test. He read all by results like a grocery list. As he explained about good and bad cholesterol, healthy choices I only saw the ice fishermen, driving their trucks upon the ice. Wondering what would happen if the ice cracked and they fell through the ice. “…you’re undetectable for HIV…” I came back to the room. “that means I’m negative?” He calmly stated that yes. I was. Negative.