Ruby’s Rap by Ruby Comer
I’m aboard a flight headed home to the land of “lights, camera, action!,” when extreme turbulence erupts. At one point my fudge brownie falls into the lap of the guy next to me. Quite affable and very friendly, we begin to chat once the roughness eases.
His name is Frank Rodriguez [alias Marc] and he’s currently embarking on a modeling career. In the meantime he works in hotel hospitality and as an escort. When I hear this, I am intrigued, as I’ve always wanted to be a Madam, think Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which by the way is where Frank lives—San Antonio, to be exact. The spirited man is straightforward, candid, and genuine. He shares that he’s recently been diagnosed HIV-positive.
Ruby Comer: How did that come about, Frank?
Frank Rodriguez: I found out last September when I was twenty-six. My first HIV test was at twenty-four. I was having pain in my stomach and thought it was just an infection so I went to a clinic and found out then. I’m still dealing with the diagnosis and the stigma that comes with it. In my teens and early twenties I engaged in unprotected sex with strangers. It wasn’t through being an escort, as I am always safe. [To get comfy we both unlatch our seat belts.] My doctor prescribed Stribild, so I’m presently taking that.
Sounds like you’re under good care….Say, when did you first hear the word “AIDS”?
Well, I first became aware of it in the nineties as a child when both awareness and fear were prominent. Back then, movies spoke to me, like Gia [true story of a supermodel who died of AIDS-related complications]. Angelina Jolie, who played Gia, gave an intense performance and it played an important part in how I viewed the disease. [He pauses and chuckles.] I know she speaks out about HIV/AIDS; it’d be fun to partner up with her to generate better awareness about the disease!
I could see you two as a team! When she reads this maybe she’ll contact you. Have you lost anyone to the disease?
I recently discovered that a distant uncle, who was gay, died of an AIDS-related illness.
Have you participated in any AIDS events?
Though I assisted seniors with Alzheimer’s for five years, it’s only been a few months since my diagnosis, so I haven’t had the opportunity to volunteer. I will in the future. I think it is important to shed awareness on the disease and I love the thought of marching with my peers, head held high and proud.
Once I become a successful model—I don’t strive for it just for fame and fortune—I will have a platform to spread awareness of this ongoing plague.
Tell me more about escorting. You charge for sex….
First and foremost, Ruby, a client does not pay to have sex with me—ever. They pay only for my time and anything else that may happen between consenting adults.
Note well taken. Has escorting been a favorable experience?
I find I can enjoy myself with all of my clients, some more readily than others.
And what kind of clientele do you have, my dear?
Clients come in every race, age, and body type.
Give me the nuts and bolts of being an escort. I think I had a former life as one.
Some clients just want to talk with someone. They seem very lonely to me and when we part company I feel like I have helped them feel less alone somehow. Some clients are in town for business and want a handsome young man on their arm escorting them around an unfamiliar city for a night or the weekend. The majority are closeted married men who want to spend their time immersed in forbidden pleasures with no strings attached.
“Forbidden Pleasures!”—how simply divine. So you said before that you always play safe when you escort….
I always play safe, even when they offer more [money] not to.
Hooray for you. Tell me, who’s your hero?
My friend who whispered in my ear, not long ago, that he has had HIV for fifteen years. After I was diagnosed, I felt alone in the world; I
didn’t know anyone else who was infected. Hearing his admission brought me comfort as now I can closely confide in someone who is in the same situation. Up to that point I had no idea that he had been going through all of this. I found his tenacity and outlook on life very uplifting.
Have you ever had a beau?
No I haven’t. Before my diagnosis I never intended to be in love; now it’s all I can think about! [His face is struck by frustration.] I wouldn’t even know how to begin to explain this disease without scaring a guy off. I tend to push them away before it gets so serious that I have to explain my status.
To be sure, Frank, it’s not easy. As you probably know, many HIV prevention campaigns are geared toward your generation since, sadly, the stats seem to rise more each year.
The reason we have a lot of infections again is because we have slowed down on education. The “90s’ Awareness Rush,” which I like to call it, was only motivated by high-profile deaths, movies, and red ribbons. We must use all aspects of our culture to educate the masses! We also need to shed more light on how we deal with HIV once someone tests positive.
[His head turns, and he briefly gazes out the window at the blue-scaped cloudless horizon. He looks back at me, more focused.] I just want to say, “Don’t be scared to know whether you’re positive.” Once you know, you’ll eventually get a handle on it, and you’ll feel much better after six months. I do.
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected]