Brave New World
by Corey Saucier
My boyfriend and I are traditionalists. We want that Leave It to Beaver, 1950s monogamous relationship that was made so popular on black-and-white televisions across America. We want to play house like a happy heteronormative couple, and decorate the living room in appropriate conservative colors, and turn the kitchen table into a Norman Rockwell painting when company is over. We want the life we build together to be filled with: “Yes dear,” and “Thank you darling,” and “Please pass the mashed potatoes sweetheart.” Nothing would please us more than to eventually build a “traditional happy home” together. But with all the pleasantries and quaint romanticisms, we also want to have a full, healthy, and thriving sexual relationship. We are gay men after all. Yes, I want a kind and generous well-groomed husband, but I also want a sexy, aggressive Top who can put it down in the bedroom!
Ryan, my boyfriend, is tall with bright green eyes, an open heart, and tasteful blond highlights; and he is sexy as hell when he wants to be….But the last time he “put it down” he kind of freaked out, and had to take PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) for four weeks.
—I apologize. That’s not fair. He didn’t “freak out,” he had condomless sex with his HIV-positive boyfriend; and, after discussing it with his doctor and searching his spirit, decided that he was uncomfortable with that amount of risk, and took a combination of Truvada and Isentress for twenty-eight days in order to mitigate that risk. Even in this brave new world of new CDC guidelines, and promising research studies, and the very real scientific proof of the possibility of safe, condomless sex, some of us still need more than just cold hard facts to make us brave. It’s been thirty years of one message, and that doesn’t die easily.
It shook me up the first day that he started the pills. It took me five years to get the courage and fortitude to start taking my medication religiously so long ago. And the fact that he had to suck it up and do it on day one made me very sad. I’ve been HIV-positive for fifteen years and this was the first time I have knowingly had sex with one of my HIV-negative partners without a condom; and the thought of putting someone I love at risk burrowed into the back of my mind and laid eggs there. It was a hard couple of days. (For both of us I’m sure.) But over dinners and lunches we talked about our concerns….Because this is the future now, and gay men (and straight women and trans men and bi-guys, and everyone in between) have to talk about these things now—honestly and without pretense. So I checked in with my beautiful brave man to see if he had any side effects from his antiretrovirals, and if he was having any second thoughts about dating me now that it has all become so very real.
And he said: “No I’m fine my darling,” and “Thank you for asking my dear,” and “Please pass the mashed potatoes sweetheart.”
And I smiled at my big brave boy who was doing his best to be the kind of man that I needed him to be; because we are traditionalists, and we like to play roles….And I wondered how long it would be before our façades would break. And he saw me looking. And he saw me see the crack. And something softened in him and suddenly we were not Lucy and Ricky, not Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver. We were not characters from a 1950s’ film. It was him and me: Ryan and Corey: Two men in love, figuring this out together. And then he cried. And it made my heart leap deeper into him. And he grabbed my hand and said, “I love you. And yes, this is much harder than I thought it would be—but I am undeterred. Because you are worth it—This is worth it—We are worth it!”
And I believed him.
He took his last pill today. He’ll be tested again this week, and next week is our four-month anniversary (Is that a thing?), and we’ve planned a romantic weekend away in Lake Arrowhead.
He promises to put it down!
Corey Saucier is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction and Non-Fiction and is currently penning his first novel. His musings and wanderings on Love, Life, and Non-sense can be found at www.justwords.tumblr.com.