by Robert Kingett
Friendship Beyond Differences
HIV doesn’t matter when you have a bond, even a short one
I don’t usually make a trip to see people,” he says as he sits on my bed, looking at me like I am a new kind of doctor brought back from outer space.
The guy I have sitting on my bed is quiet, yet has a lot of things to say. His looks don’t matter to me very much because we have been wrapped up in conversation for a while, an intellectual massage for the both of us. Not about facts and figures, trailing down history like a curvy tail, but we’ve been telling one another what we think, how we think the way we think, and why we think the way that we think. Even though Richard is dashing, with a thin build sporting a face that holds a smile that makes me instantly smile back, he’s docile too with an abundance of nonsexual body contact and that makes my guard plummet instantly.
The reason he’s on my bed is my entire fault, some my fridge’s. The steady hum just didn’t keep good company tonight so when Richard messages me I instantly think how wonderful he would be compared to my listless fridge that has been loyally filling my apartment with random cooling noises, letting me know that “I’m not going anywhere.”
His messages attracted me to him; they were so short they would rival a bird’s attention span but they are very detailed and to the point. Because I specialize in writing novels just to say a simple meaning, I instantly want to meet this man, who’s a few years older than I am. Now, in my apartment, sitting on his lap, his smile hypnotizes me. His voice soothes me, and his words utterly excite me. I’d hate to see what they would do if he combines all three ingredients together.
“I know. I sensed that about you. I’m grateful you did come here,” I say, sinking into his embrace. We’ve been discussing about so many other things that the conversation has finally circled back to us.
“I bet, with you being an engineer, you see things differently than some people and this makes me glad I could win your trust,” I say, sinking even deeper into his gentle hold as we lay back on my bed, with me hoping my door is locked.
“That depends on your idea of different. Everyone has an idea of difference so my idea of difference may be incompatible with yours.”
“Just like disabilities.”
“Bingo!” he says, gently patting my stomach and making me sad that I’m not a puddle so I can melt here and now. “Of course, we all know what disabilities are, by the dictionary definition, but we both know there are disabilities that exceed the definition.
“Like jealousy, which clouds people’s minds and judgments because…they’re jealous,” I say intelligently.
“I have a disability too, but it’s a hidden disability.” I instantly look into his wide brown eyes and fight the impulse to cup his face between my hands. Some people would describe him as being brown-skinned. I don’t know what I’d describe him as at the moment because I’m spellbound by everything he says and does.
“Let me guess, it’s a learning disability. I bet, it’s a learning disability, and you can’t read, but then that wouldn’t explain your willingness to read my ramblings.”
“I have HIV.” He utters and looks away. I don’t bat an eye.
“Are you cutting back on the salt? Because that can be, like, really bad since you have a lower immune system.” He smiles, and holds me tighter as we lay on the bed.
“You’re quite vivacious,” he says with a gentle snuggle before switching to lying on top of me, our noses inches from one another. His eyes are really wonderful. I don’t know what’s better, his eyes or his smile or his soul or his voice. “Listen, Robert, whatever happens, I don’t want to stop being friends. Okay?” I instantly smile, and we kiss, sealing the deal.
Future dates are just as epic, with us going out to eat, having sex, and talking in my apartment, even playing video games, exploring the town, and sharing LOL Cats, the videos of cute cleverly worded phrases on cat images brightening our moods just as much as each other’s company. The sex is partly my initiation, partly his initiation. We’re both young and horny but the aspects I value most are the moments after we both have done what we wanted to do, and we’re just cuddling on my bed, or talking, relaying our hopes and dreams and what pissed us off today and what made us laugh. We both initiate activities on our own terms, including sex, and this leaves me to me believe I have finally found someone to replace my fridge’s dull hum. A month later, there’s a text angrily telling me “all I want him for is sex.”
I’m beyond angry because this definitely isn’t so, but I don’t know how to even begin to tell him this. How dare he say something like this? If only he knew what I valued most, his conversations, words, smile, mind. He’s nuts. I want to have him here holding me. He doesn’t know me at all. Why am I such a bad person?
“I don’t just want to have you for sex. That’s crazy. Your acting like a child right now!” I type, hating my hormones and, worse still, angry that I don’t have anything better to say that shows Richard how wrong he really is.
“Do you remember what I told you the first day we met?” he responds. I can’t forget his willingness to be very good friends. I’d love for that to happen, too, but at the moment my brain is as clear as a stuffy sauna. I’m shaking, I’m beyond angry. I want to have him here so I can hold him. How could I be such a typical young adult? I hate my hormones. I hate his thoughts. Why am I a bad person? Why is he such a fool right now? I want to say something better and I’m angry I can’t think of a Hollywood line to make everything right.
“Yes. I do, but what you’re saying now? You’re wrong. I care about you a lot, and that was a childish thing to say.” He doesn’t reply and I’m down for the count, it seems. I won’t have him to hold, to hold hands with, to debate with, to cuddle with, and to experience life with. Perhaps the blindness isn’t my only disability. I don’t know how to change to make myself better so I can make him happy. I quietly turn to my fridge, asking the hum where my faults lie. It doesn’t answer me…I immediately grab my cane and go out for some ice cream across the street. I order mint chocolate chip because that’s my favorite ice cream. And, better still, I am reading a Star Wars book, totally swept up in a different world. It’s way better than listening to my fridge, after all.
Robert Kingett is a journalist and author who writes and speaks about many subjects including LGBT and disability rights. His journalism work has appeared in several magazines, websites, and anthologies. He is the creator of Gaming Glimpse magazine, a monthly publication that explores diversity in the gaming community as well as the founder of the Accessible Netflix Project. His memoir, entitled Off the Grid, is an account of living blindly without the Internet. You can find him on his personal blog at https://blindjournalist.wordpress.com.