I met Kiva my second year in college…he was blond at the time, and devastatingly beautiful. Beautiful the way that only nineteen year-olds can be: His face and body were all long sharp delicious geometric angles. He was one of the few boys I would have kissed in college. I didn’t kiss many boys in college. I was a prude. But I would have let Kiva get it. He was smart and irreverent and non-descriptly Asian: Vietnamese by blood, Chinese in looks, and with a personality like the cocky Korean boys I grew up with. At the time, I was racist, and ignorant, and juvenile in my attractions—mostly only attracted to White boys who looked like they were raised in a corn field, but I would have made an exception for Kiva. (Obviously I have since evolved in my attractions: One must learn to look at our subconscious biases and be critical of what discrepancies we find there.) Anyway! I had a crush on Kiva but because of a miscommunication, we never became anything more than friends. I think I hurt his feelings…. He wanted to kiss me one day, and I hadn’t brushed my teeth that morning so I said no, and he thought I rejected him.
End of romance.
Silly how things work out: It’s the tiniest bit of missing information that can prevent a grand love affair. But that was twenty years ago.
RightNowThisVerySecond, Kiva and I are having lunch at my favorite Thai restaurant. And our wings are flapping frantically; and we are flying around in tight concentric circles, and our beaks are clacking against each other like ducks fighting in a pond. There are loose feathers all over the table, and Kiva is screaming something about “Edge Theory,” and looking at me like I’m a crazy person! And I am yelling at the top of my lungs, “But what about undetectability?!” and sneering at him condescendingly in-between my syllables! And we are both being too loud, and too honest, because we both care too much.
Kiva has stated that he will not knowingly date someone who is HIV-positive. And I am mortified. My feelings are a little hurt; but since I am too insecure to just say that, I have wrapped my hurt into rage, and have decided to teach him a lesson. It must be noted, that Kiva is still devastatingly handsome, and magically looks EXACTLY how he looked twenty years ago. He is HIV-negative; and on PrEP; and not nearly as ignorant as I want to paint him. He may not know the new science, but we’ve been going back and forth for an hour now, and his arguments hold: “The dissemination of information is still unclear, and until everyone is on the same page, I have every right to mitigate my risk.”
I am livid.
And he is afraid.
I am HIV-positive—have had every STI known to man—have been undetectable for more than fifteen years now—and I can’t possibly remember what it’s like to be afraid. For me the fear is completely intellectual, and because I know that the risk approaches nil, I’m livid that he just won’t make the leap. With his body. His safety. His soul. His life…. And despite the conflict of interest, I’m trying to explain to him why it’s okay to have sex with me. And that’s when Kiva yells “Bull Crap!!” And he slams his glass of water on the table, and we both look at it stunned.
Somewhere a baby cries in the distance and a tree withers in a forest.
We both begin to laugh uproariously. The tension dissipates in a breath, and we are back to calling each other derogatory gay-names; and racial slurs; and other terms of endearment…because we are girlfriends and sisters and fierce queens fighting on the same team!
He is afraid and I am hurt. But we are on the same team. In my attempt to “educate him,” I almost forgot that. We are on the same team. He wants to stay safe, and believe it or not, I want to keep him safe. And more importantly he wants to learn; which is great! He’s on PrEP: He has already done the best thing he can do. Not everyone has to want to have sex with me. I’ll tend to my hurt feeling elsewhere…
I paddle up next to him in the pond and begin to play footsies with him under the water.
I tell him how handsome he is; have myself another plate of pad Thai; and ask him to explain to me Edge Theory. And he asks me to explain Undetectability. I’ve forgotten already what he said; something about the exception not being able to prove the rule…. He tells me the “undetectability thing” sounds promising, and that he might consider that at some point as the information evolves. And I tell him how much safer it is….
“But how am I supposed to know if they are actually undetectable?” he asks.
And I admit that: “To be honest, there is no real way to know that.”
So then he rolls his eyes and says, “Well that doesn’t really help me very much does it?”
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 Nonsense can be found at www.justwords.tumblr.com.