This is very hard to say, but if I’m going to be a good son I must say it: I gave my mother HIV.
And in weeks, it has grown into “full-blown AIDS.” She is dying—wasting—her hair is falling out; and she is covered in black blossoms of lesions. She says her blood is “a toxic liquid boring like Borax and acid through her skin” to plague her small one bedroom apartment with armies of alien-infected roaches who are now “re-infecting” her with “THE AIDS!” I know that last part doesn’t really make sense—because you know, where did the alien roaches come from? But she SWEARS it’s true; and I would never call my mother a liar, so I go with it….
Last Tuesday while we ate Subway sandwiches, she informed me that she is afraid to contact her old sexual partners and let them know that she just caught HIV from her son.
I’m not sure why she would have to tell people she hasn’t seen in years about a recent HIV diagnosis, but…Whatever.
It must be the AIDS-induced dementia.
These are the facts: My mother and I have a complicated relationship. Last month we were running errands. She is of a certain age now, and as she gets older, I find myself trying my best to be a good son to her. Her legs are wobbly lately, and her eyesight is not so great. We had just finished doing whatever it is we were doing. And miraculously we are still in a pretty good mood.
She begins to slowly—tentatively—make her way down a flight of stairs. She has fallen down so many stairs, and so like a good son, I offered my arm to help keep her steady. But she faltered: And like a dizzy ballerina on one leg, in a panic, she reached out for my arm to help catch her balance. But when she grabbed my arm to catch her fall, she also scratched me; drawing a tiny milliliter of blood.
And now my mother has HIV!
She doesn’t, obviously. But I have not been able to convince her otherwise.
She is going through every imaginary stage of seroconversion that she has ever seen in a Lifetime movie: sore throat, sniffles, Kaposi sarcoma, swollen lymph nodes, the works!
“This is one of those bruises that Tom Hanks got in that movie,” she says, pointing at an invisible spot on her hand. And I smile like the benevolent saint of gay sons: “No mom. I don’t think so.”
She has made several appointments—called the CDC, and prayed to The Lord (our God) about her pending death from AIDS.
And she will no longer take my arm while walking.
I’ve being trying to be a good son…so I am patient, and kind, and understanding (like we are supposed to be). And I explain to her through gritted teeth that she can’t contract HIV from me because I am undetectable. And if she is really concerned there is a pill she can take so that she doesn’t catch HIV from anyone. And that she really shouldn’t worry, BECAUSE IT WAS JUST A GOSH-DARN SCRATCH!!
I’m screaming now, because one can only be a good son for so long….
“That’s not what the lady at the CDC said.” My mother is unmoved. “The young lady at the CDC seemed to think it was pretty serious.” She continues eating her Subway sandwich and adds: “And don’t you think that if there was a way to stop people from catching HIV it would be all over the news? How do YOU know you can’t give it to me!?”
And this is why mother is a philosophical genius. And this is why arguing with your mother is the first step towards your inevitable demise.
Because she is right!
If there was a pill that could prevent you from catching HIV or if there was irrevocable proof that an undetectable person could no longer transmit HIV it SHOULD be all over the news. But it’s not. Doctors will barely say it out loud. And the poor little girl at the CDC who is fielding calls from little old black ladies about their sons giving them HIV, still doesn’t have her basic facts straight.
And that’s no one’s fault but our own.
We are too busy being the good son—being the goody-two-shoes HIV-positive person who doesn’t want to rock the boat. And yet they are still so afraid of us. In that case…let’s make a racket! Post about it on your Facebook. Put it in your dating profile. Mark it on your Grindr page (or Growlr if you like ‘em chunky.) Tell your friends, and family. And tell your doctors that you are tired of them treating you like you are a pariah.
We are undetectable! We cannot transmit! There is no one safer than us! Scream it from the rafters!
How else are they going to know?
My mother got her results a few days ago.
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.