It's World AIDS Day. As bloggers we were encouraged to write about how and why we are facing AIDS. This is my how and why.
I met Scott on New Year's Eve, 1989. To be honest, I didn't really like him at first. I thought he was arrogant and bordered on being rude. On top of that a 'friend' of mine had given me an earful about him, all of which later revealed itself to be untrue. In April when my roommate told me that Scott and his girlfriend had split, I surprised myself by suddenly thinking, "Of course they did; he's meant to be with me."
It still took a few more months for him to woo me over and eventually I fell...hard. We were quite close, almost inseparable. I had never in my entire life known a love like this and spent my days walking on cloud nine. I was living and breathing happiness. But, when you walk high on clouds it hurts like hell when you tumble to the ground. My heart was shattered when we split.
However, we never really seemed to let each other go. I eventually moved to Seattle and he moved to San Francisco. I met a man and we moved in together out of necessity. Still I spoke to Scott every week. I may have been in a serious relationship with a live-in boyfriend in Seattle, but my heart belonged to a man in San Francisco.
About a year after we both had settled in our new homes, Scott found out that he was HIV positive. By some grace of God I wasn't. Don't ask me how. I'm lucky, I guess. It took me a long time to accept that. I felt guilty for years that I didn't end up with HIV. And don't ask me how Scott caught it. How anyone catches the disease isn't the issue. The issue is they have it. I absolutely hate the fact that there is a stigma on people who have this disease. At the end of the day it is not important. It is not a punishment from God. It is a disease and one that is killing millions of people, but allow me to get off my high horse and continue.
Slowly Scott's health deteriorated and so did a piece of my sanity. My Seattle boyfriend had developed a serious drug problem and Scott was the only one I talked to about it. Two men I cared for were dying in front of me. One couldn't help it and one was slowly killing himself. Eventually, Scott's health got so bad that he flew back to Michigan to see his family. He wouldn't be returning to San Francisco.
His best friend called me, then my old roommate, then his sister. It was time, and he was asking for me. He had said to his mother, “H- will kill me if I die before she gets here.” I gathered together all my savings, and the very next day I flew from Seattle to Michigan, where we had first met and had fallen in love while at university.
The disease had ravaged his body to nothing. This amazing man I had never stopped loving was reduced to a flesh covered mass of organs, each of them slowly disintegrating. He was in a morphine coma, and there was no way of really knowing if he could hear us. His family, with the exception of his sister, were exhausted and left to get well deserved rest. She and I chatted, and I told her a humorous story about him and me. I got to the part in the story where he and I had different versions, and suddenly he moaned as if to disagree with me like he always did when we would tell that story together.
Trained as a nurse, Scott's sister wanted to stay up with us, but she was only human and eventually succumbed to the need for sleep. At last she took her respite, but stayed in the room with us, sleeping on the floor. Due to the time change, I was still wide awake and told her I would wake her if…
Once I knew she was asleep I told him things I should have said long before. I promised him I’d leave my drug addict boyfriend. I told him I had never stopped loving him; it had always been him and there had never been anyone else despite the men who had come after him. Then, suddenly he said my name. He asked if I was there, if it was ok. My eyes stung, and my voice cracked as I told him he needed to go. I was there, I loved him, and I couldn’t stand to see him like this. He needed to go, and I would see him in the next life.
He said something that sounded like “Okay” and took a breath. I stood up and yelled for his sister. This shocked him, and he jolted. ‘Oh Jesus,’ I thought, ‘even in death I can’t let him be in peace.’
His sister took his pulse, and his chest rose and fell. “Is he gone?” I whispered. She nodded and ran to get the rest of her family. His chest continued to rise and fall, and I was confused. His family assembled in the room, and he continued to breathe. His sister explained that it was natural for breathing to continue a bit after the pulse had stopped. Then his breathing stopped, and the colour left his face. I moved away from his side to the corner of the room where I slid to the floor and let his family move in closer to him. I felt out of place somehow and hugged my knees into my chest. Everything felt numb, and my face was wet. The hospice nurse came to take care of the body. That was what he was now, a body. He was gone. My first real love and my best friend was gone, and unlike the times we had tried to leave each other before, there would be no coming back.
I think of Scott every day despite the fact that it has been 14 years since he passed on. I pray that a cure for this disease is found and soon. So, please if you have some extra time or extra money, donate it to the AIDS charity of your choice and remember all those who are living with this disease, not just today but always.