Knowing Is Beautiful, But…
Today I received the results back from my HIV test and I am pleased to say I am cleaner than the tuxedo I wore at my senior prom (and trust me, that’s clean). I was prompted to get tested after a recent break-up (that’s another story entirely). Seeing an opportunity to start over, I wanted to move on with my life but not without knowing I was clean. Knowing is beautiful, like Common said, but read the fine print: Waiting to find out reveals some ugly truths.
When you get an HIV test, it’s more than a test to see if you’re carrying any of that funky stuff; it’s a test to see what you’re made of, who your friends are, the strength of family, and if you really believe in a higher power.
When I decided to take the test, I wanted to get it done the old fashioned way. I know with HIV testing specifically, times have changed and a person can go with the OraQuick method, thus allowing them to get results in as little as 20 minutes. But I wanted to wait the week it would take to get the results from a blood test. There was no rhyme or reason to why I chose the more traditional method, I just felt waiting a week would give me time to reflect on everything, which is something I needed to do anyway considering all I had been through up until this point.
From the moment blood was extracted from body, my emotions went into a tailspin. My mind would journey to thoughts of a worst-case-scenario and what I would do if the worst case became the case. I wanted to be at home with my mom, step-dad, and sister. I missed my girlfriend in a way I hadn’t missed her and shuddered at the thought of her and girlfriends prior who had been with me and trusted me. I prayed for them as much as I prayed for my own well being. The breeze I always shoot with my boys wasn’t as cool as usual. Conversations about past escapades were now filled with nervous chuckles from me and were no longer enjoyable to tell. I walked around the city, sizing people up, wondering what they knew about themselves. All the fine women passing me by were pushed to my peripherals. I was newly single and yet too paralyzed by fear to crash the boards and get some rebounds. I wanted no parts of the game.
And when I wasn’t caught up in spur-of-the-moment thoughts, I would think about the past. The women I had been with and the things I had done with them. It’s funny. Before I took the test, certain women escaped my memory (not to say I’m putting up Wilt Chamberlain numbers), but soon as I took the test, all the women, from my first to my most recent, and every girl in between, came rushing back into my brain. They were sticking to it like those “Hello-My-Name-Is” stickers given out at conventions. I even got in touch with a few of them to see if they had gotten tested. It wasn’t going to mean much, but anything to surpress my anxiety and give me a clear head.
In the end, the only thing that gave me a clear head was knowing I was clear, and it’s the best news I’ve heard in some time. But that journey to finding out was the most agonizing thing I ever went through. Of course everyone should get tested, and no one should be bound by fear, but I do not begrudge anyone who waits because they are scared. An HIV test is not for sissies, which is not to say facing the music and getting tested makes you a bigger person. Braver? Maybe. But bigger? I don’t feel like I’m a bigger man than I was before I was tested. Rather, I’m a humbled man. I thought a clean test would be reason to celebrate in the ways I used to celebrate any good news (lots of drinks, my boys, and women), but going out is the last thing I want to do. I just got back clean test results, all that makes me want to do is go back to living my life. Slowly.