Published on February 13th, 2013 | by Alexander Smith0
Ever Had Sex With A POZ Guy?
I was far from home. A work conference offered a pleasant reverie from the humdrum office life. The heat of the Arizona desert soothed the chill of Salt Lake’s bipolar spring weather. Armies of palm trees stood tall along the picturesque grounds of the Marriott Resort where we were staying. Sunshine, a lazy river, and afternoon cocktails refused to soothe my sadness. Three years I had loved him. My best friend. For the first time I loved a man I never had sex with. This was a new experience for me, as well as the years of celibacy (excluding masturbation of course!). His feelings did not meander past friendship (so he says). And I confess that part of my attachment was connected to the shame and separation I feel as a man living with HIV/AIDS. It was also a convenient defense mechanism to keep myself dancing with a man who was unavailable to me sexually. And the remaining portion: crazy stupid love.
I had chosen Adele’s, One And Only, as this week’s current “theme song”. I was inspired to adopt this practice after watching an episode of Ally McBeal in which her therapist challenges her to paint and express her emotions through choosing a theme song. My practice has evolved into a regular rotation of different songs which reflect my most prominent emotional state. Pick a song. One that moves you. And let the music inspire you to dance in acceptance of your “experience”. Thoughts of him surface as I listen and sway to the heartfelt ballad. I commit to focus on myself this time around. Choosing my life and designating me as my one and only. I have been through much grief and loss in the past decade, and on this particular morning I prepare a fresh fare of local food from Trader Joe’s, and find a renewed sense of hope to love myself and see my beauty, including my HIV.
I stand taller and lighter as I make my way through the hotel lobby to hear the opening keynote speaker. I pass a tall distinguished man and lustfully notice his striking resemblance to Barack Obama. My secret sexual fantasy for the president of the United States follows as I turn for a second look. Score! I catch him in mid-turn and our eyes lock.
“You have everything to gain Alexander!” I encourage myself forward.
Upon my approach he conveniently finishes a phone call. I am convinced he is faking the call to manage his attractions for me. I say hello and introduce myself. He reciprocates. A short conversation ensues and I learn he lives in Orange County, in one of my hometowns. I lose myself in his beautiful brown eyes. Our chemistry is obvious. Time stands still for just a moment. I have already forgotten my mantra from breakfast.
“Hello!” suddenly my boss is standing next to me. She politely interrupts and introduces herself, and invites him to join us at the morning session. As I float from somewhere above, I hear my new found love politely decline her invitation as he excuses himself to attend to some “pressing” work. Disappointed I reluctantly depart with my boss. She pontificates her decision making process on whether she should have stopped and interrupted us, or whether she should have kept walking. The sound of her voice quiets as I hum the melody of my theme song.
Several hours and a lunch later, I stand at the back of the room to keep from falling asleep. I read through the program again, and decide to hop into a different session. As I leave the room he is standing seven feet in front of me in the main hallway. He smiles and speaks.
“I was hoping to see you again. I meant to ask for your number.”
We agree to play hooky and jettison to the lounge patio to enjoy happy hour. He buys the first round and we discuss career, home life, and hobbies. I buy round two as we ignite into a conversation on meditation, food, wine, and travel.
“He’s the one!”
We plan to meet later. I pour a glass of wine and light some candles. The bed suddenly becomes the white elephant in my hotel room. We talk and sip wine as long as we possibly can. Conversation drowns when our lips collide. Swallowed in passion we melt into the bed and the moment. At some point an intrusive voice chides, “When are you going to tell him?”
He pulls off my jeans and I peel off my shirt.
“Is he going to ask me any questions?”
I unbutton his shirt and kiss his chest.
I am afraid to share my status. I want to kiss this gorgeous man and I do not want him to slither away as if I were a leper. Too concerned about him, I foolishly forget about my perfect health, on medications, with an undetectable viral load. From a place of shame, feeling like I am damaged goods and infected, I cannot access important empathy to sustain a loving and compassionate mind set towards myself. I do not want to catch any other STI’s, or pass any to my partner. Conversations and condoms are two simple means to address this issue.
Naked, together, and enjoying the connection, I am continually bombarded away from the moment by fear and shame. After some oral sex on both our parts (without completion to orgasm), I find the confidence to pause. He did not ask, I did not share. I didn’t ask, and he didn’t share. We fall asleep, intertwined, in limbo.
The next day we breakfast, exercise, steam together in the sauna, and exchange kisses. We meet for dinner and say our goodbyes, as he is leaving in the morning. I travel home with my boss and her boyfriend. She has an opinion, “Alexander, you are both adults and you did not put him at risk. It is his responsibility to manage his sexual adventures?” Her boyfriend thinks it is my responsibility to tell him. I am not sure.
Sunday morning I receive a few flirtatious texts from my crush, and Monday morning he leaves a message asking if I have a few minutes for a professional inquiry. He has looked me up online, and found that I work with LGBT clients, and those living with HIV/AIDS.
“Sorry to bother you but I could use some support.” He sounds upset. He informs me he just found out his brother has tested positive for HIV.
I look around the room in which I am sitting, expecting a hidden camera and crew to reveal themselves. “Is this a joke?”
I listen and marvel at the irony in this phone call. Within minutes he is sharing his heart and concern for his brother. He inquires about helpful books and resources he can share. “I didn’t even know my brother slept with men.” I safely jump into therapist mode and shelf my personal agenda. His concern shifts to anger, “Why did he not protect himself? I am always so careful, I mean, I am negative, you’re negative, right?”
The screenwriter in me chuckles, “This would make a great scene!”
“I am undetectable and on meds.”
“So I don’t need to be worried?”
“I cannot tell you not to worry. I don’t believe you have been put at risk.”
I observe his authentic and worried flow of thought, “You should have told me.”
His most shocking and stigmatized question comes next, “We were making out heavily, do I need to be concerned?”
I am still learning how to navigate these conversations and wish my response was different. After I explain testing options and window periods, he abruptly excuses himself from our phone call. My final words, “If there is anything I can do, please let me know!”
It has been over a year, and since I have not heard from him, I feel certain he is still negative. I hope he learned and integrated the experience we shared into his life and sexual practices. I am positive I have.
I refuse to eat from his plate of shame and stigma. A healthcare professional, in college health, and he seriously asks if kissing can transmit the virus. He is a sexually active gay man and does not ask any questions or initiate a conversation about sexual history and disease with his partners.
“I should have told him?”
I will no longer put myself in such a situation. I am loving myself enough to start the conversation, early on, up front, and without shame. I will ask my partners about their HIV status, and then share mine. I want to be present and grounded within my sexual arena. I challenge you to commit to use your words and engage in conversations with your partners. Imagine they are all positive, and act accordingly. Love them, touch them, celebrate them, and be in the present moment. Educate yourself on all sexually transmitted infections, and choose your risks wisely. Challenge your stigma and find a theme song today!