Excerpt: Not in My Family



Chapter 34: i can't stand the rain

a difficult question'would i date a man with HIV? the answer comes with a shocking swiftness'shocking in its immediacy, shocking in its urgency.

i would not now knowingly date a man with HIV, not because a man with HIV is unlovable, or that i don't believe that any moment of love is preferred to one without, but because I have had my sunshine, and i 'can't stand the rain.'

that is david's legacy.

sunshine on my shoulder'

i met david almost 17 years ago. it was love at first sight. he was a flamboyant hairdresser wearing tight jeans and muscle shirts. i was a fledgling lawyer wearing blue suits and spectator pumps. locks of golden curls hung adroitly from his head, and drew your attention to his beautifully sculpted shoulders and ever-present tan. i teased him unmercifully about his vanity, as well as his black man's bootie, which he kept in marvelous shape through routine workouts.

he called me his 'cool little lawyer.' while i handled his legal matters he handled my hair'both matters of prime and equal import in our minds. he professed to understand the nuances of my self-coined 'trailer park gheri curl'-esque hair by claiming that we had the same 'roots''literally!

david was funny, femme, and fantastic; and our friendship was 'rooted' in mutual adoration and trust. we were like mutt and jeff: a caucasian gay man and african-american female lawyer as buddies, both out of place in our environments, yet completely at home with each other.

makes me happy'sunshine almost always makes me cry'

funny how david and i seemed to live parallel lives; we even started losing weight around the same time. as i denied the artist in me freedom of expression, i also denied myself the freedom to be happy with my success. my body followed suit. i didn't eat or sleep because i was unhappy. i denied the fact that i wanted to do something creative with life instead of sitting on a bench judging people. so i didn't consider myself a grand success because i wasn't following my passion. my outward appearance became a reflection of my inner starvation. it is amazing how denying yourself one good thing can lead to a progressive denial of all good things. all joy becomes at-risk.

david's weight loss resulted from something that couldn't be cured by freeing oneself and following one's passion. instead, his uninhibited freedom of self-expression, and the passionate pursuit of it, led to a diagnosis that doesn't have a cure, and all of his joy would become at-risk.

as the arc of his private life paralleled my professional one, our paths diverged when it came to our reputations in these regards. where I was reserved, careful, and selective, david was a serial lover and proud of it; wild in his ways and wanton with his liaisons. he was the best of boys'and 'girls''he was Sunshine to everyone.

he loved well and he loved hard; he also lived well and he lived hard. and i lived vicariously through him. i was fortunate to know him, to be loved by him, and to love him in return.

then, there were the signs. he was losing weight rapidly and could no longer claim that he was trying to diet. his perpetual tan could not be revived. it was that beautiful skin of his that offered one of the most telling betrayals. so, i was not surprised when he told me that he was hiv-positive. i was glad that he trusted me because there was so much stigma attached to the disease at that time. he knew that i was involved with a minority-affiliated aids organization, and that fact that i was well-informed probably eased any shame he may have had in disclosing this health crisis to me.

despite the depth of our friendship, i don't know that he would have confided in me had he not been compelled to do so. he wanted someone to make decisions for him when the time came'life or death decisions. i agreed to help him without hesitation, unaware that one 'yes' would lead to another. in the end, that the final 'yes' would tilt my world and taint my ability to fully and freely love for a very long time. david's life was soon overflowing with secrets. not an indicator of the man he was, but of the disease he hid.