Living the Questions
BY Tyler Helms
November 03 2010 5:40 PM ET
The following morning, as he sat in my living room reading a book, with me lying across my bed, I remembered how much I had missed the presence of another person. The ability to simply be but not say anything. I tempered my expression. I thought he might grow uncomfortable if I suddenly told him I would miss him when he left in a few hours. In just two and half weeks I had gotten to know a person I respected, who made me think, who made me smile, who to me was beautiful. And HIV had never been a part of the equation, or so seamlessly a part; it was nothing more than a mention.
Back in December, I acted with the need to start a conversation, but there was an underlying selfish hope, almost desperation, to get out of the lonely life it seemed HIV was creating for me. A life void of healthy sexual contact, one plagued with wondering what if, not dating, isolating from friends and family. I had hoped for the basics — to simply have a crush, a fun-filled weekend, fall for someone regardless of reciprocation. But like many with HIV, I had approached every relationship with an understanding that it would be nothing more than a friendship. I no longer found myself attractive, but rather a lesson to be learned. I had thrown myself into work, into my advocacy for HIV awareness, into this column. I didn’t go out to meet people; I went out so my friends didn’t think I was depressed. Each day and night in search of intimacy void of HIV, absent of judgment.
And suddenly, on that brisk Saturday morning as he left my Chelsea apartment, I had found it. We hugged, telling each other “You are amazing” almost in unison. It was no doubt a friendship, but one that would redefine intimacy for me. I could finally say with confidence that the truth I shared on December 1, 2009, had in fact set me free. I am still hopeful that it is setting others on the same path.
But that freedom did not come with a shortcut to life. There are no shortcuts, the pain must be felt, and lonely nights must be lived. Until that chance introduction to something or someone different. To the realization that intimacy doesn’t have to mean sex, that friendship is how you define it, that someone who is negative can love someone who is positive. And ultimately when by chance, someone you’ve only known for three weeks shows you it’s not really about HIV at all.
HIV is a truth not everyone will understand, but one that likely we can all relate to, if we try. If we are open to the moment and encourage the tolerance for others to be as well. We all deserve the tolerance of our own truths, because in those moments you find the freedom to feel. And that freedom to feel, whether you are positive, gay, straight, alone, or married — that freedom of feeling makes us human. And that truth no doubt will set you free.