Monday, January 29, 2007

The Waiting Room

I was last tested for HIV at the beginning of June. Suffice it to say that my life has changed quite a bit since then. I have always been a strong advocate of a post-breakup slut phase, and I did enjoy a fair amount of action (documented here) in the months before I met the New Viking. I knew that at least one of those partners was HIV positive. And while I would describe my overall sexual behavior as 95% safe ... that 5% of doubt is pretty damn unnerving.

NV and I have been talking for quite some time now about getting tested. I wanted to quell those tiny little doubts that were nagging me. In theory, I also wanted to find out, as early as possible, if I needed to start treatment. Bad news, however, would probably have made me suicidal. My stomach churned every time I looked up places for HIV testing and their hours of operation. The more I thought about it, the more nervous I became.

In the past six months, I have met a great number of people with HIV. Many of them are friends of NV who, eight years older than me, is part of that generation of gay men who were at the frontlines of the epidemic. I had also learned that a few people who I already knew were positive. The number of people I know now with HIV is probably quadruple the number I knew of before. NV, a committed monogamist throughout his life, escaped the plague, something for which I am continually grateful.

We had planned to get tested together. But on Friday, I manage to leave work a bit early, and as I drive home, NV calls to say he has been delayed in traffic, and would arrive at least 45 minutes later than expected to our happy hour. I couldn’t stand it any more. The Spot, one of several locations that offer free testing, was just a block or two from the bar, so I headed over for a 20-minute test.

Welcome to the world’s most nervous waiting room: HIV testing in the heart of WeHo. There aren’t many people there, mercifully, but I recognized one of my waiting comrades from the bars. All eye contact is scrupulously avoided. This is serious stuff. I sign in with my initials and took a seat. In less than a minute, my initials are called out and I am summoned into a small room. A nice young man asks me the last time I had had sex with someone other than NV. My encounter with the (other) Viking occurred on September 30, so I’m past the three-month waiting period and good to go. He asks whether I’d prefer the oral swab or a blood test, both of them equally accurate, he explains. It’s a no-brainer, and I go for the oral swab. I get a receipt with an identification number that matches the number on the test tube, and back I go into the world’s most nervous waiting room.

Except that it’s even more nervous now. I was tense going in, but now, in some back room, my own cells are actually being tested...I will soon know if I’m positive. It is suddenly much more significant, this moment in my life. And it’s all very real. Sure, I could flee the room before the results come back, but the uncertainty would surely drive me insane at this point. I rethink every single sexual encounter I’ve had during the past year, wondering if this or that moment could have caused transmission, if this or that partner could have infected me. That 5% of doubt is fucking killing me.

In just two or three minutes, my initials are called again and I am summoned into a different room by a young woman. They’re smart, I realize, keeping you moving and occupied during these agonizing 20 minutes. She reads out a series of questions about specific sexual activities, drug use, STDs, partners...ugh. I will say that all of the staff there are very warm and reassuring. Thank god for that.

Back to the world’s most nervous waiting room again. This is it. Crunch time. Just a few minutes to go. One of my comrades gets called into a room for his results. It seems like he’s in there forever, at least five minutes. Surely he must be getting some pretty dire news, but when he emerges, he seems clearly undisturbed. Guess it was good news after all.

In a few minutes, the young woman returns, and calls me into her room. I study her voice, her expression, but come to no conclusions as I walk inside and sit down. I steel myself.

“You’re negative,” she says. “Any questions?”

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Weight: 174.5
I'm shrinking. I haven't been Eating Big like I was when I was on steroids, nor have I been putting in quality time at the gym since mid-December. Oh well. The New Viking prefers the skinnier me anyway. At least I had muscles...once.

One of the side effects about starting a serious new relationship at the start of the holiday season (I told the NV that I was falling in love with him on the Sunday after Thanksgiving), is that we have been running around crazy every single weekend. I thought that January would be different, but it hasn't proven so, especially since we spent MLK weekend in San Francisco. So we have declared that the coming weekend will be our "blackout weekend," with no scheduled activities whatsoever. (Other than happy hour at Mickey's on Friday...anyone is welcome to join.) My goal is to be bored at some point. But I know that that won't happen, as I actually have a ton of things that I want to do: movies, fixing my internet hookup (I haven't had home internet access since moving in November), getting air in my tires, hiking, organizing...

Boredom clearly won't be happening any time soon.

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Horizons

One of the most fun aspects of entering a new relationship is the chance to enjoy new experiences. For example, the New Viking had never had sushi before, so I last night the opportunity to introduce him to this fantastic cuisine with a fantastic dinner at Fat Fish.

In exchange, he bought me a leather harness at 665.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

TiVo Triumph

Last night was another night away from the New Viking, and since Chip wasn’t around to hear any potential screams of despair from my room, I thought I’d take another crack at the TiVo set-up. This time, however, I was armed with the manual, which the Ex had uncovered over the weekend. Amazing what a difference the instructions make, isn’t it? In half an hour or so, I was happily watching Drawn Together and recording I Walked with a Zombie (inspired by the novel Jane Eyre, oddly enough) from bed. I slept the untroubled sleep of the angels.

Friday, January 05, 2007


I’ll admit that I’m pretty much a happy boy these days. But yes, there are still times when my moody, prone-to-depression side reemerges, and it’s weird how odd things are that trigger it.

Last night, I decided to spend the night at my own place, alone, without the New Viking. Other than Christmas, we’ve pretty much been spending every night together for a couple of weeks now. It was a cold, drizzly evening, and I hadn’t slept well the previous night. The prospect of curling up in my flannel sheets and down comforter with a good book and a plateful of cookies (leftover from Christmas) was enormously appealing.

Wearing my flannel pajama bottoms and a t-shirt, I wrote out checks for my share of the gas and cable bills before heading back upstairs. It occurred to me that it seemed a shame for me to pay for cable that I never watched. Although I had connected my television and cable box right after moving into the new place, I hadn’t connected my TiVo or DVD player yet, even though I had moved into the place in mid-November. So I decided to take a crack at it.

The manuals for the TiVo and DVD player were still packed away somewhere unfindable. My whole system is set up in an armoire with practically no access from the back. I had no idea where to even start the process. I was able to get my prerecorded programs from TiVo to play on the television, but it wasn’t recognizing my cable box. When I reprogrammed it to account for the change in zip code and cable company, I didn’t have the exact cable lineup information I needed so I took a (wrong) guess that couldn’t be fixed. When it made the phone connection, it failed mid-call SEVEN TIMES. This could only end in tears. I unplugged the whole thing and shut the armoire doors.

Long story short, I had a mini-meltdown. (Not that any onlooker would have noticed; my meltdowns are all internal and mostly dignified.) But a spiraling inner monologue began: how close we are to complete failure at any given moment, how the tiniest bit of bad luck can escalate into disaster, how one wrong turn in life could lead to me being out on the street, penniless and unwanted, my worst nightmare. I went to bed and pulled the covers over my head in despair. The blasting winds sent trash blowing noisily through the alley behind my bedroom window, taunting me with the prospect of becoming a piece of human trash, the refuse of society. Sleep did not come easily to me.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Holiday Recap

Happy new year to all!

This was the first new year’s weekend since 1998-99 that didn’t involve drugs of any kind. (Yeah, I dragged this post down right away, didn’t I?) While I’m no druggie, there has always been a circuit party or two in my new year celebrations of late. This year was quite different. The New Viking and I were in Palm Springs, for a relatively low-key weekend spent with friends (good friends of his, who are now friends of mine). I may have been on a dance floor with my honey when midnight struck, and I just may have had my shirt off, but we left before 12:30am and were in bed 15 minutes later. Not that we went to sleep for another hour at least... Let’s just say that both his and my stamina were pretty damn impressive that night.

Okay, so there were some drugs. Just cold medicine, though. I picked up something that’s annoying and persistent, even if not exactly debilitating, on the Saturday before Christmas, probably from my plane trip east, or from my young nephews. (“Little germ factories,” their mother calls them.) Christmas was great, though. My mother, into the third or fourth week of chemotherapy, was naturally taking it relatively easy. I was very impressed with my father, who has really stepped up to the plate in helping out with everything household-related; he has even learned how to cook. I was happy to help out with some of the advanced stuff, like making crab cakes for Christmas Eve. The big traditions in my family include wolfing down shrimp ball, last minute grocery shopping at Ukrops, and buying ornaments on the day after Christmas. I spent $184 this year on ornaments, all marked down at 40% off. They all made it home safely, and are now helping to fill out the New Viking’s tree. My own tree is rather full, to say the least.

When the New Viking picked me up at LAX, he gave me the biggest, tightest hug I had ever gotten. God, how I love him.