Fall is here. The leaves are almost at peak viewing colors here in southern Maine, “they” say that peak is this coming weekend here. The wind is howling today, so I am imagining many of them are hitting the ground, The pine trees like to shed these rusty gold needles also around now, so my yard is slowing disappearing under a blanket of leaves and needles. The air is really nice and crisp, I like breathing the morning air when I let Nola out first thing mornings at this time of year; it’s nice to stand on the porch and take in a deep breath, Nola loves the cooler weather, and sitting on the lawn with the October sunshine warming up her fur.
This time of year I get a little introspective about life in general. It’s nothing and no one in particular that causes it, I think it’s just the time of year; things are dying off, changing and the days are getting shorter. It’s a time when I tend to look back over the year and contemplate what went on, why and how, and what’s next on the journey.
Fall is also my most favorite time of year here in New England. I love the temperatures during the day, the cooler nights are great for sleeping and you can dress in layers of nice warm clothing. I love the fall festivals and country fairs, apple picking, pumpkins and cornstalk displays. And I like to go for drives, just because I like to drive, up into the mountains to see the foliage. So, I go to Cathedral Ledge every year or two to see the view of the whole valley from there. It’s amazing. I started the Cathedral Ledge trips the year that I tested positive for hiv, (’92) the year I thought an expiration date had been stamped on my forehead and I was going to die soon…obviously that didn’t happen, as I am still here and healthier than ever. It’s miraculous actually.
I remember that year really well. I lived in Kittery Maine, right on the water in a great duplex apartment of which I lived downstairs at first, then moved to the upstairs which had these big wrap around decks overlooking the whole waterfront of the river. It was really cool, probably the coolest apartment I ever had back when I was still doing the apartment living thing. It was also my last apartment now that I think about it. I found out my sero-status that summer after my therapist urged me to be tested and I scoffed at her for even suggesting it. Yeah, I wasn’t laughing on August 31st when I got the test results back. It seriously felt like I had a big date on my ass that meant I wasn’t going to be around much longer. I was only 32, hell I was too young to die.
I moved to that upstairs apartment shortly after my life-altering discovery of my being hiv+. Yeah, I did the unspeakable…I broke up with my then girlfriend and moved. She moved out of the downstairs apartment soon after, which I remember really irritated me because if I had known she was going to move I wouldn’t have moved myself! I remember people telling me that I was a fool to leave her because of my hiv…but I didn’t want to stay with someone just because of that either and we had issues with alcohol in our relationship at the time so things weren’t good. I had also met the woman that I would spend the better part of the next 14 years with as well by that time. So I wanted out in more than one way.
I took Mom up to Cathedral Ledge that year. My Mom is afraid of heights, so I took her to the cliffs of the White Mountains, where she was scared to death, but loved the views. Lots of people jump from the ledges, it’s been a popular suicide spot from what I am told. I never thought about jumping, but I did think they would be cool to climb up and repel down from. Belaying down those faces would be exhilarating to say the very least. I did see climbers that day that we took Mom.
My younger brother, his then girlfriend and my now ex-girlfriend, all went that day. We took Mom’s Cadillac and Steve’s girl’s red sports car. At one point we got stuck in a long line of traffic in Conway (we weren’t the only leaf-peepers that day) and I remember us playing the music really loud between the two vehicles and having Chinese fire-drills. That’s what we called them anyway, it’s probably not a very PC named game, but it’s where everyone exits the car, dances around it and jumps back in in a different place than where they were sitting before. Fun and crazy game, and we were all in such a great mood that day. I drove the Caddy all day that day, and Mom rode in the backseat, we had a total blast, but I remember that day looking long and hard at those mountains and the views and thinking it might be the last time I would see them.
I’m grateful to still be alive, and as healthy as I am today. It’s been 22 years since that August day of discovery. I’ve been through a rash of medications and drug trials over the years. I’ve battled some weird illnesses because of my compromised immune system, but as of yet none of them have killed my ass. I’ve also had the great fortune of meeting and knowing some of the most wonderful people. I have people who are in my life today only because we met due to my illness for one reason or another and became friends.
People always ask me about dating with my sero-status being positive. It’s never easy to explain to anyone that I wish to see, there’s always the chance of meeting someone who doesn’t have the common sense or trust in me to know that I would never put anyone else at risk. It’s had it’s challenges. When I met my ex-wife it was because someone was introducing us when they visited to check on my health. So she knew even before we met that I was hiv+ and she herself was an activist and well schooled in the disease. I never thought she would give me a second look when I did start calling and asking her out, but I had to give it a try. I remember how crazy I was for her back then and that I was really a lot more self-conscious about it. The day she told me she didn’t care, that it didn’t make a difference to her she still wanted to be with me I was floored. While we didn’t stay together forever, she and I remain friendly still today and although we rarely talk anymore I do still consider her a friend.
It’s actually gotten more difficult to deal with disclosure as I have gotten older. I don’t look sick, act sick and you would never know I have this virus – unless I tell you right out. Which I do when I am even remotely interested in anyone. If I don’t think they already know from reading me or watching my videos where I do openly talk about it, then I make sure to tell them the deal. It’s still never easy if people have preconceived notions like that I shouldn’t be dating or sexually active because of my status. I know there is risk, but I would never put anyone at risk. If I were to ever infect anyone it would have to be through mutual shared drug use – which is NOT going to happen. I gave that up a long time ago, a super long time ago.
So, the Fall always makes me remember that year. It was a big year of changes to my life. I quit drinking, left a 2 year relationship, started dating the woman who I would eventually marry, and made a whole lot of changes that year. Not everything I changed actually stayed with me, except I still don’t drink much anymore and I am a much more pleasant person just for that! Never did pick that back up in any serious manner thankfully, and I did leave the wife eventually 13+ years later and started over one more time….but it’s all good. Still I have some fun and fond memories, mixed in with some really scary ones truthfully. Luckily the body and mind are constructed so that you cannot “recall” pain, because if you could you would go literally insane as the human brain is programmed NOT to be able to recall pain. You can remember it, but not recall it. You remember it hurt like hell, but not the actual agony that you experienced the first time around.
So, anyway, that’s what today’s weather and thought process brought up for me. Again, I know I am one lucky son of a bitch to be alive today, and especially to be as healthy as I am. My body is a machine! My immune system may be compromised, but you would never know it. I take a slew of modern chemical concoctions daily and everything checks out good. Hell, they can’t even see the virus in my blood at this point anymore….but I have to keep taking the medications or things will get bad. I’ve got it down to such a routine now that it’s just a normal part of my day to stop for meds, no big deal.
It’s a good day to be alive….peace. ~MB