Somehow, 50

I felt the blood drain from my face, my mind. It’s a strange feeling, like submersing your head in a pool of nearly frozen water, but not as cold.

“What?”

Now I was finding it difficult to stand. There wasn’t anything to sit on so I leaned against the racks of VHS videos behind the counter.
The voice on the other end of the line repeated what it said, a little slower, each point a sentence like he was trying to teach a five year old quantum physics.

“This is Dr. Thomas. Your test results have come back. You have tested positive. For the HIV antibody. The virus that causes AIDS.

  1. I was 19 years old, and a single two minute call was all it took rip away everything I thought I knew.

I had run away from home at 17 for the third and final time, and after living with my meth dealer for a while, *not* sleeping in his unfurnished living room on the floor, I decided to leave, go somewhere besides San Diego. I didn’t know a single person in the Bay Area. It seemed like good a place as any to try and figure out who I was.

When I was finally able to think, I realized that I must have been tested on a recent trip to visit my adopted parents. They asked if I wanted a physical while I was there, and I agreed. I wanted to show them I was fine, healthy. That there was no reason to worry about me. That I didn’t need them. I figured out that they had also requested an HIV test from the doctor, and getting my approval wasn’t important. The call on that day was kind of a shock.

I had never used needles, had slept with maybe five men. I was exempt from AIDS, I was mostly straight and I was safe. I guess all it took was one of those men being positive, and everything working just right to infect me. Talk about rotten luck.

But that didn’t matter now. Nothing mattered. Across the Bay the City was dying, the plague was killing people and no one had any answers. I’d heard the treatments they had weren’t that much better than the disease.
That’s all I knew. That’s all I chose to know.

I figured I had about 18 months, maybe two years left to live if I was lucky, but much of that time would be spent in horrible pain, my body shutting down, my own shit and blood and fluids pouring out of me. All the sudden my self-imposed rule of never using needles for recreational drugs and never using heroin went to shit. When I started to get sick, I would handle it my own way. I wasn’t going to be a burden on anyone – just slide away and disappear.

Time passed. A year, two, five, and the sickness never came. Still, bordering the line between conscious and subconscious, I kept waiting for the day everything turned around. I knew it was coming.

As much as I wanted to go back to school, to learn something I could use, I couldn’t commit to the time. I didn’t have a future.

 

 

I destroyed the best relationships & deepest loves I have ever known, selfishly afraid to ever force anyone to feel like they needed to be loyal, faithful, as they stood by, helpless, watching me die. For the same reason I never allowed myself to have what I perhaps wanted more than anything in life – a child.

I took each day as it came, tried to make the best out of it. I studied myself and my beliefs, did all I could to learn about me and what life was. I taught myself to see the beauty in everything, every day. I tried to help, I learned from others, I read & continue to read feverishly, so at least I might have some wisdom, some inspiration, something to offer another. Maybe something clever & profound to say in my final breath. Only up until the past 15 or so years, every moment of my life has been spent expecting to die. It’s the only thing I’ve known.

It sure did fuck up my credit score.

Now, somehow, I’m only a few weeks away from 50 years old, and wondering how it is that I got here. I’ve spent years looking for an answer as to why. Why, of all people, me?

I’ve only been able to come up with one answer that makes any sense at all.
 

 

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out of my head

I sit up in my bed, comforter pulled up to just above my stomach, drinking the tea that I just made. Ruby sleeps beside me, snoring gently off & on. It’s just after 6:00am & there is a rare serene quiet to the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco – no sirens, yelling, horns honking… even the crow’s abrasive caw-shout isn’t heard.

I adore the solitude of this part of the day, & try to be a part of it if the night before has been kind enough to allow me to. Of course, sometimes it isn’t, especially these days with all the physical crap I have to deal with, sometimes enough to wake me up, sometimes enough to prevent me from sleeping when I intend to in the first place – but today, this morning, is mine.

I’ve been thinking a lot about perfectionism. It’s something that I’m cursed with, and has for a large part of my life really screwed with things I wanted to do, going so far as to prevent them from happening altogether.
Without question it’s why this whole book project has taken so long to come to fruition, with me (aka “this asshole”) ripping things apart, re-doing & incessantly re-writing the copy for the site & never being satisfied – and it can’t go on like this. Not if I want to continue, and SURE as hell not if I ever want to finish my book.

I look further into the need for everything to be perfect & find that it could be based – most liely IS based – in fear. If I keep on changing things, I never have to show it to the public and am still able to say that “I’m working on it”.

I need to work on that. I need to change that.
If I don’t, then my life & all I want to do will be entombed in frustration, ripping away the joy I remember when I *did* finish things whether they were perfect or not in my eyes – performances, my magazine – hell, even my Living Statue garb when I began. I still can’t believe I started doing it without the frock coat & in my Dr. Martens – tattooed arms bare, black boots, poorly done makeup – but I DID it. I got out there. I was appreciated, tipped well, and hells- it worked.

I need to remember that lesson.

Things will never be as perfect as I want them to be, so I need to stop needing them to be. I need to remember that it is only a foolish fear that I created inside my mind to help avoid the time when it will need to be shown to the world.

Some people will like it, others won’t – whatever it is. Whatever it is, even the smallest dream that I make happen is worth FAR more than the largest dream that I never attempt.

That last part is from a quote I read somewhere, and it fits perfectly into this… but there’s also one of *my* quotes that may work well in this case: “Never let logic stand in the way of your dreams.”

My life began when I started making my dreams come true. The first time it happened & many times after that, they were small dreams (if there actually *is* such a thing) – they took little effort or fear – but the feeling that washed over me when I made them into a reality was – and will ALWAYS be – incomparable in the sensation of strength & accomplishment it gave me, and each one reinforced me with the confidence to reach for more…

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…but then I got sick. Somehow, although it was the greatest & most difficult thing I have *ever* done, coming out of that – saving my life when no one else could, and literally dancing out of the front door of the Hospice (which admittedly was more of a stylish shuffle aided by my cane) – for some reason I don’t see that as an accomplishment.

Sitting here thinking about why… perhaps part of the reason is because although I did what many people believed unlikely or even impossible, I focus on more of how the sickness ripped my life apart – the exquisite life I had built, full of excitement, love, adventure & value – and in many ways continues to cage it as only a ghost of what it was.

I whine about how much it took away from me, instead of how much it gave and allows me to give to others… I had never thought of that until now; not even the idea that it didn’t feel like something good I did – and as a result was likely at least partially responsible for breaking the habit I had built of fearlessly realizing my goals & dreams.

Great. Something else I need to work on – but at least now it has a name, and the beginning of an understanding. That is pretty damn cool. I know where I should be looking now – instead of before when it was like trying to fix the brakes on a motorcycle by adjusting the throttle.
MotorHeart

It’s now just flipping a few switches in my head from self-pity to gratitude that I’m still alive. Shouldn’t be that difficult, right?

It’s LONG past time to start making dreams come true again.
And simply through writing it out of my head, I just may have found the reason why it’s been so godsdamned difficult for me.

ON   WITH   THE   SHOW!