Note: The links in this missive are deprecated and contributions are closed.
A while back I wrote about the three times I almost died. Some of you thought it was funny – and it was.
There’s hardly a better way to approach death than with laughter.
But there’s worse than death.
I got a taste of what that must be like some years ago. And that’s what today’s story is about.
Many winters past, in another life, I used to be a bartender in a hot humid tropical place.
I lived there long enough to witness the landfall of several hurricanes, but none of them ever came close to being as frightful as another brush with mortal danger.
To this day, bartending is one of my favorite jobs – and I’ve done a thing or two in my life.
As a bartender, you get to meet loads of people of all sorts of backgrounds. It’s how I got to intensify my study of people and why bartending quickly became something of an addiction.
As a bartender, you also get to hear and see many stories, and learn from the lives of complete strangers, who sometimes become close friends. Your world grows bigger, yet some of its farthest corners start feeling closer and closer.
But perhaps my favorite aspect of bartending is that you get to craft not just drinks, but an entire experience for your patrons – and yourself.
Women were a big part of that experience. I do enjoy sex and the company of women, so I had some.
Until one day I noticed a change.
I was out for my usual 12 km run, when I saw meaty red swellings all over my body.
I rushed home and checked myself. There were swellings around my armpits, too – where some of the most important lymph nodes are.
I had been feeling a bit under the weather, but nothing could explain the sudden outbreak of inflammation.
Except this one thing I could think of.
A primary HIV infection often shows up as swollen lymph nodes and a mild cold or similar condition.
I kept racking my mind – and the Internet – but couldn’t find another credible explanation. Because I had the vitals of an athlete, ate healthy and worked out daily.
I kid you not, I was petrified.
It’s hard to remember if and when I used protection, but everyone with a brain knows that sometimes even the best protection can malfunction.
And picky as I tended to be with women, you never really know the odd trashy guy that could have been there before.
I felt like a zombie in a very literal way.
It was like time stopped and sped up all at once.
I would wake up and feel sick all day long – out of horror.
It wasn’t death that scared me, but a smaller and tortured life of incurable illness.
I prepared for the worst-case scenario and planned my way out of a gruesome death (Canada and Switzerland were two possibilities). Obviously, I wasn’t looking forward to offing myself, but wanted to know my options if things got ugly.
For a week, I was a dead man walking, and that’s probably the most harrowing experience of my entire life.
Until I tested negative.
Later – after ignoring the misdiagnoses and useless tests of some distracted and overworked doctors – I figured out that I had been through an autoimmune reaction similar to an allergy. Nothing major, no meds required.
I was fine, but walking out of the doctor’s office with my negative test results, I still felt shook more than relieved.
That week of a zombified life staring me in the eyes left a deep imprint I carry to this day.
Some scars aren’t easy to see, but stay with you forever.
Someone else’s indiscretion or a broken condom can turn your life into a living hell.
That’s why I urge you to join in for the LGBT Community Center’s Cycle for the Cause fundraising drive.
You can contribute through Dan Matthews’ Cycle for the Cause page. Dan is riding 400 miles from Boston to New York to raise money.
Some of that in a red dress.
On a bicycle.
In the rain and cold.
Others have already donated more than $5,500 and I hope we can get it well over the $6,000 mark.
If you consider yourself generous, now is the time to make your generosity manifest.
Here’s the link again: https://support.cycleforthecause.org/fundraiser/1116660
Every penny goes to helping real people get their lives back together after testing positive – and preventing others from living through a harrowing affliction.
Not research. Not administration. Not “raising awareness”.
Only real people in real need.
PS: Dan is fine and a modest guy who doesn’t look for credit.
He set up the personal page to encourage friends and colleagues to help people in need.
You can do so here: https://support.cycleforthecause.org/fundraiser/1116660