HIV and Positive

HIV and Positive

A Story by Kim Black

HIV and Positive

 

  It lay there on the floor. A gargantuan behemoth, staring into my eye and laughing at�" no, openly mocking�" me. It was the final stop in my descent, the s**t I was left to stew in, an effigy of my misery. After wading my way through the aggressively rectangular corridors of the community centre, I found it awaiting my arrival, as if to say, “Yes, you’ve come to the right place. This is where you go to die”. So I gazed, not knowing what to do, waiting for it to give me some instruction. But it just smiled back at me. An A-frame sign, three feet tall, with a giant yellow smiley-face and a plus sign, next to the words:

 

HIV and Positive: Illness Support Group.

“Aiding you in your battle with AIDS!”

 

  My disease, my death, crawling deeper into my blood every second, reduced to a f*****g pun.

  Ever since I was diagnosed, I felt a great emptiness consumed my entire life. I went through the motions�" taking medication, drinking health shakes, eating well. But underneath I could feel myself pulling away, until all that was left was pills and helth shakes and food. Then one day my mam came in to find me sitting in s**t watching the shopping channel. I moved back into my parents’ house and it was decided that I should go to therapy.

  I looked up from the sign and noticed a woman backed up against the wall. She was obviously in the early stages. Her body hadn’t swollen up or lost any of its shape yet, and she was beautiful. You’d never tell she was even sick. And between her and the door, leaning in so close his breath could cling to her, there was a man. He was red-eyed and hung over, but otherwise looked healthy. He lifted up his arm and planted it on the wall so the woman was now firmly in the corner.

  “The way ah see it, love”, he blurted like he was still drunk, “people lahk us need to stick together.” Clearly she was uncomfortable now.

  “Ah mean, no bloke’s goin near ye now ye’ve got the f****n p***y of death. But ye ever need any sorting out”�" his eyes traced up and down her body�" “and Harry’s got ye sorted. After all, ah can’t give ye more AIDS”. He laughed heartily, trying to close the already tiny distance between them, when suddenly�"

  SLAP! The sound of her hand crashing into his face echoed through the room. He flew to the side, just managing to stay off the floor. For a second he just stood there, clutching his face, not knowing where he was or what had happened. Then something else took over. An indomitable rage, like her resistance to his advances just made him want to conquer her more. He ran back into her, grabbing her wrist with one hand and her crotch with the other.

  “AH CAN F****N TRY, YE B***H! Ah’d be dooin ye a favour!” His face swelled like it was breathing as she tried to escape his clutch, screaming and spitting in face. I just watched, out of their eyeshot. I was frozen, for an instant captivated by something other than my sickness. Eventually I snapped out of it, and I was about to do something, when the door opened. The leader of the support group came out, and Harry dropped the woman.

  “Oh, great, we have some more people. Marianne, welcome back!”, he announced brightly. Then, a little more reserved,

  “Harry…”. Finally he turned and spotted me, and his smile got even larger than the one on the sign.

  “A new member! Welcome, wel�"come.” He beckoned us all in. I have no idea why Marianne stayed, but she did. We all went inside, Harry leading the way.

  The meeting took place in a frigid, bare hall the size of a basketball court. I walked across to the opposite corner, where blue plastic chairs had been laid out in a circle. There were about fifteen people there, all in all. They looked like a focus group for STDs. Skagheads, queers, prostitutes, all at different stages. There was one man whose clothes hung off him like bin bags. His pale white skin clung to his bones. Burning red pimples clustered down his neck, each one looking ready to burst at any moment. He was almost gone. We sat down�" Marianne as far away from Harry as possible�" and the meeting began.

  I don’t know why I kept going back after that. It was a constantly changing roster of people, but the stories were all the same. Marianne never came again. Mostly I just kept my head down and stayed quiet. Harry, though, he always had something to say. He sneered at the junkies, called the women s***s and laughed at the queers until they cried. You got the feeling he only showed up for an audience to brag to about how little his illness affected him. While the others talked about having to leave their boyfriends, or how their family reacted, or the depression swallowing them whole and spitting them back out again, his stories were all about drunken nights out, or getting into fights, or all the “w****s” he blamed for getting HIV. He drank and smoked and yet he looked healthier than any of us. The others reminded me of my death, but Harry, he made the whole thing feel like a sick joke.

  I spent the rest of my time wandering around, mostly. I couldn’t stand being at my parents’ house, where AIDS hung in the air like a bad smell. Instead I’d walk around the streets at night, or go into a club. I never did anything. I just stood and watched the people as they got high and danced and fucked. I liked to watch them. Nothing ever changed, like time wasn’t even passing. I had two worlds�" the world of the meetings, and the world of the living. I was an observer in both.

  Then one night, they crashed into each other, and for a brief moment, I was dragged back into the world as I had known it. I was standing by the bar in a nightclub, staring out at the masses, when I saw Harry. He was with a girl­�"short, fat and drunk off her head. Her make-up was smeared and she was wearing a tight belly top that forced all the flab into her midsection. He had her pressed against the wall, one hand fingering her furiously, the other digging chunks of flesh off her bare stomach. His tongue was reaching into her tonsils like a worm. Without thinking, I ran over and grabbed him.

  “What do you think you’re doing?!”

  He looked at me with drunken indignation and wriggled his hand out from inside the girl’s skirt.

  “Who the f**k ar’ yoo?”. The girl stayed quiet, her head swaying from side to side with no strong feelings about the situation.

  “I’m from the group. You can’t do this.” He squinted and examined me for a few moments.

  “Yeah, ah think ah recognise ye”. I don’t think he did. He was still squinting, looking for  some discernable feature. Eventually he gave up.

  “Listen, why don’t ye do iss a favour and f**k off, mate.” Then he turned away and went back into the girl, who seemed neither bother or pleased by his return.

  For a moment I stood there, gazing blankly as he sorted her out right in front of me. I felt like I should do something. Tell her he has HIV, hit him, anything. But the longer I stood there, the less it seemed to matter. What difference does it make? I walked back over to my spot by the bar and thought about my blood, the way it carried my life and my death, the cruel irony of it all. Maybe Harry was right. Maybe it was all a joke, and you could either be a victim or become part of the punchline. A few minutes later Harry left with the girl, his arm around her waist, leading her out the door.

  Harry didn’t come to any meetings after that. No one exactly missed him. My life went on as it was. Meetings and health shakes and watching and eating and shitting. The doctors say I’m doing well, that people can live for decades in my condition. Now my mam says I should go back to work, get my life back to normal. She doesn’t realise that normal doesn’t exist for me anymore.

  A couple of months later I was sitting in the hall, waiting for a meeting to begin. The leader’s enthusiastic voice resonating through the room.

  “Well, group, we have a new member, so I’d like you all to give her a very big welcome.” Half-hearted applause. “Would you like to introduce yourself?”

  I looked up and saw a girl. Without make-up she couldn’t have been older than seventeen. She sat, barely fitting in her blue plastic chair, looking sad and broken.

  “My name is Emma, and I have…”

© 2016 Kim Black


Author's Note

Kim Black
This is based on a short story called "Bad Blood" by Irvine Welsh that was featured in the book 'Trainspotting'. My long-term hope is to combine the two to make a script based on the idea.

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Added on June 28, 2016
Last Updated on June 28, 2016

Author

Kim Black
Kim Black

Dublin, Ireland



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18 years old. Would love to get some feedback on the short stories I've written. I'm looking forward to reading other people's work too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpla_3yq8Xs https://www.y.. more..

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