When I was 23 years old It was a very volatile year. I had been on my own since I was 17 years old bouncing from house to mostly ending up with my older sister who was 4 years older than me. But when we would fight. And we Fought A LOT I would end up going to stay with my aunt or my cousin. So when I was 22 after a huge blow up I went to go stay with my cousin Michelle.
Like most young women who grew up with very little guidance, I was mostly taught the things people wanted me to know so they could get over on me, rather than the things that would empower me to grow. It seems that old adage ”hurt people Hurt People,” the people I had in my life at the time where no exception except for My Cousin and Best friend Michelle.
Anyway, I was finally living in my own apartment and things had started looking up, I was working steadily and I was saving to buy myself a car. So on this one particular evening, I remember being on the phone with my girl friend Gail and I was telling her that there was something off with my body. I knew my body, and I will never forget we were talking about the Oddity that had become the relationship with my on again off again boy friend. And she said well maybe he gave you something?
Gave me something? What the Hell do you mean gave me something?
I yelled. Uhm, I’m gonna need you to get up and go with me to the emergency room because I’m not going to be able to sleep after that. So like a good friend she and I went to the local hospital. And we pondered as we waited for me to get examined and then again as the Doctor finally called me into a little room once he got my labs back.
Congratulations you’re pregnant. I was stunned. I guess my response wasn’t the one he was looking for as he looked at me and smiled and I looked back at him stonedfaced, and replied so I’m not getting a new car. He laughed nervously, and told me he didn’t know about that, but he did know that, I was going to get a new baby and should seek prenatal care. And he suggested that my body was probably off because of the hormones.
I was floored, I was relieved that there wasn’t anything wrong , but I wasn’t expecting this news. I had to wait all night to call my cousin. She was the only one I could share this news with. The only one who knew what to do.
I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks. Busy with life which happens sometimes. But she hadn’t been feeling well for a while. She told us it was a thyroid issue. And I guess at the time I was too young and self absorbed to see that she was losing weight. I mean she was looking great as far as I was concerned. But the last time I saw her was a little different.
All the lights were out in her room and she had the windows open, she said she couldn’t breathe and that she just needed air but it was January in New York and the hawk was out.
I crawled into her bed with her, and got under the covers and we started to talk about life and randomness. I complained about the relationship that I was in, that I didn’t think it was working out and I guess I knew, that I was pregnant or maybe it was wishful thinking, because I remember telling her that I thought I was. And she told me not to worry about it that we would get through it together, if it were true but I had put it out of my mind until the night I found out.
So I sat up that night thinking, about what I wanted to do about the situation and totally not being ready for being anyone’s mommy. The derailment of my life and plans; and all I wanted to do was speak to Michelle.
That morning another one of my cousins called me crying. I couldn’t quite make out what she was telling me, because it was as if she was talking into the phone, but not actually talking to me, although she knew I was there. She was rattling on about, my cousin Michelle being admitted to the hospital that night and how she didn’t want to leave her but she needed to go to work and she asked if My sister could come to the hospital.
I knew she had an issue with her thyroid but in my ignorance, I didn’t know that this was a serious issue. I could hear from the tone and manner of her speaking, that she didn’t know whether or not my cousin would make it.
I don’t remember if I asked my cousin what the doctors were saying but I remember her recalling the ambulance being called to the house, the ambulance driver asking my cousin if there were any medications she was currently taking and something about a false positive and AZT.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. WHAT? I gasped. I don’t think she meant to tell me that, I just think it was something she had to say because she couldn’t believe it herself. I really believe she wasn’t talking to me, she was trying to make her mind accept that my cousin, My Best friend had AIDS.
I told her not to worry to go on to work and I would get up and get dressed and go to the hospital.
When I got there I saw my cousin. And I saw how gaunt she had become. She was wasting away and her spirit looked broken. I’m sure she didn’t want us to find out that way. But I once again climbed into her bed and told her my news. And she told me we would get through it together and I told her the same.
The thing that stuck with me as we sat in the emergency room, and people passed by were the
Remembering Those We Lost On This World AIDS Day
dirty looks she got as if she had done something wrong. It bothered me because I had done the same thing she had, Had un-protected sex.
Although at this point I had been dating my son’s father for a year but it took about 3 months before the condom came off. He could have been anyone and given me anything.
As we waited, I was also reminded of a time when I was staying at my cousin’s house and I was sick..I was throwing up and not really feeling well, but hey what 21 year old takes the best care of themselves.
I remember her being soo upset. And she told me that she didn’t like the path I was going down and then asked when the last time I had an HIV test?
HIV TEST??? Please there’s nothing wrong with me. I said What would I need that for? I just remember her leaving the room, but I shudder to think that she thought I was judging her.
It changed my life and my behaviors, I decided that If I was healthy after my HIV test I would have my baby and would definitely demand my partners get tested or use condoms. A rule I stick to. And If he’s not into that sort of thing he doesn’t get into me.
When she lost her battle with AIDS younger than I am right now, countless young girls she mentored lost their only confident, I lost my best friend and my biggest cheer leader, He mother lost a daughter, her daughters lost their mother, and for what because of Penis?? Sex?
I’ve had a lot of sex, and met a lot of men, but I have yet to meet one that I thought I would give my life for and you have to put it in that kind of perspective. Is this man worth my life?