Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If You Don't Know...Now Ya Know

I remember an episode of Oprah a few years back about the "down low."  I was watching, riveted, frightened while Maria screamed into my ear via the telephone.  We were both shocked by this unearthed urban legend that was no longer a legend, but a real life nightmare.  Men pretending to be straight, but secretly leading homosexual lives. Of course the AIDS issue came up.

We both walked (ran) to our nearest clinic to get tested. I sat on the doctors table frightened, riveted, as the blood left my veins and traveled into a little glass tube.  I looked at the blood and for a split second, I saw doubt swimming around like platelettes.  My mind raced back to certain partners. Those that could be on the down low. Both obvious and not so obvious.  I did a mental list of those with whom I was smart and safe.  I also did the walk of shame rundown.  Both were equally unsettling.   

She said two weeks.  Ok.  Two weeks.  Fourteen days.  I can do that.  Easy. 

The next two weeks are hard.  In the most opportune and inopportune moments I think about the (im)possibilities.  I sit in my car at the drive thru, I lay in bed at night, I take my finals, frightened, riveted.  We talk as if everyday life will never change. As if a phonecall couldn't change it all.   

Eventually, I sort of forget or at least I pretend I have.  It sits in the back of my brain, perhaps in that place where the languages I don't know I can speak reside.  I go back to regular life.  I forget my results.  I forget that episode of Oprah.  I forget my brain. 

Three weeks and I suddenly remember.  I call the clinic.  She informs me that you can't get your results over the phone.  It reminds me of the time I called to follow up on my graduate school application.

"Hi! I'm just calling to make sure all my materials have been received."

"Yes, Ms. Collins, you're under review already."


"Your response is in the mail actually."

"Oh. Um..." I listen for some sort of intonation in her voice, for a hint or clue to my fate.  She does neither.

"You should get their decision soon.  Good luck."

Bitch, I hang up. 

I do the same with the clinic. I make the treck and am instantly led to a room where a pair of chairs sit coupled with a stark, white table. They stare at me, daring me to sit, to try and find comfort.  I sit and the nurse flips through some papers on a clipboard.  I wonder how many people she's told today.  Whose life is forever altered.  Will mine be?   I chastise myself for forgetting.  Maybe I forgot on purpose. To avoid this moment. 

My hands shake.  I am perhaps the most frightened and riveted. What will I do if...

She sort of smiles the smile she's supposed to.  "Negative." 

Of course.  I knew. Well, no I didn't.  I assumed.  No, I hoped, but now I'm sure.  Sure for myself and sure for whoever comes into my bed.  It's my responsibility.  If I'm gonna do the adult, there's adult consequences.  It isn't easy.  It isn't hard.  It just is.  And now I know.  

Do you?

That bitch stole my line


Blackie Collins


  1. I recalled my first time getting tested. I was in a jr. in college, dating a football ho who of course cheated on me...

    They called me to come back into the student health center to go over my results...the guy started asking me if I had a support system and my heart sank...

    he then could tell I was about to become unglued and let me know that my results were negative. I think I would have preferred to get it in the mail...I was terrified! I think that moment took a couple of minutes off my life!

  2. I try to get a full panel std checkup with my annual pap smear. Relationship or not, I just NEED to know for sure that things are ok down there. Having parents in public health made me bonafide hypochondriac.

    That 2 week wait is a mother. FYI: Some offices offer the rapid test which gives results in 20 minutes.

  3. That two week is a mother, but what's the alternative? get tested no matter what. not enough people are talking about this and they should.

    good writing as usual too