Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Blast From The Past

Two weeks after taking my trial period of ARV (anti retrovirals) and I seemingly did not have any undesirable reactions, I visited RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) as per an appointed date with my doctor and I had to restock.

Accompanied by an old friend of mine who's been a well honed nurse and instructor, the trip wasn't as lonely as before. In fact, jokes came flying here and there as I drove through the traffic infested metro down to the south express way. It had been quite sometime since I had caught up with my pal, Joseph. He's been through a lot of heavy problems too, and it seemed he was one of the more objective and calm people when I openned up about my being positive.

After taking the morning ARV set that I needed, we were told that the doctor would still be in at 2 PM so we decided to have lunch at ATC. Hey, cmon, we're Metro Manila dwellers, it's a rare occasion that we're in Alabang during lunch time... so we had CPK at ATC. Wow, we have that at Trinoma naman, diba?

After succesfully convincing Joseph to order the Thai Crunch Salad that changed his entire paradigm about asian salads, I rewarded myself by playing one of my favorite video games in Time Zone-- Tekken 6 Blood Rebellion.

Kinda weird, huh? This doesn't sound like a blog by an HIV+ person at all?

Well that's the point, you can't tell if they're positive or not unless you have them checked. These people-- US, live normally like everyone. The doctor told me that she treats it like a  chronic disease. That's it. It's, like, not a plague of epic proportions in the USA-- for real! Again, it's just the fact that we're living in a soppingly hypocritical, severely prudent and image driven (Image?! Hello??) society that ain't doing rat shit for itself for being so.

Well, that piece of angst aside, (I used to have that in spades till I found out I had to chill to keep myself intact) back at the institute where the doctor was waiting, a familiar face bolted into the room where I was consulting with my doctor.

She was one of those legendary people who, for some graced and yet for some gored the streets and the club floors of Malate. Actually, she's a he but I'd adress her with all due respect for the succesful and well rounded implants on her chest. A very familar face with those fierce eyes shown. Eyes that peered into the soul of a clubber. I'm sure, if that clubber was high, he'd break down with a trauma that could last for months. A drag queen? I'm not sure, I wasn't able to ask that and I don't think it'd be the proper place to do so. But she looked straight into my eyes the moment she got in.

"You look very familiar."

Those eyes had a voice. And what a squeaky girly voice it was. That first line dispelled all the industrial strength, drag queen flavor she had in my thoughts. Come to think of it, it's all fiction and made by the cruel mean society that I was also part of. I pre empted that squeaky voice and the depth of those eyes because I saw my other friends shivering in fear, or looking in a disturbed fashion at her, long ago in the club. I pre empted someone who is in the same state as I am. I pre empted someone, way back, who made me feel better today.

"Ye... Yeah, you do too."

I replied in a shy 'Walt Disney's Bambi' like way. But I smiled because I just can't help it. The mythical fierce drag queen in the club is now a person in front of me, as am I, probably to her.

"You'll be OK."

She followed with a smile. OK, the smile scared me a bit, still. But she continued:

"I've been like this for sixteen years! So you'll be OK!~"

Wow, sixteen years of being positive and she still looks healthy and great. Fierce to be exact.

"Really? Gee, thanks... thank you so Much!"

I was at the zenith of being sincere. Much like a dog exposing it's belly to his master, I couldn't help but be thankful and warm to her because the fact that she's the way she is and she's being 'fierce' for 16 years-- that means I'm going to be OK.

That's what Joseph told me too. He also knew her. He also retreated at the sight of her.

No offense to her, at that time, we were not used to seeing people like that. But it was also our mistake not to look closer and question or find out why they get a kick out of being 'drag-ish'.

I'm not confirming her to be a drag queen, it's a profession and it's just that I didn't ask her so I didn't get an answer. What's that word? A tranny... yeah... I think in our world she falls under that bracket.

Her fierceness was a whiff of fresh air and a reminder that I can be fierce too. Well, not that way but I mean I can deal with this. I'll survive. No... I'll simply live.

I'll put it in how Joseph said:

"Wow, 16 years. She's had it for that long: You'll be, OK."


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Think Positive

Cliche as it may seem, I have to start thinking positive (pun not intended) as much as I can. That means it's nearly a 180 degree turn for some traits and niches.

With that in mind, it's a plus that I've gone athletic for the past years ( a year or two before I found out I was PUSIT).

I'm a badminton afficionado. I'm not in the Philippine Team (whew, that'll be a lot of stress) B~ut you can say I'm one of those people who play for extensive hours, to the point that we close the establishments we play in past midnight.

I've been playing for nearly 4 years and I've gone pretty far I guess. I'm not trained though-- I probably just observed and did it from scratch. The point of mentioning this here is that my heart is in the sport. Success brings positivity and the oposite... well... it brought me down. Probably even worse than a break up.

But with this in mind, my attitude has rapidly changed. I'm coping well with it I guess. I'm just being convivial with every game I play, be it a loss or a win.

I hope I can do this with most things in life. This is going to be gradual. From a game that I play to things like work, family, relationship(s) (?) (I mean, they come and go, but I'll be very careful from now on) This entire thing is brand new. I'm lucky to be callous enough to adjust to the fact. Callous? Why? Being callous is caused by too much pressure that it has made something somewhat oblivious or insensitive. Not really. I do care. I want to cry. I have. I know I will again It's stress but don't we all stress? Aren't we all human? Aren't we all smitten by something everyday or at least every other day, for the luckier ones?

It's a brand new life in an ironic twist. To be honest, I used to wish for a new life or to turn back time to a point where everything would be brand new-- I wasn't careful what I wished for and I did get it. Brand new indeed, with a chronic handicap. I'm not complaining, but isn't it like repeating a video game but at a harder level?

Funny isn't it?

What's funnier is that I thought I'd have a hard time becoming optimistic. I'm not a super hero now, hell no. Maybe my psyche is putting up a fight too.

Maybe there's no better feeling than staying alive.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Knowing the Truth

"Well, the good news is that you are reactive to HIV1 and not HIV2."

The doctor said.

"...? Ok, what makes it good?"

Puzzled, I asked with a very grey smirk.

"Well, HIV 1 is a the dormant virus type which takes longer to deplete your immunity system. It's popular around Asia. HIV2, however, is the one that actively breaks down the immunity system and is usually found in westerns."

This is how I recall the doctor, informing me in the most layman term possible. This is how the very first minute of my life, living with the knowledge of me being positive to HIV went.

My body was unsure as much as my mind was. Part of me was expecting this to happen, given the all meat spree that I brought upon Metro Manila. But part of me, that deep seeded human instinct to survive, was shouting a note higher than Mariah's whistle. It'd be stupid if I entertained the though of "Am I gonna die?" or a smoother and ruder "How long till I buy the farm?"-- I waited for explanation and it came verb after verb after verb.

My entire body, mind, heart and sould depended on everything the doctor said at that time.

I was going to be alright, provided I take further tests to see how my immunity system was going and further down the road, if my T Cell count was below 250, I was to take the Anti Retro Virals religiously. It would save me and buy me so much time but I would be depended on it every 12 hours from the first time I take it.

All this set aside, I was shocked at myself for staying calm. I was more concerned about something else. I was concerned about the people who mattered to me.

At that moment, walking out of the hygiene clinic and through the hospital gardens with my friend Ayen, who also took the test, but ended up being negative (applause), I called my boyfriend to greet him. He knew I was going to get the results of my test that day so he asked what were the results.

"Ayen came out negative, Eru."

I told told him, making it a verbal equation that leads to an obvious answer.

"Well, what about you?"

The obvious reply still did not paint the picture in his thoughts. I knew then that he was in 100% denial mode.

"Well, that makes me positive."

I cannot get any more blunt than that.

"You're kidding?"

He couldn't get any more denying than that.

He asked me to pass the phone to Ayen and he kept asking and telling that it was a bad joke. It wasn't. It was the truth. It was the truth that I believed in no less than a minute after explanation because my life depended on it.

Eru was at work that day. He was about to get terminated and he was hearing this from me. It was probably one of the worst moments of his life. After the initial phone conversation, he had to cut it and deal with work for a few hours. Thereafter, it was the worst moment of my life.

The fact that I came out to be positive was easy for me to stomach. It's a truth. But what's hard for me to stomach is when I see people who're really special to me, unable to accept the whole fact about me.

I needed his answer. I needed to hear his voice. I wanted to know if he was going to stay with me or he was going to get on with his life. It was an excrutiating ride going home, with Ayen trying to comfort me because she knew that what mattered most at that time, to me, was Eru. Hours later, he calls back and asks me not to leave him. WTF?! Did I hear that right? Someone who's not carrying the disease asking me to stay? And this someone is the one thing I need to keep me tough through those moments. I needed him and he needed me and something really serious was going to stay serious, finally, in my life.

My brother and my sister and some close friends were the next to know. They all gave the same initial behavior: denial. Denial with the lines "Are you joking?" or "Cut it out." or "For Real? Come on."

It was easier for me to accept the fact. What makes it difficult for me is to see these people who mattered to suffer knowing the fact. I had to let them know, just in case something happens to me. They had to know because I love them.

See here, it's true that there are people who are HIV positive out there. Very true. But how would it feel if someone you know who's really close to you is? The scary part is, I look totally healthy. I've seen the others in the clinics and they look OK. What the people think is that people who are HIV+ are equated to people who have AIDS and therefore look like they're sickly or worse-- making it very difficult to believe that the person, who looks totally healthy in front of them, is HIV+.

All this being said, the matter has been dispensed. Anyone is a candidate and denial will not help the person carrying the virus nor the people concerned with the person.

Another truth? Sometimes, it is hard to accept the truth itself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Episode Zero: The Word

It has been a month or more since that fateful discussion in the dining room with my tactless friend and my extremely prudent, won't-admit-she's-wrong, mother.

My friend, being tactless, opens the topic of our group's pact that we should all get tested for HIV. My mother, the natural prude that she is, jumps to a conclusion and delivers a bad joke of saying that if one is HIV positive, one should just jump off a bridge. (She should try saying that with a bullhorn in the middle of Castro disctrict, in San Francisco, and I'd like to see what happens.)

At that time, I was a few days away from going to the Hygiene Clinic in Manila. The way she delivers her joke was really annoying. Come on, let's face it, mothers have that uncanny ability to annoy EVERYONE and ANYONE who's not on top of their totem pole, and my being "the gay middle child" is not a recipe for getting anywhere near that pole. (I prefer a different type of pole, mind you.)

Nearly two months after, I'm here now typing this blog, living a brand new life after realizing that I'm a 'PUSIT'.

So what's a PUSIT? In Filipino, it means squid, the aquatic invertibrae with tentacles that spits out ink. But in our subculture for gay linggo, the english word 'positive' is then sprinkled with a little pixie dust, as we all know how we faggetz tend to play with verbs, to form the term "PUSIT" from the 'posit' of positive.

Yes I'm beginning a blog about this new chapter of my life where I am still pondering on how Its going to run. No hassle on wondering how it's going to end, though, I know life's all about possibilities and I could get run over by a truck tomorrow (knock on wood) and no ARV drug would be able to save me and my poor waning CD4 cells.

And like every other pusit out there in the world, I need an outlet. It has to be here. Walking around and being open about it, in a hypocritical, generally Catholic country like mine, is going to get me the attention I never wanted for the rest of my life.