Monday, November 8, 2010

Cry For The Moon

For N

Tomorrow, when the stars start yawning
I will fly to your soul.
Deeper and deeper into the caves
with no air to breathe,
no light to guide me,
I will find you

Do not fly into my soul:
You won't find it.

It's making love
to yours -

Only to be back
when the stars cry for the moon

That's X, Like X-Ray

November 8th is the 115th anniversary of my best friend today - the X-ray Machine.

It all started with a simple cold and cough which worsened after a couple of days. My doctor had to ask me to drop by on a usually non-work day for her. Of course I was scared, with all the pneumonia scare I am paranoid of.

Doc gave me a white slip, a referral for chest x-ray: in big bold letters I read "r/o pneumonia."

I froze. I told myself this is not happening.

Fine, it was just ruling out something. My cough and colds are beyond the No-Drowse Neozeps I was trying to self-medicate myself with. It's beyond Vicks. Beyond Vicks inhaler even. Beyond the early morning sea breeze, which is obviously non-existent in Manila.

So, Saturday was X-ray Day. And then, after the one-minute session with the radiology tech (which I had to wait for for over an hour waiting in line), life returned to normal. My partner N and I had our usual Saturday date - movie, popcorn, dinner, coffee. We hung out with our friends to celebrate one's new job. We went home and had a lazy Sunday doing chores (talk about ironing, I mean, irony). But even if I was coughing all day while counting how many spins the washer does per minute, I totally forgot about the X-ray.

Then it occurred to me, that during the past couple of months, N and I have been kind of categorizing our friends - sorta like examining each one more closely, sort of like subjecting them to an involuntary X-ray test.

An X-ray can tell you a lot of things - whether it's broken or not, whether it's swollen or not, whether it's hopeless or what. It's not the same thing about your friends, really.

With your friends, you dunno who hangs out with you because they get to pay a smaller part of the tab.

You dunno who hangs out with you because all their friends flaked out on them on the last minute.

You dunno who hangs out with you just because no one else bothered to text them the entire Saturday.

You dunno, most of the time, who's real and you dunno who they really are behind that x-ray machine.

I have close to 500 friends in Facebook. And I can absolutely say that only less than ten people are those who I would call friends. These people didn't have to go through that X-ray test. These people have proven through time that there is no need to doubt them. I hardly see them. They're absolutely not my gimik friends. But you know. You just know that they're the real ones.

Today is X-Ray Release Day. I handed the slip over to the bored clerk who yawns every time a patient comes in. She rummaged through a pile of brown manila envelopes. She mispronounced my name, I smirked and I nodded.

N held my hand as I pulled out the findings. I winked at him. I was skipping and hopping and almost dancing towards the doctor's clinic. With my count up, I convinced myself that nothing was gonna bring me down this early. I opened the clinic's door and handed the results to the ever-cheerful nurse. She was smiling and all I could say was "Told you, dear."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Moving on from 300

I heard a running joke about using your CD4 count as a way to tell your friend to piss off, that is, s/he lessens your count. I guess nobody stressed me the past six months. I guess Vitamin E Selenium did work. I guess my drug cocktail was just a perfect combo.

I guess everything worked as my count is up, more than I expected, by more than 100+.

A big shout out to my doctors, my nurse, my friends and to that one special guy who makes my day brighter, I love you more than you will ever, like really ever ever, like ever, know.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Yesterdays and Tomorrows

Yesterday, I met up with a friend. He was a college friend. He was my gayest college friend. Alright, he IS my gayest friend ever.

His name is Arthur and he almost died last year. Not because of what I have but because of something else. He’s negative. I hope.

When we were in college, Arthur was the guy nobody wanted to hang out with. He was loud. Loud, because one, he’d talk about his boys and their escapades in the college tambayan. He was loud because two, he would wear flaming pink flared pants, garterized and all and tuck his flaming magenta shirt in. You get it, he is the understatement of loudness.

But I think I am a magnet of people who you wouldn’t want to be friends with. So we hung out. He wasn’t my best-est bud, but we did hang out.

One thing I seriously do not like about him was that Arthur was a major parasite. He would ask cigs from every single person in our circle. Arthur would oftentimes borrow money for his bus ticket going home. And this was not because he is poor. He just does not know how to budget, during that time. In fact, their family was fare more well off than mine. His mom just did not trust him with the money. Actually, his mom just didn’t trust him. Period. And that’s what I get from stories he told in passing.

So yesterday, I expected to see a NEW Arthur. More than ten years have passed. When Arthur arrived in the casual diner where we planned to meet, he looked like what I expected him to look like – an older Arthur. And hopefully, a better one.

Arthur almost got sacked, big time. He was part of middle management in the property insurance firm he used to work for, for four years. Arthur had a thriving career. Arthur had the promise of making it to top management. Arthur had big dreams. Until he got sick.

Arthur was bedridden for a month. He cannot walk, cannot talk, cannot even think. But he got better. He got better because his parents, who abandoned him before, took him back.

When the wounds have healed, he went back to work. He tried to bounce back. I know he seriously did. But again, Arthur went back to his partying lifestyle, which has affected his performance at work. Management warned him. Scared, he quit.

He quit without a new job. He quit without savings. AND He quit with FREAKING hospital bills he still needs to pay. Desperate, he tried his luck in the call center industry. Rank and file, taking in calls from Americans, he breezed through training and currently reports to someone who’s a lot younger and lot more junior than him, in terms of management experience.

He was gonna break any moment. During that time he was going back to that I-WAS-a-manager-but-now-I-am-a-call-center-agent mode. I can see that tears were forming at the sides of his tiny eyes. And when he was about to break, he changed the topic and told me about his new boys and new escapades (not again).

But deep in my heart, I knew, Arthur had to do, what he had to do. He had to live. It was human instinct to live. He had to get a job at least. Now he’s earning less than half of what he was getting before. And he feels miserable about that. And so I asked him, who brought you this?

Arthur sighed and he went back to those four weeks last year, when we he was sick, when he was in coma and he couldn’t remember a thing. Arthur went back to the days when he could have gone home and could have been discharged but he didn’t have the money to pay. Arthur went back to YESTERDAY. He just keeps on going back to the past.

I stared at Arthur with a blank face. And I realized, that I may have more yesterdays than tomorrows, at this point. And those ten years Arthur and I didn’t see each other, those yesterdays built me – this tough shield, this unbreakable spirit, this unsinkable desire to still live.

I nod my head sideways in disappointment. He was still the same Arthur. He was the same parasite I had to buy dinner for, so he would meet me. He was the same Arthur who would elevate parasitism to a sosy level by asking “pa-bum ng yosi.” He was the same Arthur who was as broke as a rat. He was the same Arthur whose eyes will sparkle when you start talking about boys and sex. He was the same Arthur I dreaded to see.

After getting the check, we parted ways right outside the diner. As I walked away from him, I paused. I wanted to ask him if he’s got money for the bus. But then I realized, he’s got yesterdays he should have learned from. He’s got yesterdays that should’ve taught him lessons he should know by now. He’s got yesterdays which should make his tomorrows better. And so, I walked on.

He’s a big boy. And for that, he should move on by himself. He shouldn’t be my problem anymore.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Crossing Lines

Time just doesn’t fly – It just zooms past you.

It’s been almost half a year since my initial diagnosis. A year ago, I wouldn’t ever expect that by this time of the year, my life will have taken a 360-degree turn, that my priorities will change, that my own strength will be tested and that I will be re-thinking what my real purpose is.

A lot of pozzies cry, right after finding out. It took me six months to cry. I cried yesterday. It was six months worth of crying. And it felt good.

It was just six months, but all the realizations lately are far more than what I made in the first thirty so years of my life. I would be a hypocrite to say that if I can just rewind my life, I would not change a thing in the past. Had I not submitted myself to the test six months ago, I would not have found out early. And I will have been lying in death bed a couple of months from now. But I go back to that day, when God pushed me a bit to see that sign: GET TESTED.

HIV has taken a lot from me - and God knows how much I pray hard for the cure. It may come. It may not. And we decide if we want to move on. Or not.

And Meredith Grey once said, that at some point, you have to make a decision. Boundaries don't keep other people out. They fence you in. Life is messy. That's how we're made. So, you can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them.

That's why I'm not making HIV a fence. I'm crossing that line. It's just so bad - that at this time, I need to cross it alone.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

One Big Fight: The Beginning

The alarm clock rings. It's 10:30AM, January 18, 2010. It's THE day. The TV alarm sets off, and the default channel is ABS CBN. I needed a good laugh, I needed to hear Vice's jokes first before opening that envelope which has given me a roller coaster of emotions the past weeks.

It's a new year. It was 2010. 2009 was a year of freaking struggles for me, but I managed to end on top. When the church bells rang at 12MN, on December 31st, I wished for the extinction of diseases.

I wanted to write Vice to thank him for making January 18th easier. I got dressed, and so did my partner. We were gonna open that envelope that'd change my life forever.

It was my first time at that hospital. I stood frozen across the big compound. My partner whispers, "Everything will be fine."

Never did I imagine that I'd walk this slow. Had my partner not pulled me from the street, a car would have run me over. At that point, I had a deathwish - I wished I'd get mugged, I wish I'd get shot, I wish I'd get stabbed - because I thought, then, what else was the point - I was gonna die anyway.

There was no available room with privacy, so the doctor led us to an open space, with a basketball court beside it. Now this is opening that envelope with style, in style.

The doctor who I consider a hero - lectured me on everything. So that I won't look stupid, I tried to agree, nods and all, side comments and all on stuff I've been googling.

He asked, after more than half an hour, if I was okay to open it. It was only I who can anyway. Took a deep breath, and half-wishing I belonged to the 1% of false +, I read the sheet of paper. My eyes looked for NON-REACTIVE. But you always don't get what you wish for. Doc puts his arm around me and says, "Positive".

My partner almost fell on his knees. We just got together. He knew about my condition prior to our official date, so we've taken the necessary precautions. I was more concerned about him, than me. I even asked him if he was okay. He started blank at me and I knew that he was gonna stick with me through this.

After fixing the logistics for my CD4 count, which miraculously, they managed to schedule really fast, my partner and I left the hospital. The day after that was to decide if I needed to start on meds.

God must be proud of me for staying strong that day. No tears (sing "It was inside that I cried"), no nothing, just prayers that my count is up, so I can start moving on. So my partner and I can move on.

While by Manila Bay, with the sun shining down on us, I talked to my partner about the thought of my dreams not being fulfilled anymore. He wraps his arm 'round my shoulders. And then I realized, that I was lucky I knew about it early, that I have him to support me, and that definitely, God just wants me to look at another direction.

I take accountability for getting this and I will take accountability to fight HIV - to the effin' death.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Climb Over that Wall

Before 2010, I was just a regular gay guy who thought was living his life in Manila, Philippines.

In January of this year, I was diagnosed to be HIV+. It was a tough four months of hiding, escaping, hurting, forgetting, laughing, loving and living.

XUANYA is Chinese for CLIFF - I once heard from a wise man, that when you are pushed off the cliff, you either fall or you fly.

This is my account of climbing up the wall and seeing another road, when I thought it was already a dead end.