So, those folks who read this and know me in the 3D world will know a lot of this story, but it is THE STORY of my life, so it bears retelling - especially when it is bringing me closer to something. If you are sick of hearing it, skip this post. If you aren't sick of it, wonder what I'm going to say that is new, or don't remotely know what I'm talking about, read on. :)
So, I tell this as I am listening to "Chess" - "Mountain Duet", a song I loved to sing with Roby in the car. The timing is perfect...
Roby was one of my best friends in high school - he was in the drama department, an actor, and I was a groupie. :) I can finally admit it. There is nothing like sitting in the audience of a live theatrical performance, especially when you know someone who is in it. He was one of those people - charismatic, talented, charming, handsome, popular, controversial.
We got closer and closer as our senior year drew to a close and afterwards, we started hanging out together almost daily. In the fall of 1985, he met a man named Grant who was about 11 years older than he was...I actually went on their first date with them. The plan was that he would kick me under the table when he wanted to talk to Grant alone. The only problem with the plan was that he didn't count on the lack of leg room at Shari's and when Grant accidentally kicked me under the table, hilarity ensued because I trouped dutifully into the bathroom to allow them some "alone time".
They lived together for several months...December 1985 - May 1986, I believe. I will have to check my poetry for historically accuracy check. :) After they had broken up, Roby had a period where he seemed to have the flu...fever, sweats, some nausea. He went to the doctor - the family doctor he had been seeing for years. While there, he decided to ask to be tested for AIDS (this was before the AIDSspeak changed and we called it HIV testing). A few weeks later, his doctor called him AT WORK and told him that he had "been exposed to AIDS" and was sorry but Roby would have to find a different doctor because he didn't treat AIDS victims.
Devestated, he called me and I picked him up from work, drove him back to his apartment and started carving out the path for the rest of my life...That night, he begged me not to tell anyone...he didn't want to be pitied or hated or avoided. At the time, people who tested positive usually already had "full blown AIDS" and died within 2 years of diagnosis. People were denied healthcare, housing, fired from jobs, shunned, etc. There was a lot of fear surrounding AIDS back then. I never told anyone until almost 10 years later, when I had to tell my employer why I was missing work - to take Roby to his medical appointments. Roby had given me permission, so I didn't break my promise - EVER.
So, when I said in my post yesterday that I had a story to tell about my block, this is the story. It shapes and encircles all the other stories of my life. All the decisions that I made. Keeping a secret like that scars you and scars your soul. Even when you do it for all the right reasons. I was 18 years old at the time and I had never been around anyone who was ill, had never known anyone who was "dying", had never been to a memorial service or funeral and I certainly didn't know what to do with the situation in which we found ourselves. By the time I was 30, I had been to too many, interpreted too many, had lost too many of my friends.
Because of the "2 years from diagnosis to death" that I read about in my frantic research about AIDS, HIV, prognosis, etc.(pre-internet, mind you), we decided to live as if every day was the last. We weren't always successful and we had a turbulent relationship at times because I was the only person who knew what was happening to him - I represented the disease to him sometimes and he would push me away until he could pretend to be ok again. I was the carrier of information and he didn't want to know.
I realized right away that my plans for college would have to wait - I was not going anywhere when he might die. I had started to study American Sign Language and loved it. I didn't know what I could do with it, but I started looking at vocational careers where I could train at the local community college, work and stay local to grab up every single day I could with him. Later, I entered the interpreter training program. I was stoked, a career in 2 years, then I could figure out the rest. Once I graduated from the program, I decided to work in K-12 because it was the only thing I felt qualified for (a whole other post) and because I knew that I would have summers off and I could spend time with Roby. Happily, I loved interpreting and got better as time went on. I found theatrical interpreting and I was able to find some fulfillment there that I hadn't expected.
This kind of living lasted for 10 years until the fateful January morning in 1996. When Roby died, I was a little like a lost soul...I didn't have any purpose, I didn't know what kind of food or music or movies I liked anymore...I knew what we had shared. When I approached 30, I realized I had never imagined being 30 - all I had ever done was live for that day, that week, that month. I had refused to imagine life after Roby while he was still with me. When he was gone, I realized I had to re-define myself. It takes a long time. I still sometimes stop and think - who am I really?
Just in case you are wondering - I would NEVER change anything unless it meant that Roby could be here, healthy and happy. If he was going to die and he asked me again to keep his secret, I would do it. In a heartbeat. It was the only thing I could do. But it did create a rich interior life/monologue for me - questioning, seeking, wondering. Although I am starting to discuss those things here, it is difficult. Keeping secrets for that long make it easier to withhold. I'm still working on it.
Anyway, this is the story of my block - FEAR. Fear of loss. Fear of self. Fear that nothing in my life will every be as important as loving that man. Fear that it was all for nothing if I can't get past the FEAR. He would have hated that I have so much fear. He was not fearful of anything except being alone and dying.
Ok. I'm done now. I have been holding that in since the call yesterday. It came to me so clearly that I needed to talk about this somehow. Anyway, there you go.