"I'VE GOT HIV. Found out yesterday."
That's the message that greeted me when I opened my Facebook inbox last night.
It was from a friend, a close friend, someone I've been fueding with for some time. I'd even deleted his number. Ray - we'll call him Ray - started seeing this guy a few months ago. His first relationship in nearly three years. Bless, he's only 21. Just 21. It turns out the boyfriend tested positive this week, and they suddenly remembered that one time the condom split. And then Ray tested positive yesterday. Now, that's cruel, isn't it? That's just plain nasty. I could rationalise it if they'd been fucking bareback. That would make sense. "If only you'd used protection," I could say. But they did use protection, and it didn't work, 'cos it ain't 100% safe. And they were unlucky. "It's not a death sentence," I told him. "You know that don't you?" What a f**king stupid, cliched thing to say. Of course he knows it. It doesn't help. How could I really know what he's thinking, feeling? I don't. But what can I say? What do you say? I've never known anyone get the virus. It's always been something that's happened to other people. And Ray's right down the bottom of the list of people who I'd thought could get it. Ray? Nah, not Ray. He's smart, he's got his life together. He's not one of the many crazy homothugs I know. He's smart. He's safe. Except... that one time, when he wasn't safe.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, Silence the pianos and with muffled drum Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead, Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves, Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong. The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood. For nothing now can ever come to any good. W. H. Auden