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On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero


I received an email from my mother today. "Get thee to the physician," was the message. "Three of your relatives have dropped dead at a tender age, for no good reason."

She was referring, of course, to SADS - Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, a gift to hypochondriacs like myself. In fact, him indoors, my better half, immediately remarked that I was the last person my mother should have informed. No doubt he foresees a future where I use SADS to avoid things I don't want to do. My friend Alex thought it was some sort of delayed April Fools, and such a condition couldn't exist. He then imagined I could somehow milk it, and get money like Jade Goody.

My other friend, Ray, was more sympathetic. He said, "Does it not skip generations? Please don't drop down dead on me!"

Ray is the friend I've written about twice: when he first told me he had HIV, and subsequently, when our friendship was faltering, badly.

We've since patched things up, so much so that we spent Saturday drinking until 9am on Sunday. Him indoors went to bed at midnight and was up and out the door for a volleyball tournament by 8, when Ray and I were still drunkenly giggling at the trash on my iTunes.

Earlier that night Ray had told me how he'd been in hospital with pneumonia, and barely pulled through. He hadn't wanted to burden anyone with that. And that he'd struggle with the coming winter, and in any case would be lucky to make it to 30, never mind 35.

Ray is 22.

He's being very positive (ha!) and channelling all his energy into a HIV charity he's involved in, pulling together some big event with corporate sponsors and celebrities.

Me, I'm actually terrified, gripped with fear and panic. I never truly understood the outrage certain friends expressed about the rise in bareback sex, both in porn and the real world (Ray had safe sex - with his boyfriend - but the condom broke). Well, I did understand it, but it didn't quite resonate. It was all very nebulous, somehow not relevant to me. And now it's happening to someone I love very much, and it's like all the horror stories from the 80s, all the books and films and documentaries where it's a rapid slide into illness and death. No "one pill a day and you'll be okay" like everyone my age thinks it is these days.

I actually feel, for the first time, that I'll somehow collapse, or go mad, or slide into some form of increasingly self-destructive behaviour, if the worst happens. How could someone so young and smart and funny and full of life be taken - just like that.

And now, against this background of Ray's battle, I face this SADS nonsense, where apparently my heart might suddenly decide to stop working.

I'm reminded of a scene in the last episode of the dystopic Blake's 7 (where everyone dies). "Sooner or later we're going to drop into one of these holes in the ground and never come out," Vila complains, their space shuttle dropping into an underground hangar.

Our anti-hero Avon responds, deadpan, "Sooner or later, everyone does that, Vila."

Ain't that the truth.



Title quote: "On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."  Chuck Palahniuk, American writer.

4 comments:

Curious said...

"In the long run we are all dead."

John Maynard Keynes - Economist

John R Gordon said...

It's scary the way barebacking in porn is presented as 'edgy', 'cool', 'raw' & therefore somehow 'real'. How have gay folks gotten into this perverse mentality? Is using a condom to forestall passing on hiv, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia etc uncool? In what sense? It's like the dating site option on safer sex, 'Needs discussion'. Really all that can mean is 'I'm hiv+ or will soon be' - but even so I don't really see what discussion could be needed, beyond 'I'm hiv+ & you are too, so we needn't use protection' - which requires assuming there are no other stds to worry about. This all means tons & tons of people are hiv+ who needn't be - & the unlucky ones who were being careful, for whom the condom breaks, also carry the consequences of that recklessness. I guess more education is needed, given that a year or two back it was discovered one in ten gay men believed there was a cure for hiv - mashing together in their minds the post-exposure prophylactic (itself highly toxic) with improved combination therapy medication. A degree of it is the recklessness of youth, & I recall a friend's sister who ran up three abortions, the same sort of - let's face it stupid - inattention to cause & effect.

I hope your friend holds onto his health as long as possible.

Mr. Toddy English said...

I've always been afraid of premature death as well. So much so that it used to incapacitate me.
Thank goodness for years of therapy.
Now...
I've learned that by keeping my wits about me; living healthily; and listening to my instincts things work out. Otherwise, everything else is pure chance. That's just the way it is.

thegayte-keeper said...

Okay then...wish persons I know put the kinda energy into this HIV fight like friend does...

 
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