I slowly knocked on her door which was unusual for me as usually when I showed up at her door I would give the door a rapid fire loud knock with a “Yo what’s up it me” shout-out. But this time my knock was quiet. My best friend Tracy opened the door and although I tried to put on a happy face she could always read me and knew I was putting on a act.Since she had company she brought me in her room for privacy. We sat on the edge of her bed and then she put her arms around my shoulder. Up until that time I felt I like was all alone in the world and that simple contact she gave me opened up the floodgates of everything I was hiding. It was so so powerful because I didn’t allow no one to touch me or hug me as i felt dirty. Even if it was the shaking of hands I didn’t want human contact. It had been two years since I was told I was HIV positive and I never told anyone, not even myself. I was scared. I was scared no one would love me. I was scared of the rejection and I was scared of the secret I carried. And although me and Tracy had been good friends for many years, I was scared of what she would think because she was a rock to me in this crazy world.
With no melodrama I just told her I had HIV and the tears fell like a monsoon, and the hug she gave me didn’t get weaker but stronger. She held me like I was a baby which is no surprise since I was crying like one. I was no longer in this battle alone.
Tracy and I had a unique relationship. I met her in high school. I was a sophomore and she was a junior and she didn’t know why I was always buzzing around her like a mosquito. If she had a can of Raid she would have sprayed it on me as I was working her last nerves. She couldn’t stand me, but for some reason I kept stepping in her shadow. Maybe it was intervention or she was simply tired of telling me to go away but we started to hang out. Most of the hanging out was while playing hooky from a class. We had a common interest in music and would just bop our heads to songs like Midnight Star , “No Parking on the Dance Floor, Isley Brother’s, “Between the Sheets” and The Dazz Band “Joystick”. Even when she graduated I was there. I showed my friendship in crazy ways, like making sure she got home safety which meant following the city bus she was on while riding my bike behind it.
Outside school we were a 80’s version of Bonnie and Clyde. We were always in shenanigans. Nothing harmful, just things like grabbing everyone’s circular from the apartment building as they had inside a coupon for free soda and we took turns going in the store until we had cases, or going to a restaurant and even though it wasn’t either one’s birthday I would let it slip to the waitress that we were celebrating her birthday just to get a free desert. One time I did this at Chi-Chi’s,a Mexican restaurant and again knowing it was a lie. The minute we finished dinner the whole staff came out with instruments and balloons, clapping and singing “Happy Birthday”. One of them had a Poloroid camera and we had to pose for a picture and they put a huge sombrero on her head. Talk about embarrassed, and the look Tracy gave me I just knew it was the last time we were getting free ice cream on her benefit.
We even almost had the opportunity to go to heaven together. For people who has ever ridden in a car with me they know that I drive like I have no sense. I had my own speed limits. Each Spring we would always make a point to spend one day just driving around glad we survived another Minnesota winter. One Spring we were enjoying our ride and I was driving crazy, as usually, switching lanes, cutting off cars and of course speeding. We were coming to a bridge and I decided to change lanes and hit a piece of black ice that didn’t get the memo that it was Spring. We were in the far left lane of a four lane highway and the minute we hit that ice the car went into a spin. It was like everything was in slow motion as I saw Tracy, then cars, then Tracy, then cars, and so on until we finally crossed the entire highway and plowed into a bank of snow that almost covered the car. We sat still and didn’t say nothing and although I was scared, inside for some reason I just wanted to bust out laughing. Now that would have sent me to heaven so I bit my tongue. I guess the snow didn’t get the memo it was Spring and I thank God for that. We got the car out and surprisingly we were able to drive it. The funniest part of it all is that we had all this packed snow under the car so as we drove it was coming loose and it just looked like there was a blizzard but only around our car. I’ll never forget looking over at people faces as they looked bewildered, and the priceless one was of this small girl her face pressed to the backseat window wondering, “What the fuck”.
I always said if anyone truly wanted to know the complete me-ask Tracy cause we shared it all.
Disclosing my status made me feel less alone and if I can give any advice to anyone who is keeping their status a secret. You’d be surprised at who will not reject you and most of all you’d be surprised and embraced the unloading of the burden God has so many angels out there and for me my angel name was Tracy.
So thank you Tracy for the laughter, the memories, the tears and your acceptance of me flaws and all. You’ve shown me what a true friend really is!! And most of all you showed me that I am not in this world alone.
Corrine Cochrane on Hurt/Hate/Heal Anonymous on Life’s Lesson with … gerard riveron on Christmas Wish Anonymous on Happy World AIDS Day Anonymous on Happy World AIDS Day