Main | Thursday, May 05, 2005

Chances, Part 2

Chances, Part 1

Things were quite tense over the next couple of months. Phil found himself suspicious of everything Donald did or said. He called Donald all the time, always in a chipper tone of voice, but always with the aim of finding out where he was. And Donald certainly knew what Phil was doing, but dared not complain.

Slowly, and painlessly really, things returned to normal. They had their little tiffs now and then, just like any couple does. It drove Donald crazy that Phil liked to fall asleep with the television on, just as it drove Phil crazy that Donald would only use a towel once, then would leave it on the bathroom floor. Strangely, Phil almost enjoyed these arguments, because when they were fighting about such things, he felt more coupled with Donald than ever.

They continued to maintain their separate apartments. Sure, they were coming up on their fifth anniversary now, and sure, that looked weird to their friends, maybe even to their families. But Phil and Donald had begun to understand that the necessary apartness created by their respective heavy workloads, and the distance between their jobs and their homes had, overall, been healthy for their relationship. Too much time together and they became sullen and snippy, like old married couples tend to do. But weekends and the odd weekday evening together were a treat, something to look forward to. It worked.

Two weeks ago, Phil began working on the final details of his 5th anniversary gift to Donald. The idea had come to him while lying in bed on Sunday night and he nearly leapt to his feet when it occured to him. Getting read for work in the morning, he had to suppress a sly smile every time he looked at Donald.

On the way to work, Phil worried about Donald's doctor appointment that day. A few months earlier, Donald had suffered through a long flu. Ever since then he'd continued to be fatigued and got persistent severe headaches. The doctor had voiced concerns about blood pressure, kidney disorders, other things. Even the "C" word, as Donald called it, had been brought up. Early in the afternoon, Donald called from the doctor's office.

"Hey, I'm still here. More tests." A pause. "Oh, and they're also going to give me an HIV test. Shouldn't be much longer-"

Phil interupted, "HIV test? Why? Have you cheated on me AGAIN?!"

"God DAMN it, you know I haven't! Jesus Christ, as worried as I am about things, I don't need you bringing that old shit up again!" Donald said, as loudly as he dared, sitting in his doctor's waiting room.

"Alright, alright...I'm sorry. Sweetie, I didn't mean to upset you. I know how worried you are already. I'm not trying to make things worse. I just..." Phil stopped there.

After Donald hung up, Phil sat back in his chair. Why would they give Donald an HIV test? Just as routine because he's a gay man? Just as routine to rule it out? Because they really didn't know what was wrong with him? Or maybe, because they thought they really did?

Phil got online and found a nearby clinic that offered HIV testing. He wrote the number down and put it in his drawer. For the rest of the day he thought about calling for an appointment.

Calling meant he didn't trust Donald.

Calling meant he was being realistic.

Calling meant he didn't think Donald really loved him.

Calling meant he wasn't stupid.

Calling meant...he was.

Because over the last year he and Donald had begun to slip up again. Sometimes it was just too much work to go out in the snow to get condoms. Sometimes the heat of the moment really did overtake them, like those times in the shower.

They'd taken chances. Again.

He called.

The clinic gave him an appointment time on Friday afternoon. All week long he tried not to think about it. Maybe he wouldn't go after all. Maybe he was just being silly. Maybe he should learn to trust Donald.

Friday afternoon, Phil was on the phone with an important client when Donald called his cell. Putting the client on hold, Phil snapped his cell open.

"Hey babe, can't talk right-"

"I'm positive. The test is back. I'm HIV positive. Oh my god, what-" Donald's words began to buzz into white noise in Phil's ear.

"I can't talk right now, I'm on the other line with a client," Phil said, shutting his phone.

Phil finished his call with the client, somehow. He pulled the clinic address out of his drawer, left the office, and was sitting in their office just a few minutes later. On the form, he opted for the 20-minute rapid test.

The nurse called him into an examing room, asking "So, what's the big rush on your results?"

"I've been with someone who just found out. That he's positive, I mean," Phil replied, thinking how fucking weird it was to say that out loud.

"Did you practice safer sex with this person?"

Phil shook his head. "Not, um, all the time."

The nurse pursed her lips and said "That doesn't sound very encouraging," then took Phil's sample and disappeared down the hall.

Phil sat there in that cold, metallic room and felt strangely calm. Why was it that he felt more anxiety watching the results on American Idol? Or Trading Spaces? Surely this was more important than any "reveal" on some make-over show?

The nurse walked in, her face unreadable. She pulled a small piece of paper out of her pocket and sat on the desk facing Phil.

Continue To Conclusion....

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