After my HIV diagnosis I basically shut down and withdrew from everyone for a long time while I struggled to make sense out of it, to understand what exactly HIV was and how I contracted it. I thought at the time it was a virus that affected only gay men, along with many other misconceptions I had read in the newspaper. My doctor, who was the only person I spoke to, suggested I meet a woman he knew who was also HIV positive. He explained that she did have a drug problem in the past but it was all behind her now. I declined the invitation initially because I did not think I had anything in common with the woman. But, after more encouragement from the doctor, I agreed to take her phone number.
I met Julia at her apartment where she lived with her girlfriend Barbara. They greeted me at the door and immediately asked if they could borrow twenty dollars. I gave them the money and Julia went downstairs to see her landlord. Throughout the evening Julia and Barbara made several trips downstairs to see the landlord and each time they came back upstairs, both women appeared to be high on some substance other than marijuana.
Eventually the landlord made an appearance wearing a pair of cowboy boots in the summer heat. He sat next to me on the sofa and started flirting with me, telling me I had nice legs as he stared at me in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. I reassured myself all was well because he was a friend of Julia. Also, I got this referral from the doctor so they couldn’t be that bad.
Suddenly there was a knock on the door and a man burst in looking wired and out of control, on a chemical drug. He was in an agitated state and began screaming at the landlord to “give me my fucking drugs”. The landlord screamed back “you will get your fucking drugs when I get my fucking money”. The argument got so heated I was convinced one of them was going to pull out a weapon and someone was going to be seriously injured or killed.
To say I was afraid was an understatement, as I glanced around for a place to hide if shots were fired.
Eventually, the landlord reached into his cowboy boots and pulled out a bag of white powder and gave it to the guy, with some harsh words and threats. I peaked in the cowboy boots and noticed they were both stuffed with bags of white powder.
During the heated argument not only was I afraid about my safety and the safety of Julia and Barbara, I wondered whether the police were going to arrive. I imagined myself being led away in handcuffs during this drug bust, pleading with the officers, as I explained I was simply visiting these ladies for coffee. I even went as far in my paranoid state of envisioning my picture all over the local news and having to explain to family and friends what the hell happened as they nodded in disbelief.
Something like – “Sure Virgina, you were simply visiting for coffee when all of this went down”.
After the scene I was beyond relieved to get home and lock my door. That was many years ago. I sometimes think about Julia and Barbara and wonder how they are doing. In spite of being in a situation where I had never felt so terrified, I liked the women. They opened their home to me and shared their stories about HIV. We connected with each other on some level.
They called a few times afterwards and left messages on my answering machine at all hours of the night. I did not return the calls but now I wish I could speak to Julia and Barbara and say thank you for the hospitality, because all these years later, and after meeting many more HIV positive people, I realize we are in this battle together, regardless of who we are or where we have been.
Thank you, Julia and Barbara, for reaching out to me in a time of need.
P.S. I did give my doctor a brief synopsis of the visit with Julia and Barbara. He quietly nodded and we did not talk about it again.
Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own. For more information about living with HIV, check out Rise Up To HIV and be sure to watch the online documentary, Positive Women.