Since Karl left town, I haven’t been the same. Something is better. But much more is worse. I’d been chatting with him for over a year, via the Internet. OK, OK—so he lives in Norway. But that—besides the fact that we’re both HIV positive—was part of the attraction. I figured I’d never have to risk meeting the guy, let alone actually falling for him. He was safely distant. But I did finally meet him. And I’m in big trouble, because now I must face some issues I’ve kept hidden for way too long. Issues of intimacy, trust, self-deprecation and self-esteem, which scare the bejeezus outta me. A lot of that I can blame on the virus; but I wonder if that’s a decent excuse for not taking a chance—and making some progress. One part of me hopes Karl’s just a fantasy. But now that I’ve met him, the other part wants to jet off to Oslo and fondue my phobias.

For our first rendezvous, he came to me. I had lost all of the pictures he’d sent (self-sabotage?), so I didn’t even know what to expect when I met him at the airport. I held up a big sign with his name. He had seen only one picture of me, because I have no idea how to use my damn digital camera software. Would he be disappointed? I have aged since that picture was taken a couple of years ago. But as soon as he saw me, he gave me a big smile. He seemed a little timid, so I gave him a big bear hug (trying not to hurt him). He is a few months younger than I, but very mature looking. He’s very tall and what I consider to be handsome—that’s always subjective—with reddish-blond hair. And the most adorable accent.  

Because he had never been to New York, I was determined to show him a great time. The first night began magnificently. I took him to the Metropolitan Opera, and we were mesmerized. It felt like a dream. Afterward, he was understandably exhausted—he’d just flown in from Europe, after all. So he kissed me on the cheek and went back to his hotel. I felt great. The next day, I took him on a whirlwind tour of the city, and that was great too. But soon, I started doubting myself. The guy hadn’t even tried to really kiss me. I started to obsess. Was he leaning toward me at dinner? I certainly was leaning toward him! Now that I thought about it, I was the one who had to grab his arm when we were walking. Had he come to New York just to see New York or to see me? We had another lovely dinner the following night, his last night in NYC, laughing and talking about life, our families and our experiences with our common illness. We popped our pills without hiding them from each other. Afterward, I was convinced he would finally kiss me—but he said he had a pain in his kidneys and had to go to bed. I went home and cried myself to sleep, knowing that he would be gone the next day.

On the way to the airport, I took him to the Statue of Liberty. He suddenly had no kidney pain as he jumped onto a bench so I could frame his picture in front of what he called “the lady.” I couldn’t stand it anymore. I knew I had to make a move. As he was posing, I walked straight up to him, looked him in the eyes and slowly kissed him on the lips. He just smiled, and we went back to the car. At the airport terminal, he hugged me for a while, saying he was tired and wanted to go to the gate. He pecked me on the cheek and left.

I never felt so good and so bad at the same time. What the hell had just happened? I got my answer in an e-mail. He, like me, had not been intimate with anyone in a long time. It turns out that he is just as vulnerable as I am. And no, I had not “turned him off”: He mentioned the kiss and said it was wonderful. His note was so honest. It was real. I saw my own fears staring back at me on the screen. We’re still in touch and I want to see him again, but I don’t know how or when it will happen. I’ve called a therapist. My appointment is next Tuesday.