They say that youth is wasted on the young. I disagree. Youth isn’t finite or even chronological. It is vitality, relevance. Youth is the defiance of decay. The older I get, the more I choose that defiance. Rather than make foolish choices based on naïveté, I can instead make foolish choices based on an optimism that’s tempered with time. Anyone can blunder into a kiss. Only someone in firm control of his youth can choose to stumble into one.

Risking rejection is a cornerstone of anyone’s life. With HIV, rejection takes on a visceral quality. I remember the first time someone reacted badly to my disclosure. He barely choked down his coffee before he mumbled an excuse and then bolted from Starbucks. I was bewildered, hurt, angry—but mostly bewildered.

How could a virus so easily avoided be such a deal breaker? I was young; I was raw; and I did not know. Years later—and many rejections later—I begin to understand. I don’t accept, but I understand.

A wise man, an older man, would stop trying. Would stop the weird dance of revelation and risk. But I am not that guy—yet. I am grown up, maybe. But I am not without my youth. Every time we risk a kiss or say yes to a pair of beautiful amber eyes, we roll back the years. Youth is wanting to know what happens next. Youth makes me believe that we are necessary in that passionate future