My life changed June 19th 2007 at 12:34 p.m. I could count on one hand how many times he and I got together to have sex, but I could never recall how many times I had sex with him and her. I remember it like it was yesterday, “David, I’m sorry but you have HIV,...” the nurse said. She said something beyond that, but my spirit became vexed while my eyes, ears, and mind lingered on confusion and disbelief. I couldn’t conceive what she told to me, so the rest of her words trailed and faded away in thin air before reaching my ears. All of a sudden everything was more pronounced. The room was brighter and whiter it seemed. I heard myself laughing hysterically. It wasn’t my usual laugh, rather, an odd, eerie laugh that I didn’t even quite recognize. I heard her voice again, louder this time, with a sadness that made all the feelings I had dissipate long enough for her message to hit me sincerely; in my heart. The news didn’t seem remotely true. She said to me again, with agony in her voice and tears welling in her eyes, “I know about your brother’s diagnosis of AIDS, and I know about your aunt’s diagnosis of AIDS, but honey you have HIV.” A wave of peace overtook me like an undercurrent in the sea. I squared my shoulders back, smiled and said, “Well, so what now? Do I just take medications until I die or what?” She said, "David I prayed for you. I even submitted your blood work twice despite everything I know as a doctor because I was hoping it was a false positive. When I finished praying for you, I knew in my spirit you were gonna make me proud.“ I remember thinking, ”Is this woman actually telling me I’m going to make her proud?! You just gave me a DEATH sentence! I have an infectious dis-ease."
I thanked her and made my way to the door. The first phone call I made was to my best friend. No answer. I was PISSED. On to the next phone call; my college “dip” who was one of the few people I had unprotected sex with. I was standing at the corner of Wabash and Roosevelt in downtown Chicago. When he answered I said, “Yo man wassup?! I just left the doctor’s office.....” He muttered, “oh no.” I said, “What the hell do you mean ’oh no’ bruh?” He said, "Man, I thought I was good. I mean, when we were doing our thang with ol girl and everything. I mean, my doctor diagnosed me a year prior to us meeting on campus, but I thought cause I was taking the pills that...you know...I was good and so was anyone I was hooking up with.....“ My blood began to boil. This was the same person who said to me and ”ol girl“ when we first started hooking up, ”Yall good, right?“ and this jerk was HIV positive all along and knew it! For whatever reason he thought she and I were safe as long as he nor I ejaculate while inside any of the people involved. Sounds really stupid now. I thought about cussing him out and making threats, but it wouldn’t have changed anything, and the fact is I was responsible for my health. I should’ve never put myself at risk, period. I heard myself say, ”Man, may God have mercy on your soul. I wish you the best." When I hung up, I never heard from him again.
I took a deep breath as tears formed in my eyes. I was nervous and gagging at the thought of dialing my mom’s work number to tell her that her second son was now infected with HIV. This disease had not only taken residence in our bodies, but it also lay dormant in my sister’s finances causing her bankruptcy as a result of caring for our brother, and costing my mom her job after 15 years of service at a hospital.
I heard two rings and she picked up. This was one of the few instances I had hoped no one would answer. I said, “Momma, what you doin?” She cut me off quickly, “What’s wrong David? I know something not right.” I could only imagine what a teenage girl goes through when she finally tells her parents she’s pregnant with three more years of high school, and although I was twenty-two years old this had to be ten times worse than that. I asked, “Mom, are you sitting down?” She said, “No, and I’m not gonna sit down. What is it?” I pleaded, “Mom sit down please. She repeated, ”I’m not sitting down. I’m at work. Now tell me what’s wrong.“ Before I knew it I blurted out, ”Momma I got HIV.“ There was a long silence. It seemed like five minutes, but in actuality it was probably thirty seconds. I could hear her whispering, ”Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Come on Jesus. Come on Jesus.“ She cleared her throat, ”David, I have one question to ask you and then I have to let you go.“ Initially, I was shocked and pissed that she didn’t say she was leaving work to console me. ”What is it ma?“ I said. She continued, ”David I need you to answer this question honestly ok?“ I said, ”Ok ma.“ She asked, ”Are you gonna live or are you gonna die? Because if you’re gonna die I’m gonna hang up, and go to HR to up your life insurance policy to a million dollars, but if you’re gonna live I will be your biggest supporter and support system.“ I remained quiet. Near tears I said, ”Mama, I wanna live.“ She said, ”Ok then baby, then so shall it be added unto you. Now I gotta go and finish this work. I’ll talk to you soon." There’s a strength and resilience indigenous to Black women and my mom is not an exception. I would later understand she was only trying to prevent me from giving up as a result of my new reality. I failed to remember she watched this same story play out with my brother.
After we hung up, I walked directly into the Jewel (liquor store) by my house to buy a bottle of Maker’s Mark, called my dealer to order an 8 ball of cocaine, and two 8ths of “Mary Jane”. While I waited for him to arrive, I went to a local bar and slammed five double Maker’s Marks & ginger ale. I could barely stand, but on my way out I lit a cigarette; parliament light. As I inhaled, for one quick moment I felt liberated from the news, but the instant I exhaled the sobering reality hit me, "You still have HIV!“ My ”high“ was fading so I hurried to meet my dealer. We did some lines of cocaine and smoked some ”weed“. Once he left, I knew it was an opportune time to end the story. I took another hit of ”coke" before walking onto my balcony.
My apartment was eleven stories high overlooking Chicago’s Michigan Avenue; one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. I walked out on the balcony and began climbing onto a barstool. I knew after this somersault I’d at least be remembered for something. I would be declared the first black man, ever, to jump to his death on this expensive street. I placed my right foot on my patio table, and as I prepared to bring my left foot to join my right foot on the table a wind from the lake shoved me backwards and into my apartment. On the way in, I hit my head on the doorway to the balcony. I was passed out for more than 14 hours....