assorted-color syringes on clear glass rack

Some Notes On Testing Positive


If you’d asked me yesterday how many times I’d failed to use a condom I would’ve said ‘not enough’ and maybe gone for a high five, maybe bit my tongue, maybe given some look-and-line to my townie friends and felt mythic within their enthusiasm — yeeeah rawdogginnat — this dirty dog lapping crude compliments from his single guy friends: the way men turn acid in the absence of a neutralizing female base.

But what now?

I never learned the rules for this because bitch I’m me, right? Come on. I guess I’d seen movies — at some point I’d seen a movie — so I’m above the tracks at West Fourth drinking from a brown bag bottle and holding in tears. I’m throwing the cap at the third rail and screaming and moaning and silencing myself because what if I get arrested? Well, what if? Here laughing like folks who get ten life sentences, slinking down into the filthiest subway grime like hand sanitizer’s funny, like damn, didn’t know we were related and okay yeah now I can cry — 80 proof those sobs — and ya know I think I’m gonna drink the pricey stuff from now on. Is this the Right Move? What’s the Right Move? I saw this meltdown in a movie once, and I mean, I know that’s no place to go for guidance, but right now there’s precious little of it knocking about. Someone tell me what to do. Someone. I’m looking up and asking someone what to do.

Q train.

The nice thing about New York is you can cry in a train and nobody will notice. The nice thing about New York is you can die in a train and nobody will notice. Heh, that rhymes. Wait, can people hear this? I feel my lips to see if I’m talking, and in the seconds with my fingers in my mouth my worry isn’t the Big Thing — so I guess this is working. It worked for a second. Good second.

Somehow, I’m home.

I’m in my apartment. I’m in my shower — in my clothes. The whiskey tastes weaker; I don’t know if that’s because I’m drunk or because there’s no cap and the showerwater keeps getting into it where’s the cap? Where did I put the cap? I don’t know where the cap is and that makes me so sad I cry again, I lost the cap, I lost everything, nothing precious will stay — so melodramatic — well what do you want? The cap. Okay. And — and to be cured. But nobody gets cured. But maybe I’m special? Or maybe I, maybe I — I can, can claw the sick right outta my stomach like, like — no, no that just hurts. Everything hurts. Stop crying you baby, you manchild baby, and deal with it. Okay. Just gonna close my eyes. Maybe if I close my eyes I can die here and no one will ever know. No ribbons.


Repeat of Day One.


Wake up early. Shower. Shave. Remember that nobody else knows. Dress like I’m going to a job interview, then walk to the corner and buy a bagel. Buy a coffee. Sit in the living room with CNBC on in the background; the sound of Sqauwk Box always motivates me — convinces me I’m ready to get down to business — and that’s what today’s about: business. The business of being proactive and figuring out how to avoid dying from this sexually-transmitted disease that has killed so many people before me. I admit I’ve never been much of a Conservative before, but this morning I’ve been entertaining the idea that maybe this disease wouldn’t kill so many people if they just pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and worked harder.

Jesus, I sound like Mitt Romney.

But I need this right now. It’s ridiculous but I need to believe I have control. I open my laptop and mark the date of my follow-up in iCal, then start researching my treatment options. The side effects look terrible. (One of the medications warns of depression, and while I’m pretty sure that’s more a symptom of being infected than a side-effect, the optimism with which they suggest otherwise is sort of cute.) I start to wonder how I’m going to pay for all this. What happens in a year, when I’m no longer in grad school? Hopefully I’ll have found a real, career-type job by then. But if I haven’t? No, don’t think like that. I will. I’ll have a job and I’ll just switch over to their insurance. But — wait, does this count as a pre-existing condition? Can I get health insurance even though I definitely, one-hundred percent will require treatment forever? What if they reject me? What then?  No — no they can’t reject me, because of Obama. Right? I haven’t touched my bagel.


I’m generally so good about being safe, too. I use condoms the vast majority of the time. I get tested every six to eight months or so. I mean, I’m pretty much the picture of sexual health unless, I dunno, maybe I get drunk or kind of high and she has good eye makeup and it’s a public restroom or library or rooftop and the weather’s decent and — okay, so I’ve made some mistakes, but this is the price I pay for it? I’m twenty-six years old and already my body is shutting down? Already I’m on the down-slope?

This is ridiculous. I never got to start a career or buy a house. Raise kids. I guess I’ll never get married; God, I hadn’t even considered that. All my friends in the South got married as soon as they could and, hey, at least some of them are still together. I mean, if I’d have known… I dunno. I suppose I’d have done a lot of stuff differently. Seen stuff and said stuff. All the clichés probably everyone who dies of this or anything ends up saying, and everyone ends up ignoring, because whatever, they’re not dying and they’re never gonna die. Why am I writing this? Nobody cares. Nobody even — ugh, look at me: I’m dehumanizing myself. This is bleak. And not in a gchatting with Tao Lin way. In an express lane to the grave way. God. Too many feelings; I’m like a pregnant woman with a dick. A very problematic dick. Shut up, Jack.

Go to bed.


I make sure my phone is fully charged. Thank God I’ve still got some Xanax. I go through my messages looking for contact info… I suppose this is one of the benefits of serial monogamy over one-night stands: at least I know where to find these people. Though they’re not going to like what I have to say. God, I think, this is gonna be brutal.

And it is. Each name I cross off is like ripping off a bandage. Not all of them react the same, but none of them are happy. Some mention that we used protection. I know, I say, but given the situation, wouldn’t you rather have this information? There are points where I want to just give up, to just be that douchebag who keeps it to himself or else keeps living like there’s nothing wrong. You Only Live Once. Only God Can Judge Me. Etc. Et cetera. But that’s not who I am. I’m the guy that goes back and prostrates himself before each one — who murders his reputation in the name of public health. I kind of expected it to be like panhandling or walking door-to-door for a job: it’s humiliating at first, but after a couple hours you settle into something of an ambient shame. That didn’t happen with this. Turns out it hurts every time.


Repeat of Day One


Everything I’ve been reading says you can still live a long and good life, sort of, I guess, and the advances over the last decade or so have been substantial and blah blah blah, I dunno, it’s hard to separate what’s true from the You Can Do It! rah-rah typical disease-support nonsense. I’m sure like with anything else, I’ll settle in. Humans adapt. It’s kind of their thing. But right now I’m feeling particularly unmotivated — like what’s the point in taking on any long-term projects? What’s the point of meeting people? How do I even date now? Do I just, never have sex again? Do I have to register with a website? Is it gonna be like well, we have nothing in common but it’s been a month and you’re one of four test-positive people on this site so lets go slop around in each other’s biohazard for a while? Because that sounds less than romantic. That sounds horrible. This is horrible. This is my life.

Showers are the worst. I get a good look at my body and freak myself out with how disgusting it all is. Just a bag of bone and goo. Infectious bone and goo. If I bit my tongue and spit at someone would they get infected and die, too? God, that’s dark. I’m like a super villain. Well, a normal villain. Well, actually, I suppose just more of a normal guy who happens to have a disease. Certainly not worthy of Batman. Though, realistically, if I slept with Batman the disease would eventually kill him. Need to stop thinking like this.

Maybe someone will cure it?

Nobody’s going to cure it.

If Americans can’t cure Diabetes there’s no hope for any of us.


Been trying to figure out who gave it to me. As a bonus task, just to keep the mind busy, I’ve also been trying to figure out if my figuring out of who’s responsible is motivated by kindness or rage. On the one hand, I’ve been telling myself it’s worth knowing, if only so I can be there to provide information and support. And hey, we’ve clearly slept with each other a few times, whoever they are, so it’s not like we’re total strangers. Might be nice to have someone to go through this with, if they were open to it. But then, on the other hand, this person did basically kill me, and since death is now a significantly more immediate certainty than it was a couple months ago, maybe what I really want is to stroll on over to their place and repay the favor by murdering them, free of my past worries about the legal system and their now-redundant death penalty. Who can say? Layers upon layers of mystery here! I’m basically Sherlock Holmes with less distinctive cheekbones — though, in fairness, that will almost certainly change when the treatments drain any and all fullness from my face. I’m going to go watch Tangled on Blu-ray.


called Someone

told them to go away I didn’t want to talk to them ever again

didn’t mention the disease

dawned on me that they might want to be with me regardless

like they might have infected themselves just so

couldn’t have that




Read the first half of The Stranger. When my grandfather found out he had cancer he blew his head off with a shotgun. He told the kids this is how a man handles his business. He’d think I was such a disappointment. I have one and a half grams of straight oxycodone. Fortunately, they are high-dosage, and so I don’t have to worry about swallowing too many and then throwing up. There’s plenty here; if it doesn’t work the first time, I could try again, and again, and again. Also, if I needed to, I could extract them into a drink and then shoot it. Maybe mix it with whiskey. That might earn some points with my grandpa.

Mood has turned around. Went for drinks with friends; had a great time. Laughing. Shooting the sh-t. I’m telling you, it’s about feeling control over your world. It’s great. I’m not a victim anymore. I’ve got life by the balls, I’m telling you, and I’m going out on my own terms — not because some invisible germ tells me to, but because I want to. I want to.


It’s a bit like shaving. If you’ve ever had a full beard, you know you can’t just haphazardly shave it off — oh no, you’ve got to plan it. Now might be your only chance to see how you’d look like with a Leather Daddy or a Fu Manchu, with Abe Lincoln Chops and a Hitler Stache. You can’t just jump in and start cutting — choosing one eliminates others. Suicide works the same way.

I mean, once you’ve decided it’s happening you can’t just go with the first thing that pops into your head; you’ve got to weigh your options. Today while ‘testing’ the pills I played around with some ideas. Thought maybe I could do better than Lonely Overdose.


High on peyote, climb Garfield balloon at Thanksgiving parade

Do brothels make you pay up front? Ten Estonian whore coke-death party

Jump off Notre Dame wearing hat that says “THIS IS JUST LIKE THAT SCENE FROM AMELIE

Video of self attacking a bear, for once


Just try to climb Everest without any real mountain experience, who cares, your family and friends won’t know that, they’ll just think you died the most epic death of anyone they’ve ever met. Ex: I heard your son passed. Was he ill? // Oh yeah, he had a real bad case of EVEREST FEVER! no ribbons.

Meet Aziz Ansari. I know that’s not technically a death, more a reminder to check if Make-a-Wish Foundation is a kids-only thing or what


I mean, they’re not Blow Your Face Off In Front of Your Kids memorable, but they’ve got their merits. I’m gonna eat a few more of these pills and think it over.


Got so nauseous last night. Puked a few times. Went to the bodega for some Pepto-Bismal. Stole a mini-can of Pringles. I’d never shoplifted before; I don’t know what got into me. I guess it doesn’t matter. Nobody noticed. When I was high last night I wrote a list of life regrets. I’ll probably post it on Tumblr. Is that sad? That’s sad. The world’s so self-indulgent these days, and I’m no different. When I was tutoring this six-year-old kid once he showed me his iPhone. Like that should be offensive enough. But then he showed me how he could get pictures of gangbangs and stuff from Google. What a world. I’m glad I never got to have kids. Can you imagine? Maybe that’s good, though. Maybe on a long enough timeline people will look back at that weird historic period where kids weren’t exposed to graphic sex. I don’t know.

You know it’s not like I’m really doing anything different from anyone else. Someone my age will die on a motorcycle today. Someone older will die of disease. Someone younger will die of disease. Someone will get shot. Someone will starve. It’ll eventually happen to whoever reads this: something. I know we’re all supposed to seek max years on our trip here, but what’s wrong with being full, with pushing your plate away and not asking for any more? Especially if it wasn’t that great to begin with? Especially if it’s only going to get worse? I came close before, but, I dunno, this time it’s not so scary.

This time it feels right.


The clinic called and wanted me to come in. The doctor said these things happen sometimes, it’s not super common, but false-positives do happen, and all the rest of my follow-ups came back negative or zero, and so we can confidently say that I don’t actually have the virus.

He said, that’s great news.

I said, that’s great news.

He asked me how my back was doing, and if I was still taking the pills. I said I was. He said, good. I said I might have developed certain coping strategies when I thought I was infected that might not be very adaptive now that I’m not infected. He said, like what? And I said, just a certain mindset.

He scheduled me a counseling appointment. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – Ben Harvey