I’m not sure how else to put this, so let me just be blunt: fuck, life is complicated.
I’ve been making good progress in, well, life lately; I started a new job, I’ve made some new friends and I’m continuing to work through things with a therapist who has helped me deal with the trauma of infidelity and an HIV diagnosis. While it’s almost been two years, I still am coming through the proverbial tunnel.
So why is it, then, that a simple phone call, derails my life and leaves me distracted and sad? A few weeks ago, Alex called me, as he some times does. Usually, I ignore them if I think it’s him. The last time, though, I was expecting a call so I was answering every single phone call that came through. Unfortunately, Alex called at one of those times.
I know what you’re thinking – just hang up! Change your phone number! I’ve heard it all. I guess I’m too nice in that regard. Alex has isolated himself… From friends, from his family, from the world. He has nobody. So when he actually takes the time to reach out to someone, I don’t feel bad for being there. Everybody needs someone to talk to, and as fucked up as it is to be that person for someone who has done such irreparable harm to me, I would feel even more sad if Alex just gave up and isolated himself. I’m scared what he would do to himself in that case.
Anyway, we spoke and I was my usual standoffish self, but he found a way to lower my guard. Out of nowhere, he said “I wish we had worked out. I wish things were different. I miss you.”
Now, at the time, I dismissed it and moved on in the conversation. But it stuck with me. And then my mind went in to overdrive. And, despite everything he did to me, there was a brief moment of “well, you know it wouldn’t be that bad to try again…” Reality came back to slap me pretty quickly (as did my best friend), but it speaks to the work I still have to do on myself.
I’m confident in my job. I’m confident with my friends. But since my diagnosis, I haven’t felt… attractive. I feel… tainted. Unlovable. All terrible things to feel at any time in your life; but Alex saying he missed me? That erased those feelings for a few moments, and I felt good. Good about myself. Good about being somebody’s partner. It brought up feelings that I haven’t felt in a long time.
Now, I know… It’s fucked up to let someone who cheated on you and transmitted HIV to you make you feel like he’s the only one who could ever love you. I know that’s not true. But in that moment, I felt… okay again. And now that he’s disappeared again, I can’t help but worry.
It’s fucked up beyond anything I ever imagined life would be. And there isn’t a ready answer for how to move on…
This article previously appeared in Josh’s own blog The Plus Side of Life here.