A few posts ago I wrote, confidently: "But, practically speaking, even though it sounds like a hell of an evening, when do relationship/sex EVER involve smearing blood? (I’ll happily admit I haven’t lived if your answer is ‘always!’)"
Yet there I was, in bed with a date, my blood reddening his cheeks more than shame ever could; and the shame was on the other side.
Be kind, rewind.
Turn the clock back a few hours and we’re having a nice dinner in town. We leave and embrace a cold autumn night, walking along the Thames. He invites me back to his place to watch TV. Dating code for “let’s make out properly.”
I hesitate. I’m HIV-positive, I assume he isn’t, I haven’t shared my status yet. I like to wait, you see. I like to be sure they are worth sharing the news with and that they can handle it. It doesn’t mean they will accept me as I am, but my “nice-guy” compass is yet to fail me. I wanted to wait another date and reveal all on the third encounter. Three is a lucky number, right?
I accept the offer. We go back to his place. Within minutes we’re on his bed, kissing. It’s passionate, intimate, but sensible; like two teens afraid of anyone walking in. We keep it classy; it is, after all, only the second time we ever met.
I feel a bit dizzy. Whirlwind romance? Must be. A rush of blood to the head! I stop the snogging for a second. I’m not sure what I think at first. There is something strange, but what?
I see red. Literally. Dots of red, on his face. For a split second, I fear my gums are bleeping. Or maybe he bit my lips. Or maybe I bit his. I don’t think so, but I hope I did! I see blood and I want it to be his, so badly.
But it isn’t. *I* am bleeding. Nose bleeding. And it is dripping onto his face as we roll on the bed, kissing with a vengeance. I stop, of course; embarrassed. It is all a little bit too awkward. He hands me a tissue, before realizing he might have some on his face too.
Surprisingly, he takes it in its stride. He almost makes blood on his face, someone else’s blood, look a non-event. I guess it is; after all I had been swapping 80 million bacteria with him seconds before. A bit of blood on his perfectly healthy skin was not an issue after that.
Here comes the guilt.
Tissue in nose, bleeding under control I return to bed, lying down next to him. The mood is dampened. I need some time to know my blood vessels are not going to burst again. He needs the time to recover from having to wipe off his date’s blood off his face.
Knowing that my timeline is now fucked heightens my turmoil. Whilst I am confident that my blood was (is) "fine" and that he was never at risk of infection (I’m undetectable, he did not have any open wound); I also know I think it wrong not to tell him of what has just happened: he has been exposed to the blood of an HIV-positive person.
And he will be fine.
But how to convey that without causing panic? Delaying the news until the next date, planned for four days later, might lead to resentment. I can picture the scene where he would storm out of the restaurant, shouting "Why didn’t you tell me then?!".
So I wait. My eyes set onto the TV screen we have now gone back to pretend watching. How? When? Why? I have done it many times; it shouldn’t be such a surprise again. I still struggle, each time, to fall into a pattern that could provide a sense of safety. Instead, I stumble over my words; I look confused, I sound lost.
When silence is the only cure to the empty meanings of ours. (Peter Bjärgö)
After 20 minutes of awkwardness, he starts kissing me again. The blood has become a memory; he thinks no more of the incident. I do. As I kiss him, I worry, I fear more. I check my nose every minute or so, dreading a repeat that will, thankfully, never come.
Before it gets too heated, I stop him and I put on my serious this-is-no-time-for-giggles face. Something is up and he knows it. I utter the words: something to tell, HIV, positive, undetectable, safe…
He’s not leaning in for a kiss anymore. The bulge in his pants is vanishing like Olaf on a Caribbean cruise.
"Obviously, I wasn’t expecting it… I’ll have to think about it. "
The following half hour reveals nothing. Two people staring at a screen, watching - or pretending to-, lost in their thoughts. Mine, of things I should say or do. His, balancing around the pros and cons of dating me. Or maybe not, maybe he doesn’t care that much. Maybe he’s made up his mind already and is just thinking of ways to let me down gently without looking like a complete jerk.
The show ends, on TV and in real life. I know I have overstayed my welcome. Before disclosure, before infection, I would have been invited to stay the night. Those days are gone. I feel pitiful as I retrieve my jacket, ashamed of the sensation – maybe unjustified- of being kicked out onto the street because of something I can’t affect.
As he walks me back to the front door, I prepare myself for a blunt goodbye. I am ready to shake his hand, or hug him. He kisses me.
A glimmer of hope. A sweetened farewell. I cannot decide.
Date Three was agreed to take place in three days. Three better *be* a lucky number!
This article previously appeared on Tom’s own blog livinghiv.com here.