This story first appeared in More than Fiction, a publication of ASAAP which you can read online here.
I’d like to share a beautiful story about my time with a very handsome man and his Harley Davidson.
I was diagnosed HIV positive in my late 20s when I was living in the now downtown core of the city in the early 1990s. This is where my memorable, but short-lived, journey with David and his Harley began.
The early 90s was a time when not much medication was available and many people with HIV were dying. This was the time when I discovered what “living in the moment” was all about. I learned to live each day like it was my last by doing everything “now” rather than putting it off for later.
As I was walking home from the gym on one fine summer afternoon, I saw a gorgeous metallic silver Harley Davidson parked on the street near my apartment. As I stood there admiring this stunningly beautiful bike, I thought how much I’d love to experience a motorbike ride this summer. What better time than now since the Harley was propped up so invitingly? I decided to wait patiently for the owner of the bike to return, but no one showed up, so I headed home a bit disappointed.
A week or so later, I saw a similar bike parked outside a restaurant just a block from where I lived. Once again, my instincts told me to call the restaurant to find out who the owner of the bike was and whether I’d be able to experience a ride with him or her. Not for a minute did I hesitate since I was living the “now”.
All I knew at the time was that around me, people with HIV were dying and that I too was dying. I wanted to experience a Harley ride before my time was up. I was determined to meet its owner. I called the restaurant and asked to speak to the owner of the bike. The folks at the restaurant told me his name was David and that I could come inside to meet him. Once I was through the door, I was introduced to him, the owner of the stunning Harley.
David was a tall, handsome, blue-eyed Caucasian man in his late 40s/early 50s. He was delighted to meet me and invited me to have a drink.
“I asked him if he’d be willing to give me a ride. He smiled and said he’d love to give a beautiful woman like me a ride; however, I’d first have to have a drink with him, and that the ride “would cost me”.”
As we talked, I told him that I absolutely loved motorbikes and wanted to finally experience a bike ride. I asked him if he’d be willing to give me a ride. He smiled and said he’d love to give a beautiful woman like me a ride; however, I’d first have to have a drink with him, and that the ride “would cost me”. I was very clear in explaining to him that all I wanted was a simple bike ride, and nothing more. We shared some laughs over a few drinks, and as we each got up to go, he said he’d call me to take me on that ride on a nice sunny day.
A few days later, David called and suggested that we meet for dinner first at a nice Indian restaurant. He came to pick me up, but to my surprise, he drove in his car and not the bike. His excuse was that thunder showers were in the forecast and that we could do the bike ride another time.
This was our second meeting, and we enjoyed good Indian food and wine in each other’s company. David was right about the weather – it rained heavily that very evening.
I was beginning to really enjoy the company of this lovely man who was romancing me and showing me love. I never expected that asking such a simple favour would result in being wined and dined by this man who seemed very interested in me. I was 30 years old, living alone and living with HIV, waiting for my time to exit this earth. The next few weeks, David and I spoke often on the phone. We decided to meet again for lunch. I noticed he had a beautiful tattoo of a woman wrapped in vines done so elegantly on his upper arm. We made plans to visit the tattoo parlour where he had gone to get a touch up, so I could watch how the tattoo was done.
A couple of months had passed since I walked into that restaurant in search of the bike ride. Although that ride was still waiting to happen, I had found a man who was sincerely interested in spending time with me and desired to love me. My feelings for David had also become stronger. He was kind and very handsome and showed this lonely woman with HIV so much love. I did not think it was necessary to disclose my HIV status as yet since we were not sexually active.
With all the anticipation, the time finally came when David extended an invitation to me to join him for a ride on his Harley! He insisted that I meet him at his home.
When I arrived, David was wearing an apron and preparing a meal for us. He had made lemon-lime margaritas to enjoy while opera music was playing in the background. The glass dining table was already set for two and he had lit some beautiful candles. The scene was very romantic and I was extremely touched and flattered by his efforts.
During dinner, he told me that he had a cottage in the Laurentians on the lake where he’d like us to go someday.
“I never thought that asking for a ride on someone’s Harley would lead me to this charming man who I started falling in love with.”
Later that evening, we went for that long-awaited bike ride, which was a truly amazing experience like no other. We went around the city, and hit the highways. I felt the wind in my face, but most especially, I felt the closeness between us as I wrapped my arms around him and held onto him. I never thought that asking for a ride on someone’s Harley would lead me to this charming man who I started falling in love with.
We met again after a few weeks to visit the tattoo parlour, and then we headed back to my place. We sat on my balcony, listened to music, and shared more conversation.
At some point, David leaned over to kiss me. It was our first kiss. He walked me to my bedroom and I knew what he was thinking. My heart began beating fast. I thought I could not make love to him unless I disclosed my HIV status.
I told him and said we would need to use a condom for safer sex. I remember his response, “It does not rain every day, so I don’t carry an umbrella.” And then he left.
I was deeply hurt and felt rejected. I did the right thing in telling him that I was HIV positive before we were physically intimate. David did not want to see me anymore nor did he want to talk on the phone. I found this very hurtful since he was so genuinely interested in me and wanted to be with me. But this was before I told him about my status.
After a month had gone by, he called and asked me a lot of questions about my HIV. I answered all of his questions and educated him. He invited me to go to his cottage, the one in the Laurentians that we had talked about before.
“We watched the sunset and enjoyed the warmth of the fireplace with some wine. But when bedtime came around, he showed me to my own bedroom, while he slept in another one.”
What can I say? The cottage was heavenly, surrounded by water. In order to reach it, we had to take a small boat across the lake. We enjoyed our time there, and he took me for another boat ride in a lake of lilies. We watched the sunset and enjoyed the warmth of the fireplace with some wine. But when bedtime came around, he showed me to my own bedroom, while he slept in another one.
Back in Toronto, although David put my photograph on his fridge door, he no longer tried to kiss or touch me, or make love to me. The desire to be with me was still there. I’d give him full body oil massages to help him relax, and to give us both an opportunity to have some physical contact. I had fallen in love with this man, and in my romantic mind, had imagined marrying him and having his name tattooed on my ring finger instead of wearing an actual wedding band.
Soon, our phone conversations slowly diminished. Every so often, he’d call to say hello and would sometimes ask to see me. In my heart, I believed that he too loved me and cared about me in his own way. It’s just the fear of the unknown – my HIV – that scared him away from intimacy and the relationship we might have had.
A year or so had passed, and I decided to drop by David’s home to see how he’d been doing. I was shocked to hear that he had committed suicide just a week before. My David was gone.
We are now in the year 2014, and I am in my 50s, and still think about David after all these years. I have not been able to forget him – my sweet and mysterious David – the man I loved.
I have been living with HIV for 24 years and I never expected to live as long as I have. My journey with HIV has been a lonely one in terms of romance. But I continue to live my life in the “now”. I believe I’ve lived and experienced a very full life with the philosophy of “now”.
I am very thankful for having the chance to share such loving moments with David. He helped me fulfill one of my wildest dreams of riding a Harley! And my love for riding motorbikes hasn’t diminished. I will always love you David! May God rest your soul in eternal peace. Ameen!
Until we meet again…
About More than Fiction: Poz women Share their Stories.
In 2013 women of ELAN’s social support group at ASAAP talked about how to address a lack of representation in the HIV/AIDS movement, a recurring theme. Their discussions stemmed from feelings of frustration as they participated in research studies and focus groups yet, did not see their voices as they wanted represented in larger dialogue. The result of their discussion was a stated recommendation for a project that would enable them to create and share their story; not under the umbrella of a research study with summarized findings but simply as a collection of stories that reflect how they see their struggles and their strengths. This was the impetus for ‘More Than Fiction.’
The twelve authors of these brave and lucid narratives were engaged in a series of workshops that further developed their capacity for storytelling. Guided by dedicated facilitators and community advisors, creative writing, poetry, and photo voice were some of the modes that were explored over the course of a 4-month period.
The authors have each chosen an alias to reflect the silencing impact of stigma and discrimination that has denied many people living with HIV/AIDS the right to live openly. Their stories capture the profound isolation that living a secret life can entail, but they also give voice to the self-compassion and resilience that such challenges engender.