I tried to remember what it felt like to be negative as a young gay man and couldn’t. I probably had a year of living gay and HIV-negative. You know, I was seventeen when I was diagnosed. I had had three boyfriends.
I was very fortunate in that I was able to tell my mom, who was the most unbelievable support. I remember sitting down at the table in floods and floods of tears, trying to get the words out, and she leaned over and calmly said, “You might be knocked over by a bus tomorrow, but with this I know what to do, I know that I can take care of you. So stop your tears, stop your crying, we’ll get through it.” I come from a very strong Jamaican background. You have to be a man. You have to stand up. And I kind of stood up to HIV. That’s what I did. It’s not going to take me out.
I run a peer-mentoring program. I recruit, train, and manage other people who live with HIV to provide one-to-one support to positive people. It is challenging and it’s really, really rewarding. It’s a passion of mine. I love it. I feel like I’ve got some sort of balance in my life now. Day-to-day life is pretty chill. I’ve got a really close-knit circle of friends, black gay men of a certain age, who have all been together for twenty-odd years.
Most days I spend time with my special tree. I noticed it a couple of years ago when it was in full bloom. It touched me because it wasn’t perfect, yet it was so beautiful. I share that space with my dog, Travis, who really did save my life from going down a rabbit hole of drinking and drugs. He just filled my life with happiness. We’re up every single morning. Rain or shine, 365 days a year. We’re in the park and we’re walking.
I like being solo right now because I’m finding myself and I’m quite happy in that space. It’s not a bad space to be.