Earlier this week I had a call from a phone number that I didn’t recognize; the phone number was coming from the United States, and given that I know only one person who lives there (and not from the state that was coming up in the caller ID), I ignored it. After all, I’ve had unknown callers before and regretted answering the phone.
A few minutes after the call was ignored, I had a notification for a voicemail. Figuring I needed to clear out a spam voicemail from “Mariott Hotels”, I called in, put in my password and listened to the new message, primed to hit delete.
Imagine my surprise to find that it was a message from Alex, using some VOIP calling service. In his message, he said that he hoped I was doing well, and then he proceeded to leave a message of prayer for me.
I’ll be honest: it bothered me. It bothered me to not be respected (again). I asked Alex not to call me. I told him that it wasn’t healthy for us to communicate after all he put me through.
I was also bothered about the prayer. It doesn’t bother me if someone of faith chooses to pray for me – I appreciate it. But with Alex, it’s different. It feels like I’m having religion foisted upon me, and I’m not comfortable with it. I’m spiritual in my own way, and I don’t tell others who or how to worship, and I don’t want the same to happen to me.
As I was doing errands yesterday, the same phone number came up on my caller ID. I hesitated, hemmed and hawed, but decided to answer – at the very least, I could hang up if I needed to.
Alex was incredibly subdued, sounding depressed and defeated. The angry person in me was glad to hear he was doing poorly – he deserved it. But, the compassionate person – the person who gave forgiveness – felt sorry for him. He’d fallen so far, been abandoned by so many.
We talked for a little bit, I not offering much but listening, and then he hit me with a question that shook me:
"How are you so resilient?"
It was a hard question to answer – I don’t have an answer readily available. I felt bad that he asked, because he hasn’t found that same ability. He truly is suffering and struggling, and despite all the awful things he did to me, nobody deserves that.
He spoke a lot of accepting death. That bugged me, because it shows a misunderstanding of HIV. It’s not a death sentence, as it once was. It is life-altering, shocking and awful – but it is not going to take my life, and it’s not going to take his either.
I thought about that question a lot, and the answer is this: I’m resilient because of the people in my life. I’m resilient because there are people who need me, and I’m resilient because there are many dreams I have and goals to still accomplish. I’m resilient because this disease, while a part of me, doesn’t define me.
I hope Alex finds resilience, peace and happiness. I hope he knows that I forgive him. I hope he knows that there are people who care and will keep him safe. We don’t have a future together – but I hope he soon sees that he does, in fact, have a future. A bright one.
This article previously appeared on Josh’s own blog The Plus Side of Life here.