Tis’ the season

Published 12, Nov, 2015

Steven Hobé tells the story of his life with HIV. Part five sees him, not long after diagnosis, disclosing his status to a potential partner. What was the reaction? Read on.

Tis’ the season

It’s now mid-November and time for Toronto’s annual Santa Claus Parade. With that jolly “Ho Ho Ho”, it was a festive nod to the commencement of the Christmas shopping frenzy. All hail to the blow up hanging Santas, oversized Christmas bobbles, and the incessant piped-in choir music with the treble turned up way too high everywhere you turn! 

OK, I admit I have a bitter sweet relationship with this time of year. When I was growing up in England, like clockwork, on the 24th, I would kick about the house all day waiting for my parents to return – my father from work, and my mother from social obligations. Yes, I was indeed a latch-key kid. 

And then it was off for Chinese food at Mr. Wong’s Restaurant. There, my father would drink too much and become increasingly belligerent toward the service staff – I am sure although they were all smiles, we were not their favourite customers; and by the end of the evening, my father would have huffed and puffed, eaten and drank, complained in the car ride home, and fallen asleep on the couch with the television on. Every year it was the same! 

And so, my notion of this festive season became understandably jaded. Yet, as I grew older, I hoped that Christmas would become something special, and that I could one day spend it with that special someone. 

Fast forward to 2009, and I was poised to exercise my burning desire to be a hopelessly romantic. To share a glass of wine on Christmas Eve in the dim candlelight, kiss under the missal-toe, and exchange a present or two, before enjoying a lavish feast that my partner and I had lovingly prepared. 

End Scene & Fade to Black 

Well, it was all heading in that direction. I had managed to successfully lay the groundwork, having begun dating someone that September. It was going swimmingly well. He was cute, sexy, funny and smart. What more could I ask for?

Of course, when I found out about my status in late October, I was concerned that my marital bliss to be would now be in jeopardy. But he was an intelligent guy, and a little older than me, which should mean all the wiser. 

Of course, telling him was not going to be easy. When I found out, my biggest fear was that my entire world, everything I had worked so hard for –  including emotional stability – would come tumbling down. 

But on the day of the parade, feeling somewhat nostalgic, I sat him down, braced myself, and then just said it, “I’m HIV positive”. 

What strange words those were coming from my mouth. I could hear myself saying them, but they seemed displaced, as though I were a ventriloquist’s puppet, clumsily mouthing the words, while the puppeteer projected his voice – saying anything he thought fit to entertain the audience. 

It was kind of like when I first uttered the words, “I’m gay” – same disconnect – two decades prior. 

So, today, at 7:36pm (give or take a few seconds), I had filled the air with three simple words, “I’m HIV positive”. 

They floated for a moment, effortless above the two of us; waiting to be recognised, processed into thought, stimulating the brain to undergo its chemical workings and then initiating motor reflexes to produce a response. 

Time slowed, my pulse quickened, and the pink elephant ricocheted off the wall and bounced playfully out the window. “Weeeeeee!” 

His eyes glazed over. He seemed distant for some period of time. I decided not to pressure him into responding – possibly the synapses were still firing away. And then finally, he just said, “It’s ok.” 

OK? What the HELL does that mean? OK for who? (Inner thought and biting of lip…) 

But it was pretty much left at that. Without really addressing the issue head on, we chose to slip quietly back into routine. I guess I figured he needed time to let it sink in. 

November came and went, as did the first part of December. It was now Monday the fifteenth when my partner of four months, less a few days, asked to visit. Call me a pessimist, but I feared the worst. 

He came in, sat down, and said we needed to talk. 

His opening statement was, “I didn’t sign up for this.” 

To which I responded, “And I did?” 

And that was that. The following exchange was brief and inconsequential, heavy with silence and robust with subtext. 

I showed him the door. 

Some people are odd that way. Right before Christmas they like to clean up loose ends, so that they can start the next year fresh. A lot of employers choose to fire people at this yuletide season, so that all will be forgotten by their colleagues in the New Year. 

Same goes for relationships. Why bother expending the energy during Christmas with someone you’re not going to be with come January 1st. 

But as my friends quite rightly pointed out, if he scampered at this, he wasn’t worth it anyway. Intellectually, I knew they were right, but emotionally it was still crushing to say the least. 

So, change of plan: I decided that Christmas would hereby officially be a time to reflect; a brief moment to appreciate all that I have, and not dwell in the past. 

There. That should do it!