November 22nd, 1990

November 22nd, 1990

Pacific Shore Hotel, Santa Monica, California

An hour before David was due to arrive, I was pacing around the room, feeling more than anxious about how the day might play out and meeting David’s family for the first time. Wondering if I was over/under dressed, if we’d spend the night there, thinking that perhaps he was right after all, to have suggested it might be better for me to meet them during a lesser occasion than Thanksgiving.

I convinced myself that was probably the reason David was so “off,” last night, but when I opened the door and saw how ghastly he looked, my gut told me there was more to it than that. On his way in, he gave me a peck on the cheek, then perched on the edge of the bed.

“You look really pretty,” he uttered, with what I can only describe as a look of sorrow.

I sat in the chair across from him and looked at him, expectantly.

“The colour of that dress really suits you,” he smiled, weakly.

“Thanks,” I croaked.

“Are you ok?”

“No. I feel sick.”
“Why?”

“I think you know why,” I replied, at which point he dropped his head into his hands and started crying.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered, over and over.

I felt myself tense up. “What’s going on?”

“I never wanted to upset you. I don’t want you to hate me.”
“Why would I hate you?”

“For this,” he said, glancing at me.

“For what?” I needed the words to make it real.

“I’ve met someone else.”

I can’t say I was totally shocked. All through the night, I tossed and turned, my mind riveting back and forth between various scenarios, consistently landing on this one.

“I need to be honest with you,” he sniffed.

The word irony flashed through my head.
“Then be honest with me,” I urged.

“It’s not fair to you. It’s not fair to my family. I need to be honest. I’m so sorry. I care about you and I never wanted it to be like this. I want you to know that. You need to know that.”

He was talking much faster than usual, verging on rambling, enough that I felt confused by what he was saying. Dropping his head into his hands again, he stated, “It’s time to be honest.”

We didn’t speak and his body language told me he wanted to curl up into a ball. If I live to be a hundred, I doubt I’ll ever understand what lead me to ask; “This person you’ve met. Is it a girl?”

His head shot up. “How did you know?” he asked.

“I, I don’t,” I stuttered, my stomach somersaulting, making me feel like I was about to throw up.

“Is it…is it a girl?”

He stared out the window and shook his head, no.

“It’s a guy?” I yelled, shooting out of the chair.  “This other person is a guy?” Part of me felt like I was way off track but something told me I wasn’t. “Tell me!” I demanded.

He gave me a blank stare. “It’s what you said.”

“You’re seeing a guy?”

He nodded and started crying again, his head back in his hands.

I darted into the bathroom, closed the door and ran my hands under the cold water for ages. This cannot be happening, I uttered, over and over, my new mantra. I splashed water on my face but avoided looking in the mirror.

When I came out, I sat rigid in the chair. David slid off the bed, scooted over and wrapped his arms tightly around my bare legs. With his head resting against my legs, his hair fell across my lap. It took everything I had not to reach out and stroke it.

There were so many thoughts running through my head; How could I not have seen this coming? How long has he been planning to tell me? Was he just stringing me along? Is any of what we shared real? Was he just using me? Each thought got caught up in the next and my breathing reacted accordingly. I wanted to ask who, when, why, how? Plus, a thousand other questions I really didn’t want answers to.

Fueled by a fresh sense of fury, I said, “Do I need to get tested for AIDS?”

He looked up at me, a look I’ll never forget.  “No. This is very recent,” he said, his voice barely a whisper. “I’ve tried so hard to deny it, but I can’t any longer. I’m so sorry. I truly am.”

I moved to get up and he reached for my hand. As I stood, I helped pull him up off the floor.

“How much do you hate me?”

“I don’t hate you David.”

He pulled me tight into him and we stood by the window. The sky was, as always, clear and blue and the palm trees swayed. In the distance the water glistened, taunting me as I cried into his crisp white shirt and felt his tears land on my head.

We stayed in that embrace for a long time, before he kissed my forehead, then turned and left.

 

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