Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hollier than thou

The old man shuffled under the gilded layered robes, his face clenched as he went entered the room. They were waiting, ready to take him around, wanting something, a Word, some Guidance. It was another attestation to His greatness, His mysterious ways, his infinite kindness and wisdom. And it was Work.

Work needed to be done, because people were watching, and they needed to learn. His job was to shepherd them. He has been given the light, the sword, the kingdom, he was clutching to it, although he knew it could never be taken. Not while he was alive.

But there was infinity to prove. The world was unimaginably different than even 10 years ago. There were forces. Demons. They gnawed their way into sites of uttermost holiness, and swarmed like locust, they were unabashed by gold, by gilt, by axiom. They wanted things he could not give, and his stance was fierce. Relentless. They wanted his thoughts, his pronunciations, on the unthinkable. They clawed and ravaged into his past, bringing up hazy days when he could not yet settle into the orderly, painstaking, meticulous, immaculate path, a path marked and planned and placed in front of him and only him so he could be where he was now. Closer to the throne than anyone walking the earth. An Intermediate.

In those days which were a lifetime away but sometimes, with his burgeoning age laying on him like an invisible cloak heavier than his most ceremonious robes, so close that he could smell and see them, miss their simplicity and dread their chaos, their awfulness, he had been awash, along with the masses, a helpless young body in a sea of bodies. He had made choices made by millions. And he would not be crucified for them. He had done nothing wrong, and he did not care for any implications otherwise. Had something been done, he would not have been brought so close, to such power. It was a simple truth. Once he had given his life away, and given into the wondrous machinery of the organization, he was carried upwards in a stream of light, through the rumors and the backstabbing, through corruption and scandal, through heartlessness (for their were many who would murder, and have, to be where he was), in a series of ongoing miracles that proved over and over and over, that he was the one, and that any mistake, any sin, was long forgotten and forgiven.

He believed so passionately, so intimately, like a baby in its mother's arms, seeing only her face, that circle of light. He made it so there was nothing else and there would never be, and for that he was rewarded. And he had made promises, made vows as he lay under the canopy, in these fits of sleeplessness that sometimes seized him, when calling for the doctor and having a tablet discreetly placed by his bedside was impossible, so close to the last time he had called, that the whispers, the phone calls, the electronic messages! would start before the doctor even made it back downstairs. In those torturous nights, he knew he had to face a grave challenge the next day meeting one leader or another and proclaiming once more the eternal power that seeped so endlessly, so painfully, so lethally out of the holly body placed in his shaking, eternally grateful hands. It was too much then and his mind would drift back to simpler times, to childhood games, to an innocent, harmless libido. The uniforms just enforced that innocence. He had been in uniform his whole life, but the first one he put on was supposed to haunt him, get him in trouble with those salivating, wild eyed journalists he imagined (though never actually seen, as the news was filtered to him via a hierarchical network of media advisers) how they rejoiced. The words they said. German words pronounced wrong, in grave mockery, to humiliate not only him personally, but He who was sustaining them, He who could at mere passing with turn them into ashes, He who could, and no doubt would, show them his humble face, his warm, bleeding heart, again and again and again a million times over, until their last breath. And only then turn to wrath, impersonal and practical. And they were fools. Blind and dumb. He knew that appeasement should not take place on the last breath alone, knew it in his heart when he begun serving.

He had no choice whatsoever in donning that uniform on his lank, boyish body. A body of a child who sprouted suddenly into a man, knees bumping against each other, insecure in his shorts but confident under the heavy cloth when marching in time to that wonderful music. He did not wish to, but he compiled because Papa was made happy, Mama beamed with pride, their teachers were vehement they go serve, the women, girls and little boys looked at them in admiration, almost ecstasy. There was never a choice, that's what they don't understand.

It was a war and people were killed, but he had nothing to do with that, he just put on the uniform. It was not right. It was wrong. And his country was devastated. Tragically, punishingly, as it should have been for its hubris, its foolishness. But so many lives lost... some of them Jews, of course. Killed, murdered, what does it matter. The look on the rabbi's face, he had forgotten his name, so many to be met each day, when he had said killed. He could almost take it back, but remembered that mildness needs to be affected, for the millions watching who do not care for the Jews. For his own people who have heart enough, enough about those 6 million or so, probably less, when each second more babies are murdered, unborn. They are not given any chance to hear the truth, to cross the threshold, to stand in the light with the just and the mighty. Infidels had the chance of correction and forsake it. Their organizations were strong and very few had the courage to break away towards the light. They were doomed to start with. But an unborn baby, a glob of semen with millions of them dropped carelessly into a ceramic sink (flash of distanced days when he had not yet vowed, cowering in the shared bathroom), what choice did it have when it was murdered before forming, building up its cells and heart and lungs so it could become a disciple if all things converged and the slight, incredible, unquantifiable miracle of turning a believer was made? And now everywhere, at this very second, trillions of murdered, unborn babies in places where babies were usually born in scores, where the immense power he was guiding made relentless progress and was never dismissed or ridiculed, were wasted away like bowel movements because of the idea that men and women should be carnal away from the blessing of marriage, away from his guiding presence, and being encouraged to do so by their governments, by health organizations, by their schools! And he knew that even some of his footmen, who had seen the sick and dying and chose to advocate the tool of the devil, being wrong, being misled, being blinded the ultimate test placed in his shaking hands, guarding the doors from the flood of infidels ready to ravage the Kingdom, bring the world into darkness, extinction (for hadn't he spoken very strongly in favor of environmental issues, conceding that pollution is a sin).

He was forced to issue a statement, a statement he somehow doubted when hearing from the experts, but then he heard so many statements, endless streams of facts and figures. Nevertheless it was the only thing he could think of at the time that would ward off the evil, if only until he composed himself, until he received further guidance. His advisers were against it, but they were not of strong character and has not seen the things he have, endured the tests he did. He spoke to the world. He told his flock, the innocents crowding under the warmth of his hand, as well as the poor, doomed souls fornicating extra-maritally, the condoms prevent pregnancy, but do not prevent transmittance of a certain disease.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Leap

Out of anger and resentment comes redemption. Out of jealously and bitterness comes acceptance. Out of chaos comes peace. But only if you believe. And that nonaction is a struggle that has to be repeated daily like a mantra and a chore. I have always been lax at daily maintenance whether my own, embarrassing to say but even hygiene, or that of my surroundings. It's safe to say there is at most a 50-50% chance of me doing something when I say that I will do it. I do however try to keep my promises and appointments which is why I find it so hard to commit, even return calls and uphold contacts, and why I am fundamentally lonely. Like my personal life my habitats have always reeked of false starts and uncompleted tasks. I no longer expect myself to have the stamina or endurance and have resigned to a lifetime of cyclical transitions between energy and sedation, kindness and pettiness, warmth and irritation. I wish I was different, I wish I wasn't burdened with myself. I can say that I don't like myself. I never have, and probably never will. But I don't like other either. To be able to like others they must open up to you and let you see how they really are and very few people have let me do that. I mean, that sounds as though I'd want to dig deep into their soul, that isn't the case, I just want them to be there long enough, so I can get accustomed to their presence. But invariably, when someone is as close as my husband, they get hurt, and they see my awkward, unstable ways, my fits of uncensored anger at things beyond my control and outside my realm of existence, and my illogical, often paranoid thinking. Can someone be as close to me as he is and bear it? Will he one day wake up and realized that using a condom indefinitely was the least of his compromises in this relationship? Would I be with me, live with me, the way I am? I doubt it. If only for the fact that I would seek someone less self-doubting, and far less scarred than myself. Thank God he is so uncomplicated, and though he may occasionally get hurt, he doesn't bear a grudge or analyze me the way I do myself and the way I judge my surroundings, so harshly, as though the worst case scenario was the most probable one.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bare necessities

Ron asked me, in a yet-unanswered email, if I have been doing any writing. The truth is that asides from the last posts and a couple archived ones that I published, I have been self destructing. When I speak about self destruction these days, it no longer involves punctured skin or chemicals or painful sex, but it still invariably involves the self loathing that would set these off, the anger, the idling, the panic, the stress, the fatigue, the despair, the gritted teeth and shallow breath and strained muscles, and of course, the eating. I wouldn’t call it binging because I have binged in the past and I know it doesn’t get nearly as far these days, but it is definitely stressful emotional eating. Strange that this is the acceptable term, since I do not feel emotional at all when eating like that. If anything it crystallizes my lack of emotion, as soon as I eat, a vacuous monotony replaces these hints of fear and dread, as though I had hurriedly swallowed a prescription painkiller when hints of thunderous pain flashed on the distant horizon. It is not the pain I am conditioned to numb, fear but the hint of it. Someone has been shitting on our stairs. This weekend, implausibly, on the stairs themselves, a stinky soufflé of human manure. Last night, at the entrance to our house, a smaller, not so distinctly human pile, except there has been a lingering smell of urine by our door for months now. Last winter, I opened the door one day, late for work, and nearly stepped on a shadow of a female addict who was messing around with her sleeve in that tiny filthy space. You’d think that being treated for HIV I’d run into junkies all the time, but I have never seen any obvious IV drug user at the clinic. There are a lot in town though. Usually asking for change or telling you the age-old, universal story of trains and wallets. Some of them still look pretty good, especially the women can be made up and everything, but the eyes and faces give them away, at least to me. And the walk, of course, I can tell a junkie from a distance just from that walk. That time, I slammed the door without saying anything, and a few minutes later she was gone. Whoever is shitting here, I woke up in the freezing bedroom at 6.00 and the fumes of dark gray anger, resentment and desperation settled all around me, on the bloody leak in the wall that hasn’t been fixed since august and has been seen by who knows how many renovation, building and plumbing specialists without any of them actually solving the damn thing, because the owner is too cheap to do anything but emergency dam fingering. And with all these guys meeting and discussing and being paid by the hour, I’m the one sleeping with dirty freezing water dripping into a plastic tub in my room, for weeks on end. On the shit that will no doubt appear again when we least expect it. On the extension of my contract that I have been promised ages ago and heard nothing about. On the salaries that were change and the unresolved tax blunder that ensues and my debts that accumulated into more than 10,000 Euro. On my total lack of social right, on the distance and the inflating flight prices and my infertility and my RSI and my work with those people that take care of themselves and politely and warmly ignore everyone else, on the recession and the crisis and the inescapable unemployment, on the aging of my parents, on the escapism of my brother, on the fact the no one cares or wants to do anything and everyone’s out to save their own ass, self very much included, on my impotence as well as my infertility, on the godawfulhelplessness of it all, and of course, how can I forget, my self inflicted scars and scabs and marks and tatts, HIV not withstanding, though I don’t have a bloody fucking clue how I got it. Not that it matters. My life is good even without HIV, it’s the fears and the shit of others that occasionally threaten to destroy it. The other day I was watching TV when I saw a face that I have only seen once in the past before, but I recognized it immediately. When I saw her, she was standing behind me at a supermarket queue, and I had to restrain myself from openly staring at her. But I guess I did anyway, it was impossible not to (though the Dutch being Dutch, they were going obliviously about their business as though this blinding sight was not in the room, like an android sent to us from another planet where the life forms have been perfected to the essence of human characteristics that will call beauty. And I mean, this country is full of beautiful girls, as are other countries, but I can’t remember anyone taking my breath like this. She was just sunburned a wild haired and wearing some denim miniskirt on her long tanned legs, and she didn’t give off the showy air that a lot of pretty girls do, although what would I know anyway, we are only interested in great beauty or deformity that catches our eye, that we hope not or dare not imagine occupying. Then I saw her on TV and they said who she was. Her life wasn’t glamorous, and becoming Holland’s Next Top Model just kicked up more dirt. The show host, one of these soft-spoken, pseudo-therapist but still rugged and adventurous types they love here was intensely nodding and gazing while he interviewed her about the escort business. He also gave her the initiation ceremony all minor celebrities have to undergo here, visiting some orphanage or children’s clinic in a developed country and taking lots of smiling photos while playing a few games with the kids, and I often wonder if it is always the tough kids that push to the front and the frame in these situations, just like the benefactor who has ejected themselves to stand out from the masses and invade our attention span, grabbing our attention even more on the background of the dark small faces we can’t and won’t tell apart. Do they bother learning their names in the short time they spend dropping by? And those orphaned and abandoned, who have used out any spare luck just getting into a dingy buidling with rows of cots and handdowns from children who get their clothes new and their toys shiny, do they have any inkling that the big, brazen visitors are just as starved for love as they are?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Let's call it home

I come home and I dont take off my coat because its too cold indoors. I rub my chin and feel the tiny coarse hairs I have to tweeze every day now, and I wonder about my hormones. I will find out this month if I have entered early menopause or not and if that is the reason that more than a year's worth of syringes sperm-filled hasn't gotten me pregnant. I mean, maybe I am optimistic, maybe it will take more than a month to find out. I am not trying tp find out everything I can about this, I have spent too much time in skeptic, concerned, frentic HIV research mode to dive into fertility mode, I know I need to be informed, but not just yet.

Anyway, I dont really want to be pregnant. I mean, I do want it, but I don't really want it, not with my salary as low as it is and my contract about to expire, not with this crisis, not with the shitty rental property market and this cold apartment, not with my rusty bike as a vehicle, and especially not without any sort of social or employment benefits whatsoever here in the Netherlands (or anywhere else for that matter), maternity leave notwithstanding. I do want to have an adorable baby who will sit in a sud-filled bucket, gurgling. But I am not even sure a baby not old enough to speak can sit in a bucket without hurting himself. I don't know much about babies at all, maybe because since I had the abortion (and before that) I had never concieved of my ever having a baby as a plausible thing. I knew I didn't have it together enough to be a single mom, and the family way seemed unlikely, even pre-HIV. It was just a heartwarming picture that I saw online, and the baby was Ugandan, so there was no choice really but washing him in a bucket. And the article said that "down there" people don't have soap, so they usually rub their skin with stones in whatever body of water they have access to.

Im thinking of Africa a lot these days, not only but mostly because of my friend in Zimbabwe and the horror that trickles out of there. Everytime I worry about anything in my own life, I think of hospitals with handwritten notices telling visitors not to leave their corpses of their relatives on the premises, and rusty cots serving only as gurneys transporting the living dead from the hut or the shed or the street itself to a hole in the ground. I think of gaping storerooms and corridors devoid of any doctors, and of people avoiding embraces in the funerals, because of the plague. This time this plague is cholera, but the plague is anything that makes humans so greedy and mad that they would trample others for profit, and each time it manifests in something else. HIV is part of it, but HIV is not it, as far as I can tell. A grandmother feeding cow feces to starving grandchildren and causing them to die, that's a manifestation of the plague as much as any bateria. Not only in Africa. Everywhere we see it. In Chinese children sleeping on piles of denim while their mothers are smothered daily, nightly by chemicals used to give denim that used, "worked in" look, tearing behind improvised denim surgical masks and the air buzzing of trillions of tiny jean-blue particles, that's a symptom. I am probably wearing something made like that right now, but I won't again. I'm not going to do something that I know is bad, ever again, not if I can help it. Not until I have a child and forget my priorities in an urgent haze of need and love.

I should write something about the wedding. Those were a wonderful two weeks, I was a nervous wreck but it was worth every sleepless night and pinched nerve and stress headache, of which there were plenty, maybe tomorrow I'll be able to write about it. I shouldn't keep mixing the bliss and the horror like this, but this is how it happens inside this one person, anyways. It will take me some time to find my married voice I guess. Its pretty cozy here though. Not enough for a baby, but good enough for me, by far.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lovable, affordable

It's a sparkling automn day here in the lowlands, golden sunlight is seeping through the white curtains, and the air will be fresh and crisp when I emerge from the cluttered yet cozy apartment and let my well worn sneakers beat on the dappled pavements. Then I will rush home, it will be already after 10.00, and hope in the shower, ignoring the water that rises above the clogged drain, towel myself dry and rush out on my rusty little bike to work. I'll be sitting alone in my room with a nunch of papers, typing away, waiting for a text message from my brother, who is hopping on the Eurostar to come see me after more than a year in which we haven't met. P. will work until 17.00, and I will leave work and go home to some schedueled sex. After that I'll start cleaning and preparing the place for my brother, and P. will go to the supermarket. We might wait for my brother or start dinner ourselves, and if we do that we'll watch Little Britain on DVD because the antena's broke and we can't watch the olypmics.

At some point in the day, there will probabaly be some rain, even a heavy shower. I'll also have to call the tax office and speak my poor, halted Dutch with them. I'll try to register for another Dutch course, they are beginning in a couple of weeks, hoping that this one will finally take me to a level of comfort. I'll have to bug our estate agent to bog to plumber who is long over due to fix a leak on the roof that makes the bedroom smell like old laundry. I'd probably have to sort out some other things as well; we're trying to get better housing and I need to fill out some forms for which I don't have all the information, which is hiding in scattered letters here and at work.

I probably won't run into my boss today. If I see him it's rarely unscheduled and usually no more than once a fortnight. But if I do, he'll be really nice, like everyone I meet at work.

In Zimbabwe, my friend will struggle to feed herself and to maintain her job under a tryant, explosive employer. Under the constant flap of his threatening wings, she may or may not think of the much darker presents the permeats the entire country like a thick toxic smog crawling close to the ground, suffocating the lower strata first before rising to the middle and upper crusts. Deducing characters from features is primitive and prejudiced, but Mugabe's face is a clichéd typecast of the powerdrunk, deranged dictator. There is nothing behind those beady eyes but greed and hate, so much so that the Hitler mustache is entirely redundant to the role.

Later that day, my friend will scramble for any spare change left over from her meager salary, after spending almost all of it on outrageously overpriced, cheaply produced, unnourishing food, extortionist shared taxi fare to work, and unrealistic rent for a mildewed cement box with a festering communal shithole behind it. A real shit hole, not what I used to refer to back when I couldn't find half decent accomodation here. Whatever is left over, she will send to her family, half of which is diagnosed with AIDS.

I tell myself that I can't send money again. I don't have any social security here, my salary is close to a minimum, flight fares have risen by 50% and almost everything else has inflated as well. I need to save for the future, and the fact that I can save anything is notable in itself. I have helped B with his surgery, and have sent her a nice round sum before, much higher than even I expected, except what is the point of helping if you don't do enough, if you hold back. But it's gone, of course it's gone. She is not the type to keep it to herself. But I can't carry them all on my shoulders. I can't. I donate spare meds, I get spare meds and rip off my insurance (insofar as insurances can be ripped off which is as trivial as a flee bite on a mamoth) precisely so I can donate them, at least now I do, because before I was saving for an uncertain future. And it's still pretty uncertain. I need that money. But people are dying. But I walk on the light side. There are millions upon millions upon millions under me. I walk upon them, floating on their convulsing bodies. They help me float, they help this whole continent to float, and on some tiny corner of it, I suckle to sustain myself, my love, my relationships, my modest successes, my health, my well being, my parents, whose well-being can feed on that of my own, finally. I nourish myself, and someone is dying. Millions are. But someone that I know is, someone I wrote words to. Exchanges confidences with. And how can I celebrate when that happens. But how much is enough, how much will keep a finger in the dam, how much will enable me to open up my heart to happiness, and live with it. How much is bullshit, words that should not be spoken or written but turned into deeds, into money orders, into hard tangible currency. Can you love someone, and not afford to help them, or are you lying to yourself so you can love yourself, so you can let yourself be someone who is lovable?

I put my sneakers on.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blessed and torn

P is away planning a wedding. It's going to be huge. Well not as far as weddings go but as far as I ever imagined. I am here trying to hold on, exasperated with the oblivious, well intentioned people that surround me, resentful towards those that do want something, apologizing profusely whenever I suspect that my unkindness unveiled. At the moment, I am wedged on a precipice of superstition, terrified of jinxing myself, restless, shifty as though I was going something wrong, committing a crime instead of sanctifying a bond. Ashamed as the con that I am.

Jogging through the rain soaked park in the last rays of overdue sunshine, I am so slow and stiff that I imagine someone mocking my girly run. Slow enough to observe signs of premature fall manifesting the accelerated random shuffle of seasons that global warming brought to these parts. Some plants are in full bloom while other are already shutting down into yellowing and rot. Maybe it was always that way, but everything seems threateningly off-key, a premonition.
The flock of geese that dominates the North end of the park have settled down for the night, configured in a teardrop formation in the lake's middle, well away from the banks. Maybe one of them is on nightwatch, looking out for its sleeping brethern for a proverbial fox or weasel.

P wants a big village wedding, maybe to please his family, or maybe his friends and wider relative circle. Although, when I burst into a fluster of high-pitched, teary eyed fatigue tantrum, he says having a proper celebration doesn't really matter. But I know it does, else he wouldn't have initiated it. And it will cost a lot, though I imagine we'll reimburse a good part of it would still entail a couple thousand Euros gone at best. But it doesn't matter, so long as we are welded together like that with his community, the community I stay away from 6 months a year lest they notice one of the marks that brands me, and can smile sweetly and freely at in the second half of the year.

I wonder what a heartwarming fowl formation would do to a sick member. Would they eject it to sleep by itself among the reeds, or would they peck it to death like chickens do to old hens, or would they keep it underneath the surface until its feeble struggle stopped, or would they, in any likelihood, take care of it? How primitive is the instinct of exile, how embedded. How much of it can we hope to conquer. I know I am a loser because I don't fight it at all, I do not confront, I still to the obscurity that this rural yet inernational life afforded me.

I think of B lying on a thin dirty matress in his asbestos roofed shack, recovering from stomach surgery. I sent him money two more times, and shut him off, not replying, because I don't want to be there for the next time. I don't want to be there when he dies. And I think how by sealing my fate with P, my destiny, I commit not just to my own exile, but to my parents' future abandonment. Don't let anybody say I overlooked it. I am heartless, but broken hearted. I want to cancel it all and run away and vomit and die, because I know it is going to happen. But I don't have a choice except doing the most wretched, and wonderful, thing, designed to bring a shade of security into this random life. I don't need it to confirm love, nothing will make my love for P any stronger, it is amplified to the max, I think. But I need it for the same reasons everyone needs it, dry, practical, and yet I see, even as I schedule dressmaking and consult airline web pages, that it won't bring the wholeness and tranquility that I have been missing my entire life, but will deepen the bleeding rift between who I was and who I am, and what and who are left behind. I need someone to stitch it up for me, because I just can't reconcile my love and happiness with this unspeakable dread, but all I do is instruct a woman, a more capable, resilient, worthy immigrant that I will ever be, to stitch fabric in a protective form around me. I will be camouflaged, blooming briefly and belatedly, blessed, torn.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Foreign affairs

I stay home, not because I planned to. I have work to do, that ain't new. Have to finish something so I will have something to say somewhere, and they want to know what it is I am going to say upfront. Speaking and writing are different, and I feel a hollow dread trying to fill the void between 15 frontal minutes and 5,000 backstage words. I falter, drinking coffee after coffee, wandering the net, burning time as I have been apt to lately, and here is half 2008 and I am 4 posts poor. I guess misery and loneliness really do feed creation. There is a topic that I have been wanting to write about here at least for a couple of months but every time I think I grabbed it, it escapes me. I let go of it and go the the bathroom, ignoring the filthy floors, the hairballs, everything that I tell myself I'd take care of once P gets on that plane tomorrow and goes home for the month. I have just finished given myself an amateur pedicure, and I plan to slather a self-tanning lotion on my pasty white legs. I hate looking in the mirror nowadays, seeing the hollows in my face, the traces of blue veins around my eyes and forehead, the start of a double chin. I can escape the mirror, but not my hands, which are always in front of me. Three tendons stick out like an underlining tree in each hand, thick veins underlie the skin like highways, and maybe worse of all, because I have never glimpsed it before getting on the PIs, is the distinct hollow between my hand and my wrist bone. It makes me feel frail and a little sick to look at my hands, and I avoid my face at all, unless I am applying makeup, which I have been using more lately that I am used to, trying to even it all out and create a semblance of warm, wholesome puffiness from the gauntness. Anyway, I put Vaseline on my elbows, knees, toes and around the edges of the soles of my feet. Then I rub Vaseline on my palms. You should always do that if you're applying self-tanner, otherwise you'll end up with spots and patches in the rougher areas. I pick up the Shiseido bottle I bought at the airport in my year of diagnosis. I haven't used it much, because after all the weather here doesn't permit you to show your skin much (the lesser the better, from my vantage). I start rubbing the translucent, luxurious stuff into my skin, first into my legs, blinking irritably at the new vein marks, then into my collar bone, shoulders (not that anyone'd get to see my shoulders) and arms. In Japan, I used to spend long lonely weekend hours in department stores, putting on all kinds of lotions and covers. Japanese women consider skin pores to be as repugnant as a bushy bikini line is considered in the West. I never was tempted to buy their cosmetics, I knew I didn't have it in me to even try for the crystalline purity that is an urban young Japanese female. I well knew I was a lesser, clumsier, bruised and dented being, but I was adept at smoothing my flows and polishing my stains to make myself acceptable. As I apply the self tan I see myself in the mirror: when my head is poised downwards, I can see the future creases around my lips. They straighten out when my head is straight, but are clearly visible when I bend down and look sideways at my reflection. I wonder if, when I go to Mexico one day to fill up my hollowed face, I'd get rid of a few wrinkles as a bonus. The horrors of a mysterious matter conglomerating and hardening under one's skin. I shudder. My legs though, are as dimpled and soft as a baby's from the knees up. My underarms sway gently under the crude tats on my shoulders, my cleavage is slightly creased. Topping it all, a scrawny, pointy face peeks at my with worried, rounded eyes like an animated chicken's. I walk away from the ghost train that is my image, and back into my life.


A hot Saturday evening on a back from Rotterdam, picking up generic beats and provocative words on my Sony Ericsson's radio, flat landscape flowing past, a food factory with trucks parked into dozens of ports like suckling piglets, my thoughts whizzing in and out of old debts, scars, newer freshly picked scabs. A desperate text message from Copenhagen, a near-death in Thailand, mounting fear in Zimbabwe, deprivation in America. I'm in all those places, but I am still the chubby, helpless woman watching young longhaired white girls in jeans that manage to be droopy and skinny at once and allow their satin tiger print undies to peek out, sidelip rings and emo fringes, young black girls in tightly pulled back hair, tiny white shorts and slips and huge gold-colored chunks dangling from their ears. I realize I lack the vocabulary to describe what they are wearing. If I had to say something to them, would I be able to? If they started putting their feet on chairs and playing music (but what music?) on their mobiles and talking loudly, how cautious, how tentative would I be if I needed to defend my space. I am their mothers' age.


2 hours ago, we were sitting outside a Surinamese lunchroom chewing our rotis and discussing the beret-wearing old man dancing my the jazz record stall as though the street was a nightclub and he was the proprietor. He had the groove and slick moves and the turns and a smile for every lady, even hardened, hurried ones with the faces that formed themselves around an invisible infinite chain of smokes. He had the time and he had the attitude and it was a sunny day, a Saturday. And the only question that we were asking, was if it was sad or not. To which I said not because I usually have the counteropinion but also because I didn't want to be the one who says, "yes it is sad", even though I could feel it in my stomach, I could feel it in the way that after a few minutes it was difficult to keep viewing the guy. But I wouldn't admit it. "If we were in Cuba, we wouldn't even debate this issue", I said.


Sometimes, when people get online to use forums and groups and such, they don't have a feeling and then seek to express it. They get online because they want to feel something. They feel the need to have an emotion. This is not my observation, but something an Ivy League professor said to an Economist journalist. But I concur. This is why I am staying away. Not because I don't care. Because I am the opposite of these people (although I have been, and can easily turn, into a net addict any given time). Every time I don't practice my addiction to the sterilized, subdued pain we meet on forums, TV programs, radio call-in shows and expert advice columns, I come closer to the essence. Every time I do not apply something to change the color of my skin, I come closer to the girl who was the whitest at school, who came back blindingly white in the height of summer, when SPFs were just in development, when boys could just grab you and pull your shirt off because they felt like exposing the buds of your breasts. I was also a girl who, at one time, made jaws drop and eyes fixate, but that wasn't really me. It was a trick I learned. If you take away all the cosmetic surgeries and focused workouts and hairdye and tooth caps and makeup from any given celebrity (except, perhaps, Charlize Theron), what are you left with but some skin, bones, lard, and fear? If you take away the MySpace and the talkbacks and the empathy of usernames and carefully chosen avatars on internet forums, what are you left with but a child playing alone on endless blistering noontimes, trailing in empty corridors, befriending whitewashed walls?


The man kept dancing, visible through a herd of weekend shoppers of seemingly every race and color, and every combination thereof. Some looked away, some snickered, some turned to their companions, or even to strangers, as though saying "what can ya do?", one or two made the universal "loco" sign, some younger ones giggled, and the youngest shied away. The old man (in Hebrew and Spanish, one does not use the adjective for old to describe a man, because there is a single noun for "old man", as though by becoming old a man is not a man anymore but another entity, like a baby or a child which is not yet man) seemed happy with the attention. Perhaps manic, perhaps demented, or maybe just freaking happy with life on a sunny day, he continued to dance and host his private street party, smiling as though possessing some knowledge that transcended all the people whose destinies led them to the Netherlands' ethnic hub, as though he already knew what we have not even considered discovering. What awaits us all. I think of the unanswered text message; a family death, grief, loss, guilt, betrayal (while I think these thoughts, I do not cease to communicate and laugh with my fiancé). I know I am betraying too, but how can you resonate a stranger's pain, when they have not been there that weekend, and they do not even know the surface of your life? Although you want to, you truly really want to. And for a fleeting instance, you share their existence.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

All you have to be is you (how to lose friends and alienate people)

When I was a young child I had this recurrent thought before I let myself drift off. I was in a warm, single-story house (we had always lived in apartments), and there was a storm raging outside in the night, a strom so fierce it might've been a war. All our friends and relatives were already tucked safely in the other rooms of the house, butjust to make sure, I'd go through a mental inventory of my dog, my brother, my grandparets, uncles and aunts on both sides, cousins, dad's cousin and his children, neighbours, my parents best friends, then I'd go through my collection furry animals, and then I'd start thinking of more people who should be in, and so I'd run out into the poring rain and thunder in my night out, and drag them in from wherever the were hiding, unsuspecting that this storm was about to turn LETHAL. I'd bring in my best friend and my minor friends, and my classmates, making sure that those who were mean came in last, but still I'd bring in everyone I could think of, even the intimidating grocery store couple. Everyone who needed to be saved, everyone who was oblivious to the great grave danger. And when the house was full beyond capacity (I still have my spacious bed though), I'd let the thunder and sleets of rain loose, and sleep peacefully through it all, at peace with knowing that I saved EVERYONE.

I was 12 years old and brainwashed by Pat Robertson and the 700 Club. With all the paranoia in Israel about missionaries (culminating a few weeks ago in a packaged bomb sent to a preacher's son, who was severely and irrepearably wounded), I don't know why no one ever pointed out that having only recieving 3 channels, one of them entirely in Arabic, and one of them interviewing policticians and such on dingy looking sets, that the only thing to watch after school was manga versions of the New Testament, Christian workouts with a bubbly blonde in pink lycra, and the 700 Club with its narratives of salvation from misery, addiction and handicap. I didn't know much about religion, just the Judaism hated me if I didn't wear long skirts and stockings, prayed before I ate, drank or peed, and generally that nothing that I did in life - going to the beach, watching TV, reading, slow dancing with a boy on a Friday night, or eating cheese within 6 hours of having eaten pastrami - was in synch with Judaism at all. Although I am Jewish by birth, getting in touch with God, a God whose full name you were not allowed even to say, so that when you read the Bible in Bible class a few times a week, you had to be very careful not to utter the explicit name but say "the name" instead, required steps that were impossible to take unless I wanted to alienate my friends and annoy my parents far more than I already did. Jesus, however, was so readily available. On the Middle East Channel, broadcasting from Cyprus, Pat and his team of co-hosts and guests were welcoming and hearty, if you understood a bit of English. On every show Pat or another preacher, sometimes even a woman (who were not banished behind a screen in the back of the church-studio) would invite a standing, closed eyed, open armed audience to invite Jesus into their life. Since I was alone in the house, my brother was outside playing with his neighbourhood buddies, my parents at work, I'd ask Jesus for help to. I asked him from the bottom of my heart because there was so many things I needed help with. I needed to be pretty, I needed to lose weight, I needed to get my braces removed, I needed my breasts to stop growing, I needed boys to like me, hell even notice me, and girls to stop ridiculing me, I needed new clothes for that purpose, and I needed to somehow stop sliding into the endless pit that it academic failure, I needed love, I'd die without love.

I felt horribly guilty about these communions with Jesus. I knew we weren't supposed to talk to him, and I think even back then I had a slight suspicion towards the motives of white haired men in slick studios, although I don't remeber if they prompted donations on the show. I knew that Jews were not supposed to give in to Jesus, that Jewish bravery was being burned alive at the stake and not surrendering, that I was betraying millions of tortured souls. That our God was the real one, even if he wasn't nice, even if all he did was threaten and punish, he really cared. Even though the Bible was a mindnumbingly boring story of human and divine aggression, and the New testament (which I have somehow procurred by scanning my dad's bookshelves, finding a tiny, pocket-sized Gideons version of it) read like an teenage advice book, with instructions specifying each part for a different mood (it was hard deciding which nategory I belonged to between the various states of anxiety, fear and depression). I knew that I was doing something wrong, and my guilt about my daily meetings with Pat even overshadowed that over masturbating in the shower.

Many people I used to work with in my mid- to late-twenties have gone on in the field to become successful, well-known even. I read interviews with them, a review of their recent work, or watch their faces on online television. It took them about 5-7 years to make a real name for themselves, to earn 5 digit salaries, to fulfil themselves in exciting positions that take them around the world and put them in the center of attention. When I started working with these people, I met myself as I could have been if i didn't succumb to bullying, depression and neglect. if I hadn't let myself down over and over in the worst ways possible in my formative years. Shortly after that year of watching and kneeling with Pat and thighcrercising with the smiling Christian cheerleader, I pulled into the fast lane of adolescence. It took 2 years, and I went from being a child with breasts who turned to Jesus against her better judgement to a strung out, tattooed, cocksucking scavenger. The season has started, no holds barred. Men that 2 years later, 1 year later, 6 months later I wouldn't have even seen, they were so removed from my world in age, in demeanor, in geography, populated my world, and the children that I grew up with, the ball kicking tan boys with their scratched knees and vulgar vocabularies, the gum popping hardened girls with their underlined bikinis and lemon bleached curls, have evaporated into insignificance. I has stopped the bullying short about a year after Jesus and Pat came into my life, but it was too late. I had sold my soul to do that, sitting at the back of the bus, answering back to teachers and slamming doors, outstaring, smoking, popping beer cans, hitchhiking with girlfriends and them alone in the cars of sheepish looking men glancing over at a loss for words, sneaking to the city on Friday nights and into nightclubs where the guys were 18 or older and the girls looked 30 with their teased hair and frosted lips and skin tight minis. It all happened so fast. There was a void, but now it was filled by so much that had happened, phone calls, heart aches, blunts and pills, piercings and cuts, and always the men. Pregnancy wasn't a consideration, HIV was a rumor, other STDs didn't exist. The worst that happened was that someone took it much further than you wanted and then you pretended that it was actually what you wanted and when it was over your furatively licked your wounds. Your home was your body, and you would leave home (you dropped out of school, several schools) months earlier with your duffel bag and end up smoking a joint with a soldier on leave on the shore of the lake, or sleeping it off in somebody's basement, or drunk out of your head with a tourist by the beach. The panic never seized, because it didn't stop for a second.

When I started working, I mean working white collar jobs, working with creative, educated people in places where ideas had a life of their own, is when I realized much more painfully where I have made the wrond turn, betrayed myself in the most complete way, where all the men, even the worst of them, where just a prop, an accessory. I was lucky to be alive, healthy, pretty, I was lucky to have a brain which I could use to almost catch up with my peers, but I still had the hollowness, the depths that I have seen and been to and no one else could have imagined. I was remakably unscarred, save for some self made scars and markings, which I had become adept at hiding. My face was pure, my eyes held no clue to the images that lay behind them. But I remined opaque for many years. I didn't talk about it, I didn't meet anybody who even remotely echoed those times and days, not someone who made it out of there. Not someone who kept their sanity. I was busy with living, with learning to socialize, with spending time with men platonically, more often than not, with learning an art of flirting that didn't lead to being taken there and there, with seeing humans - often with shadows, often threatening, but human nonetheless. It was a long, slow learning curve studded with crisis and drama, crying and jealousy fits to my boyfriends, anger at my bosses, hisses over the unfairness of it all. But I trampled on, and I thought that this was as good as it gets. By acting out as a teen, I became what I wanted to be, a rebel, a ruthless outsider, until I almost couldn't go back anymore, went so far into the storm the house was but a hint of illuminessennce, but I clawed my way back, and the the people were still there, and there was still some room for me. To think that this all started with Pat Robertson, an evangelist preacher, slowly prodding me towards the edge.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Love, actually

Real love is not just about sunsets and ancient bridges, it’s about taking what you can and seeing the best. It's about accepting the person and reality for what it is. Real life, like real love, is being in the moment, not escaping from it. If your loved one farts in the shower every morning, you joke about it, and if he snores, you accept it, maybe by moving to another bed (or sending him to sleep there). You learn not to expect or need big romantic gestures, they’re good for telling your friends about them but not as good as having your lover take time off work to meet the plumber or pick up food on the way home or make love to you the way that you need it (which is not, and will never be, the way that it’s written in a Danielle Steele novel or seen in a movie, not even an indie movie). Real love will gladly incorporate Paris and Venice, but it’s not about them. When you long for it, you don’t long for those peaks and highlights (which are always surrounded by mundane and hectic “we’re gonna be late!” moments anyway) but for a simple presence, and you know you can’t live without that presence, so that’s why you get married. No, correction: that’s why you apply pressure on him to marry you (and also because you want the security and seriousness that comes when people hear you’re getting married, even your bosses, even in this day and age, and you want the relief for your parents, even though nothing’s final, even though marriage is just a piece of paper these days), and when he relents, you may worry that it wasn’t romantic enough, that he just might not want it enough, because he didn’t set up a romantic scene and didn’t kneel and there was no ring, it was just something that happened in bed one day after many times that it was brought up, mostly by you. You worry about that and crave holiday brochure type romance, and while you’re worrying you miss out on the fact that your lover is always there, is always available, even when he himself is preoccupied with work and looking for a job that will take care of the baby you are trying to conceive. And even though when you ask him in a teacher-voice, “so, are you ready to be a husband and a father?” he nearly spits out his dinner, that is what both of you are doing, preparing to be a family, even though you do it in the amicable, jokey way you always do things. That's the way you make love, and that’s also the way you try to have a baby, not with the solemn passion of doomed relationships but with a wink and a grin, and when either of you comes, you start laughing, and you imitate each other’s spasms sometimes for the heck of it, and you don’t mind that one of you is HIV positive, and you don’t fear the reaper. As bloody much.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

ICP 2.8


I am honored to feature the new edition of the International Carnival of Positivities, as usual, graciously assembled by Ron.
The links in the Carnival are mostly categorized according to their writers' own classification.
I've been trying to write some kind of adequate intro to this ICP for a while, to no avail. Just honored to be a small part of this really. And if you feel like me, please let the authors know. Even a little comment can mean an awful lot.


Edwin at Criminal HIV Transmission, a "collection of published news stories about criminal HIV exposure/transmission cases around the world, and other relevant material", presents Australia: SA judge may relax Stuart McDonald's onerous bail conditions.

"Funding for HIV research is higher than for any other virus. But is it in the right places?" - Dr. Dave Wessner presents HIV Research Funding, posted at The AIDS Pandemic.

On Women's Health News, Rachel presents Newsweek Gets "Gay" MRSA Story Right, CWA Gets it Oh So Wrong. It's about, she says, "how appalling Concerned Women for America's coverage of the 'gay MRSA' story was. It's not HIV-specific, but I think we're seeing a similar overreaction/denial of reality/homophobia with this story".


"The center began a bathing program in which the children were afforded the opportunity to shower every Saturday with soap. In Mwandi, soap is a luxury item that many parents and guardians can not afford". The Plight of AIDS Orphans, by James Hammonds and Dr. Dave Wessner, posted on The AIDS Pandemic.

GayUganda presents GayUganda: Is this genocide?, about gay exclusion from the African HIV picture, posted at GayUganda.

Brian Finch, "a guy who’s turned living with HIV into an envious art form", presents This is the birthplace of my transformation posted on the heartwarming (Acid Reflux: Out in Africa).

"The 17-year-old Bangladeshi has a lot going for her. Mature beyond her age, she had a good understanding of what she has been through, as a daughter of a sex worker, and of how society sees and judges her". Nalaka Gunawardene presents Portraits of Commitment: New face of HIV/AIDS in Asia « Moving Images, Moving People! posted at Moving Images, Moving People!.


“HIV/AIDS is still a threat to both the United States and abroad. Yet America’s approach to this epidemic has been rather flawed given the emphasis placed on ideology over science-based strategies and tactics”. Sean Kosofsky presents HIV positions of Presidential contenders? posted at The Bilerico Project.

"Political divides in any country get in the way of public health. Kenya is now in uproar and the people are suffering and dying. What shame we should all feel", writes Mshairi about the post Blood Lust, on Mshairi.

Testing issues

Rachel presents Perspectives on Mandatory HIV Testing of Pregnant Women in New Jersey, a summary of reactions and viewpoints on this issue, posted at Our Bodies Ourselves.


Jim presents LifeLube: the blog: MRSA - Let's take care of ourselves & each other posted at LifeLube: the blog.


Dr. Rufus presents YouTube - HIV Replication 3D Animation posted at YouTube. Dr. Rufus' site includes numerous 3D illustrations of bodily mechanisms.

On Youtube, Batiswifey presents the Posi+ive HIV/AIDS prevention campaign video.

Living with HIV/AIDS

Mr. C presents Positive Living in a Negative World: The End of 2007, My Review posted at Positive Living in a Negative World.

"You don't need to understand God to recognize Grace" on Marc's Myspace blog.

“Here is how it happens, you go into the doctors to discuss treatment options and get the facts about such treatments so you know side effects, long term and short term things like that. The doctor has a strange look on his face. You know, the kind of look you'd get if you went to gynecologist for an ear ache”. Also on Myspace, Mike presents A news update.

On kickin tina, warrior scout presents dance hall days .


Joe.My.God presents Rethinking AIDS Spending, posted at Joe. My. God..

A Single Man presents Hey, come take a look at this on A Single Man: "musings, rants, heartaches & commentary from a soon-to-be widower after 24 years with a wonderful man".


Ron Hudson links to Annie Lennox Sing, saying: "I was unable to get permission from Annie Lennox' site, but I found this note on it about getting involved. I don't think that they will mind if we promote their project. Tell your friends, collegues, and everyone you know about .: SING :. and encourage them to find out fmore and get involved".


Jeremiah presents Tuesday thoughts, posted at The Evolution of Jeremiah.

"Universal peace, an end to hunger and poverty, cures to AIDS, heart disease and cancer, a clean and healthy environment, harmony in relationships and, most importantly, love and acceptance of ourselves could be a reality, if we can close the opportunity gap between what we do and what we are capable of doing". Jeremy Neal presents The Solution to all of the Worlds Problems, posted at Thoughts on Quotes.

Visual Art

2sides2ron features Farid de la Ossa's Male and Female Rebirth: Guest Artist Farid de la Ossa, "an acknowledgment for all those women of the world who have to redefine themselves starting with nothing in order to make it in life”.

Roadside billboard, Portugal, Jan 2008: "Seropositive: discover your power to reflourish" (photo: Dragonette).


I’ve been away for so long, due to a combination of factors. Actually what brought me back to the blog is the fact that I volunteered (seems a somewhat dramatic term, but can't think of something more accurate) to host (again seems overly dramatic) the upcoming edition of the International Carnival of Positivities.

I've mentioned the ICP here last time I blogged. It's a collection of writing by different pozzies from all over the world and all ethnicities and background. Actually not only pozzies, anyone else involved, anyone else who cares, basically, can participate in it. It's Ron Hudson's baby, so I will stop sounding as though I know anything much about the doctrine behind it. I'll just say it's a beautiful thing.

What has kept me away was resistance, not just my own version of the virus resisting the meds but the medical establishment (or rather, 2-3 members of this establishment) resisting my health crisis. It took a while to get that sorted. To make a long story short, my nurse practitioner failed to register all my blood results in my file, so my doctor was not fully aware of the exact number of times that I had turned out detectable. Even so he was concerned, but when he raised that in a meeting, the same nurse claimed that I was not adhering to the meds. Not true. So I had a really hard time convincing them to a) see me off-schedule and b) change my meds. It was the same nurse who refused to let me see the doctor. I got over that, but only after involving and evoke one very respectable member ID docs community. And I used what we call Vitamin P in Israel, I would never have believed that I would resort to this, and actually I didn't quite. After getting the second and third opinions that I had to switch ASAP, and still getting that refusal to even discuss things with my doctor (I was unaware that he had received all this misleading info from the nurse), my dad, yes my dad, called the doctor behind my back. I didn't even have his number, I actually was adamant that my dad would interfere because I thought it would surely backfire on me (and make me look like a stupid, weak daddy's girl), but he did it anyway. And it worked. The next day, I had an off-schedule appointment, and when we met and compared information, it became clear that the nurse was the crux of the problem. The bureaucratic problem, that is, not the resistance problem. But you know systems have bugs too.

The doctor changed one of my meds, but he prescribed the wrong dose, 2 pills instead of 4 per day. And I somehow discovered it, thanks to the AIDSmeds lessons. I didn't even specifically look up dosage, but somehow trying to decide which would be the lesser of evils when it comes to PIs, I made a subconscious mental note that Invirase was 2,000 mg a day. I just couldn't believe that my doctor could prescribe a wrong dose. When I told him, he apologized profusely, he said had I taken his dose, given my rising VL, I would've acquired the resistance from hell.

Speaking of resistance from hell, a friend has been diagnosed with a multiple resistance to all existing meds and classes. How did that happen? How did she go from no resistance to resistance to everything (except, hopefully, the integrase-inhibitors coming out now, which haven't yet reached the Netherlands)? No one can know for sure, but it did coincide with her having unprotected sex with her new boyfriend. He gave me a ride home when I came back from Spain this Jan. We were talking about his bisexuality and he said that he has no secrets from my friend. But in the beginning, she assumed that he wasn't on meds because his numbers were good. After a couple months, she realized that his CD4s were a few dozen and his VL immeasurably high, and the only reason he wasn't on treatment was that he had to finish Interferon first.Yeah, I know there is no proof of a super-strain. I know. This is just my friend’s story as I know it. And now we are waiting to see if 15 years of survival with this virus, with a CD4 count of well over a 1,000 and plans to have a baby and a marriage set for this summer will be saved by the patented innovations coming from the West. And yes, she should have known better. But after 15 years with the bug and 5 years in exile, she is love-famished. Aren't we all.

Another thing that kept me away from blogging was just stress, or as it chooses to manifest in my case in RSI (repeated stress injury), which makes it painful to use a keyboard. Always uncomfortable but sometimes unbearably so. That's a real threat to me, my livelihood, and my dreams. I have developed an internet addiction instead, just surfing the net, which is bad but not as bad as typing. OK the mouse is probably the worst thing for RSI, but I lied to myself that just viewing things online I don't use it as often. Yeah right. My belated resolution for 2008 is not to keep replacing addiction with addiction.

Speaking of addiction, haven't smoked in a few months. I wasn't really addicted to cigarettes, not in this cycle, I was horribly addicted back in the day but after quitting for 4 years and even after the chain-smoking period around my diagnosis, I managed to only smoke a couple and only after supper (unless I was socializing or traveling). But I cut it out completely, and the main reason is that, incredibly, we are trying to get pregnant. Which is such a wonderful thing, that I can't say anything about it. And like most wonderful things, it is accompanied by a huge anxiety. I almost don't have anything that one needs to have a child. Not permanent job, and neither does P., who's actually been unemployed (but at least on benefits) since Nov. He is still working, but not getting paid, trying to finish what he came here to do. I have never seen him stressed, but I started to realize that he is, in fact, whether he shows it or not. We had a wonderful holiday together in Spain and Portugal over the holidays. And when we came back, well, just started doing it. I mean, we've had the informative conversation and picked up the "gear" some months before, but I never thought we'd actually start. But we have. It hasn't worked yet. And I don't know if I am relieved or disappointed. Bit of both I guess.

It's a brave new world I am in, but I still wrestle with the old habits and thinking patterns. I still feel a loser a good part of each day, I still hate and fear my body and my image, I still hide my mental and physical scars and scarring. I still want things that seem so far away. I still get insulted when people are being assholes for no reason, and I take it on myself instead of seeing their pain. I have a long way to go. The future is just as uncertain as it ever was and the fears cast larger shadows, things so painful and primal that I don't want to write about them now. Some things are too menacing for a monologue. And maybe that's the main reason I stopped writing here, all due respect to stiff limbs and shattered wrists. it wasn't comforting enough. The monologue went on for so long. Time for a dialogue. Coming soon. Watch this space.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not the only one (thank you Ron)

When I started blogging, I didn’t know anyone like me online and only a couple offline. I didn’t even start using AIDSmeds yet. Now I know there are so many people like me. I knew there were 65 million of us, I just didn’t know any of us. I knew the names of some celebrities who died of AIDS – most recently, in Israel, Ofra Haza, a very famous singer who died secretly in her home and I am not even sure how the press got a hold of the fact that she was positive. I don’t know if she died from neglecting the disease so much and not seeking help until it was too late, and unprofessional help at that (because money will buy you the best medical attention but also the worst neglect and coverup if you seek that). Not long after her death her husband killed himself by overdosing on cocaine and running on a treadmill. His heart exploded. His family refused to make the autopsy results public, to reveal whether he was positive or not.
Haza always had a public image of someone who was immaculate, virginal, pure. Unlike most successful female singers nowadays, she never exploited her sexuality. The public image of her husband was of this rough man who was involved in shady business operations abroad (and yeah, to look at him, he is certainly not someone I’d go to bed with, condom or no; that is not to say I haven't done that with equally scary people), someone who has kidnapped the virginal 40 year old singer into a dark world of contamination. This is pretty much the image of HIV/AIDS in Israel to this day. Something that happens because you meet the wrong people, get involved with the wrong things. Something which corrupts you, a manifestation of your corruption if you will. I don’t think this image changed any in the years since Haza’s death.

In Israel there is always a sense of “not now”. Of course there is no time, resources, capacity, to do something about HIV/AIDS. Do you really think a country fighting to survive (insert crisis of the week:) terrorism, war, economic collapse, immigration waves, corruption, violence, social chasms, environmental emergencies or just plain making it safely back from work on the asphalt jungle has time on its agenda for a few/a hundred/a thousand/four thousand/and counting citizens who chose to have unprotected sex? And cost the government so much? They should take their drugs (however harsh they might be, they should be grateful for anything they can get their hands on, even if it’s rat poison) and sit quietly until they die. No, they should work, because my tax money shouldn’t cover those who don’t cover their asses. But wait, I don’t want them working in my office/in my son’s school/as my hairdresser. No, the best thing is if they go away. I don’t want to read about them in the paper when I am having breakfast in the 10 minutes I have before running to the nearest traffic jam. I don’t want to think about anal gay sex when I’m relaxing with my paper. OK not just anal, anyway I don’t want to think about it. Whatever happens in women’s genitals is best left undiscussed. Yes I know some guys get it too, the ones who went to massage parlors in Thailand or visit the Russians here. Well they deserve it. They shouldn’t go there in the first place and they should cover it up if they do, I don’t have to pay for the results of their stupid actions. Let me just mind my business. And I don’t want my kids thinking about these things either. Sure I want them to use condoms when they have sex (when they are much older of course), just like I don’t want them to smoke and drink, but I don’t want me or my kids to pay for the sexual mistakes of others, and I although I don’t exactly wish them death and don’t mind that they get some treatments to make their life last longer, I don’t want to know anything about it. We understood that in the 80s you didn’t know but now is the 21st century and it’s your fault for getting into this situation, so don’t bother us with that anymore.
Yes, I think that pretty much sums up public opinion in Israel. That is the mainstream, moderate, educated, pretty liberal opinion, because there are a lot of people who would just let us die if they had control over the budget, and devote the money instead to breeding a special kind of red cow to be sacrificed in the third temple or something equally functional. I think in 2015 (or is it 2025) these folks will be the majority, Israel will be Back in Black.
So I’m not writing about my life today, OK? I am writing about other people, them who got the bug before me, them who even got it after me. They are blonde, dark, tall, short, thin, fat, middle age, young, fat, educated, windowed, sex-crazy, celibate, gay, hetero, bi, American, Norwegian, Mexican, Chinese, Israeli, Yemeni, Surinamese, Dutch, British, Canadian, Cameroonian, Zimbabwean, South African, rich, welfare dependent, former prostitute, maternal, active, pretty, ravaged - I could go on and on, but tried not to include only the characteristics of the people who I consider friends, who also have HIV. At one point in time HIV entered our organism and determined not just a life of drug dependency (if we’re lucky) and a further degree of social seclusion, it also determined that we would meet each other and care about each other. Just this little piece of DNA. So now I can sit at home and read about this topic, which has become the most important one for me, and I am still struggling with that because I know that there are so many other things to deal with in this life, and so many beautiful distractions. Is HIV on my own agenda? Not always, so I can’t really blame Mr Newspaper. He has a lot on his plate. Kids to get to school, taxes to pay, a demanding boss. Can I ask him for more than he had already give? Can I ask him to care? Do I have to compete with cancer patients, abused children, disenfranchised workers to get into his mind, can I stop being a Topic and start being a Person? Only if I make HIV a dinner topic I s'pose. Can I do that? Can I get over my fear of seclusion and work towards inclusion? Or do I only care about my positive peers now? Am I a 100% HIV because I live with it? Or can I be divided, and will this division turn into a pretence that will turn into a deeper form of shame?

I guess I will keep asking, and read what others have to say, and be a part of that:

International Carnival of Positivities 17 – big thank you to Ron Hudson who does this wonderful work of putting isolated HIV writers out there in all their diversity… and relate us to each other.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I think that sums up pretty well how I feel now. Too tired to work, socialize or even have sex(!). Never mind sex, to tired to breath properly, so I hyperventilate. I drag myself to work every day, not even showering regularly anymore, not cooking, going to the gym maybe once-twice a week. Something's gotta give cos I am not used to living that way. Maybe it has to do with being deprived of sleep or my stomach being almost constantly upset due to the new medication. yes, new meds. Just 2-3 months after making the switch from Stokrin (Sustiva) to Viramune due to the severe insomnia and near psychotic thoughts that the former induced, I had to switch to the more primitive Invirase+ Norvir, both protease inhibitors, because I was coming up detectable in my viral load tests consecutively. That itself was a huge struggle that took a few stressful weeks (OK, maybe I need to update my definition of a huge struggle). Apparently, Mr. Moody my nurse practitioner has failed to note the 1st time I was detectable in my file, and then, when the 2 other results were brought up in a staff meeting and my new doctor suggested switching me to avoid resistance, he said that I was not adhering properly to the meds. That's complete bollocks of course. Then I had to go and get a 2nd or 3rd opinion, I say I had to but it was really my dad who went through this, but even after that Mr nurse would still not let me get an appointment with the doctor. Finally I sent a desperate email to T. my social worker, pasting the 3rd opinion in there, but at the same time my dad (although I had forbidden him to) called the doctor, so I got to see him the next day. But he wrote me a wrong dose - 1000 mg instead of the standard 2000 per day. I don't know how I remembered it because I never look up doses and such, but somehow in the back of my mind I stored the knowledge that this wasn't appropriate, and looked it up. Well the doctor was duly embarrassed, especially since Dr. 3rd Opinion is a name that really impresses in this field. But all by complete coincidence, because I never even would have been seen by 3rd Op on my trip to London in August, unless the system here was so heel dragging that my neurologist appointment (for the PN) was scheduled 6 months in advance. If the Dutch health system wasn't blocked & if I hadn't met him (again dad's initiative which I was informed about later; that makes me sound like such a daddy's girl but this is the first time that he intervenes in years, emailing and making a Harley Street appointment for me), and if and if... I would've developed the resistance from hell by now. I still have to wait for the test results to prove it. I hope it won't be, I mean, there is nothing I would love right now than to get back on Viramune, with a much lesser risk of lipo and high cholesterol and gut issues... The doctor did say that I could get on a new PI, Presitza (or is it Prezista?) once I don't have plans to get pregnant. That's all it is now. Plans for the future, and pretty vague ones at that. Even though last week me & p sat at the aggressively assertive female gyn's office and were handed small syringes and cum containers, it didn't feel real. It felt like two kids pretending, and I have a feeling she wasn't fooled either. Sure, we have talked about it, or rather, I talked and he agreed to talk with me about it. But I somehow can't imagine this coming into fruition, and not just because of him. I am just so bloody exhausted all the time, if I had a child now I would just collapse, seriously. Not to mention fired - my job doesn't allot time for maternity leave (or any leave for that matter), and I may be granted an exceptional extension (which I badly need) based on my dramatically different disease, but they sure as hell won't be pleased to see me bring a child into this world. I suspect that's when the prejudice will really shine through. I mean, my boss is keeping away from me since he has found out I have a boyfriend. That's the thing I have found with a few so-called friends too, especially the ones who are so liberal HIV shouldn't even be an issue. But there is HIV, and there is having sex when you're HIV. I am not a mind reader, but I can certainly guess what they are thinking. How does he do it? How can he? Oh. My. God.
Well, the last thing that will stop me getting pregnant is my job, as uncertain as the future might be. I mean, at the end of the day this job won't even pay me a pension, or social security for that matter. It's not like I can expect lifelong employment there, although sure, it is a chance and a way in to something I am not sure I even want. But if something does stop me is this frigging exhaustion. I now I will drag my pasty, grainy, worn-out self to work...

Sunday, September 16, 2007


So just a few words before I rush off to the gym... I have been trying to fit in the virtual poz world, but it's not really working out. You can spend hours a day reading posts, keeping up with others' lives, learning their whims, but when you try to correspond with them, at least in my case, there is a serious breakdown in communication. I don't know if it because my English is not as good as it can be when I am interacting, or whether like in any group, in an online community there are only few people that can really get me, and I them. I do feel that I have a soft spot for pretty much everyone I meet online (with the exception of cheaters). I don't care what people do and did, I don't judge anyone because I know how close I have been to even the most extreme behaviors myself, and I also know or rather kind of sense what makes people move in these directions. More than anything, I know what I don't know, I don't know what it is like to be black and poor, or live in a trailer park, or live in America for that matter, I have but the vaguest idea what it is like to be gay and no idea what is it like to be gay and male (although I have learned some from watching Stuart and his friends on Channel 4's Queer as Folk, but TV will only get you that far), I certainly don't know what it's like to live in a 3rd world country with this disease, or be a refugee in Europe, or be a European... I don't know what it feels like to be married, or bear a child, or overcome heroin or crystal meth addiction (although I know something about addiction, including the fact that it never lets go completely).

I don't know, and if I can sum up a year or so if interacting with poz people online, this is the one thing I learned. I haven't a clue, and I have no call for judgement or opinion because I haven't a clue (but regardless of my "right" for it, my opinion just went out the window).

I learned that I was oblivious. B. used to call me inoccent, and I never beleived it, I thought it was foolish romaticizing, but now I know that it's true. I am still gossipy, mean and grumpy, and can still speak harshly and regret it, and what I learned was that we all are. But some are trying hard not to be, and these are the ones that will lash out if you're not careful. And I learned that compared to the intensity of virtual life, real life can be soothing. With all it's ups and downs, I prefer it. As if that wasn't obvious. And yet how many hours, weeks, months, have I hidden from the world behind the computer. Like any addictive substance it is hard to seperate its necessity from compulsion. Of course we need to eat, but not 24/7. Of course I need to use it for work and communication, but where is the line drawn between using it for benifit and using it for escape? I thought that I wouldn't be judged harshly online and by my peers, I thought the rules were different, and they are and they are not. So I am backing off, I am tired of fighting to join in and be accepted, and if it were the real world I would have done so a long time ago. I will still post practical questions and the like when they arise, and reply to any personal contacts I made, but I will not take it further than that. For one thing I must save my wrist for other activities, but even more so (and my wrist is in pretty bad shape) I have to shield myself.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Violently happy

I do take into account that the fact that I wake up and all I want to do is grab my work and delve into it, or slip into my jogging gear and out the door and into the exceedingly colder and wetter outdoors, or into P's bed (because we sleep separately most nights, that way I can toss and turn away my PN-like symptoms, and P can snore to his heart's content), could be just a pseudo-manic episode or a post-menstrual high. So instead of following up on any of these options I end up here, with oatmeal and Moroccan tea in front of the keyboard (the only time I don't eat in front of which is at dinner, when I trade the laptop screen with the TV's). I mean, I know I am happy, but there are still stings of fear and anger and restlessness. I can still wake up and think of a member on AIDSmeds who shunned me and blocked my PMs (and it wasn't as though I was bombarding him with them, I only wrote him once in response to his question I didn't feel comfortable answering on the forums, and then once again to ask what's up when instead of responding like I asked him to, he started a bit of online bullying). I also think how much I regret spewing and frothing over one very public HIV figure's glamorous appearance and demeanor. I still feel what I said and I still think that public people with this disease should be more down to earth and less aloof and glamorous. If Magic Johnson could tell the world his secrets to staying healthy and looking so great after all these years, that would be awesome. It sure as hell isn't Kaletra, which is is the spokesperson of, keeping him that way. Ditto for Regan. But I should not have been cruel with my words. Thing is I am angry and terrified sometimes and we all need all the help we can get, but there is such a disparity between the poz community and the poz celebrities, as much as there is one between the general community and the Hollywood community.

I forget though that poz celebrities are not "our" celebrities but the "faces of AIDS" to the entire community. And this also sends a twisted message across. If the only poz people that the public recognizes are rich, glam, and successful, then HIV/AIDS is completely solved, and why should any funds be dedicated to unluckier folks, who should have gotten their act together and climb to the top like the others. HIV hardly seems like a handicap or a serious problem anymore, let alone a chronic and still terminal disease. And most importantly, the disfiguring qualities of the meds and their toil on health and functionality are completely disregarded. And it also sends a message to young people, especially gays, that it ain't so bad.

I also think a lot about the people I meet, online and in real life, especially women, who are so screwed by this disease. It seems to combine with other factors like a poor socioeconomic status, former addictions and their social implication, and so many other problems to depress women down that much further. I am lucky that HIV - the tag not the disease - hasn't stopped me and slowed me down in any way, but I always remember that unlike these women who are secured on social benefits, as meagre as that won't be, I have no rights in any country. For that, I am increasingly angry with my employers taking advantage of the desperation of young academics. I am angry because this is the first time that it happened to me and it coincides with my losing my rights at home as a consequence of my residency being revoked and the fact that I haven't paid taxes in so long, and that this happens at the time in my life and age when I need this safety net more than ever.

So when I think about that I see a dreaded vision of the future in which I am older, uglier, sicker, poor and maybe even homeless, surviving on only the most basic of benefits, dragging my sick ass to hospitals, looking as sick or sicker than I actually am. It's a horrendous vision, and it encapsulates everything that I am afraid of. It is actually the vision that I had previously of me being over 60 or at the age when no one will hire me for work anymore (40?), except it has been speeded up into the foreseeable future, because that's what HIV does to you. It accelerates the aging process, whether science describes is that way or not, this is what happens, and it puts you in harm's way in the same way that being fastforwarded into your retirement without a pension would.

So given this mix of reality, fears and thoughts, can I be blamed for distrusting my own happiness, for sticking pins into my own hot air balloon when it rises more than a few feet of the ground? It's so hard to let go of these fears when every day I am confronted with them. I know that had I not been involved with other poz people I probably would do a better job at suppressing them and focusing on the now, but I feel that I need - should - be involved. Not because I delude myself that I can help others that well, but because this is part of my identity now and I can't ignore it. If I did it will backfire sooner or later. But then again ignorance is bliss. I wish I could just let this drop and just be me without the diagnosis, but with all the good things it had already brought me like my relationship, my better interactions with the environment, my appreciation of the now, my increased emotionality and receptiveness. But unfortunately these come embedded in a great big thorn bush of fear, so that whenever I reach for one of them I come away wounded, and the longer I manage to hold on to them, the more I bleed fear afterwards. So that's what I'm doing here. And I am still violently happy.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Just be

This year has been a difficult one for writing. I don't mean 2007, I mean the 2nd year of diagnosis. I moved into something else, and it's something I am particulalrly fond of. Unchartered terittory. What I meant to write in the previous post was so different from what actually appeared on the screen. I wanted to write about how all my feelings and way of living are different now than what I could possibly imagine, but what came out was a rant, a distraction. That's because life keeps distracting me. Real or virtual events interfere with what goes on when everything is quiet, late at night, my real existence.

I can't really explain it. I think it has something to do with being loved for the first time.

Not that my parents didn't love me, they loved me with all their heart, and then some. But they didn't know what to do with me, and I didn't know what to do with myself. That's why I kept getting into so much trouble, trouble that I created. I don't want to delve into these deep dark days and I rarely pause to think about them, but I know that I create struggles and hassles in a life which is nothing but hassle free, simply because I can't sit and absorb for a second the simple fact that I am just happy. Yes, asides from the constant noise of things that need to be done, which I don't quite know how to do, and then cacophony of anxieties and sorrows, I am just happy. Happy to come home to a messy house that can never be made to look tidy or clean, happy to see my less than perfect body and face in the mirror, happy to F up at work and be lazy, happy to be screwed by my bosses, because all of those things don't seem to touch me. Until they do, like yesterday, when that stupid buffed up guy at the gym kept insisting that my face has change and it is in fact much thinner than it used to be some months ago. That ruined everything for me. Or did it? I knew I was making some kind of choice by getting upset over that, and it was like, let's dive right in. A good excuse to buy a pack of smokes, a good excuse to let out the pain on the forums and get support, a good excuse to freak out. And I am freaking out, this should not be happening, not according to what the doctors say, but I do know enough now about HIV to know that even the biggest experts don't know that much as they appear to. And yet this doesn't change the simple basic fact that I am happy, happy to just sit on the couch and look outside at the joggers and the cyclists and smoke a cigarette with that pang of guilt that is getting weaker (because I am getting my fix of excercise still), happy to open a book and read it slowly, happy to let time toil by like an idle teenager, as though I had nothing but time. The panicky voices inside me know that it is quite the opposite, but the calm, sleepy alternative remains. So what if I don't know what P's gonna do, and he doesn't know either, and it's not that the deadline is approaching, the deadline's passed already? So what if I have no rights in this country if something goes wrong? So what if each menustration drains a little of my fertility away? So what if my friends at home ignored and avoided me the last time I was there, and my only contacts are with the people who surround me physically now? So what if my bosses shamlessly stole my ideas and capitalized on them?

Really, so what....? All we have is the moment.

I guess this is what happiness is... a freedom, a breakaway, from all the things you thought you must a should be, beautiful, smart, succesful, secure, protected.

I have everything that I need right now. Because of P. It did change my life, falling in love like this, and there is no other way to look at it. It makes everything more lucid, and everytime I turn back and fall on some familiar or urgent grudge or agony, it is because the air is so fresh that I have to pollute a little to be able to breathe it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Unchartered territory

You wake up one day into what is to become the nightmare version of your life, the inconceivable. This is the day that you will be branded a low-grade biohazard, although it will be done gently and considerably. Technically, nothing should change. In practice, everything does. You are stripped of your identity and must face the world in your new one. Like a prostitute in a shop window, you are naked, except maybe for a thin layer of liquid silicone to make your skin appear mannequin smooth. It is not even dry yet, and you are sent to stand on the street against the elements: the wind, the rain, the passers by. You are at the mercy of all of them, and you will remain so for the rest of your life.

Because a HIV status turns things around. Whatever you have been, you are now less of that thing. And less here is more. The additional stigma will weigh heavily from anything you've done, diminishing from it. You are no longer a young single mother, you are a young single HIV+ mother. You are no longer a recovering addict, you are a HIV+ former junkie. You are no longer a foreigner, with all the implications and unspoken accusations that accompany being one no matter which country you emigrated to, you are a HIV+ foreigner. You are no longer unemployed, you are HIV+ and unemployed. And goes with our saying, you are no longer a homosexual, but a HIV+ homosexual. And so forth...

And the only thing you can do is bear the burden in some shape or form. You can ignore it, but ignoring HIV always appears to lead to at least one of two things: self destruction in one form or another (drugs, pills, alcohol) and self denial which often leads to infecting others. Even when you don't infect your partner, you are living a lie, and every fiber of your being screams that constantly.
So some people go into denial. If not denial, into semi-denial and seclusion. They don't pretend not to have it, they just withdraw. They stay home, they eat alone, they avoid friends and family, the slip down into the dank well of depression. And I know because I have been there. Walking from room to room in my parents house. Slipping out for cigarettes and ducking whenever a neighbour passed by for fear of being spotted and chatted to. And to a certain extent I still do that whenever I go home. My last visit, which was a spontaneous week in June decided on just days before, I went to my first family thing voluntarily. There are many members of my family I haven't seen for years, cousins and the like, I am sure they have forgotten all about me. And why shouldn't they? They've gotten married, had children, got into the daily grind, established their adult identity, while I was clinging to shreds of my youthful one, and when the diagnosis came they turned to dust in my hands. I couldn't be the lighthearted persona I always pretended to be (though nothing could be further from the truth). I have wasted my entire life creating a self image. I have wasted it in front of mirrors, and now I couldn't even look at a mirror. I felt a surge of dread and utter panic whenever I even glanced at myself. There was no escape from me. There was no going back, no undoing. I was in my 30s, sucked into the whirlpool of adult education (for those who can't teach, and those who can't even teach, learn, and those who can't even learn properly, learn something completely impractical), without any economic stability or social rights where I was living, without a future or any type of assimilation or affiliation with that country, with a long and winding history of making wrong decisions, of running away, of embarrassing my hard working, long suffering parents, with many a dark secret tucked away in the torture cellar of my teens, on which I managed to built some sort of unplanned shack. Other people had buildings, because they had the foundations. I had the traitorous soil above that hollow of horrors, and I did what I could, and it was ramshackle but it was my own, and now I could see it for what it was, a frail, crooked assembly of bits and pieces, barely standing, but adorned with a huge flickering neon sign like a jungle path brothel, screaming AIDS.

There are so many ways to tell this story, and using metaphors is just one of them. But the truth is, i didn't even have that, I didn't have the words, they only came later. I just had the overwhelming panic. Sitting on a dark, packed, humming jumbo, knowing that I am the only one, knowing that I am the outcast. Coming out into the bustling world of travel and leisure, of business and family, but I have already written about that. There was just a big nothing. And there was nothing I could do but fall head first into that nothing. And when I try to look ahead now, the only thing I see is fog. I do see shapes in it though, but I have no idea how concrete they are. And I don't even dare to hope for them, but who am I kidding, I totally do. I want to finish this demeaning adjective. project and I want to move to Spain and I want to hide my tattoos and I want to get married and be a mom, and of course I want that with P. And then I want to teach English at a university to bright, outgoing students that I will really like and work hard for. And then I definitely want to write my book, so I wouldn't have to keep living off the odd jobs anymore. But I am not naive enough to trust that dreams lead to reality. I am still scared, and when I see other poz women, they just never seem to reach a peace of mind either. There is so much instability ingrained in this status, that I can see how people lose everything and become dependent on the state, or even homeless, when they are diagnosed. It is the stone that tips the scales and you fall off them with it strapped unto your body. If you were doing alright, you might still keep your head above, but you will have to struggle much harder with the currents. If you were already doing poorly, you probably just drown. Either way you are on your own. There are other HIV+ you can communicate with to see how they are doing, but you cannot generalize from them to you. You can find solace in others, but you go alone into the great unknown, at the whim of politicians and policy makers even more than most of that, at the mercy of fickle, relentless public opinion, positive for thorn in their side, positive for burden on their budget, positive for unwelcome conversation topics, positive for their unspoken deepest fears.

And that's where you are, unchartered territory. No one has walked here before you, although there are some trails around you but they are few between and faded. You walk and you walk, you make your life journey, despite all this. You see others making theirs. And some may not even have your status, but they are struggling their as well. And there is nothing more I can write about this, because I don't know what is around the bend, I can't guess. I can'only duck my head down and keep walking. And that means in very practical terms, get up, make myself reasonably pretty, go to work, do stuff, go home or to the gym, try to take care of my boyfriends, call my parents, and live almost as though HIV was not part of my life. That's what I can do for now. I have mixed feelings about the "poz pro" thing. I think there is a lot of genuine hrd work, and I think there is a great degree of manipulation and politics in this too, the poz and proud thing, the glam alternative. And there is corruption. At least here in the Netherlands there is a huge amount of it and it doesn't just amount to bad taste. It is on a criminal level. But I suppose for all these people, and for people in general, these are all ways of survival. I don't forgive them, but I know we are all holding on, some more desperately - and ruthlessly - than others. Some at the expense of other poz people, because they just don't care anymore. Because they can. Because they need to. Because we are fine on just getting barely by and on human companionship, and they are only fine with HIV if it includes trips abroad, five start resorts, cocktail parties, poz cruises, bareback orgies, huge houses, high salaries and even Botox treatments, all paid for at public expense from the government sponsored AIDS fonds, all paid for at our expense from money donated to women, to children, even to Africa. They have developed into a machine of greed and corruption, their "poz power" consists of levels of peer pressure to keep this momentum going, even as they are under scrutiny for the purposeful sex crimes and mass infection performed by 3 men, one of which is one of their active members. They can't break out of it anymore, and so I don't envy them. I'd rather make my own painstaking path.

Dedicated to my friends from Amsterdam.