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Living With AIDS
My mother used to tell me, “Melodie, your eyes are like the depths of the deepest and bluest ocean.” As a little girl, hearing this phrase often made me giggle, as I imagined myself swimming in my own eyes. I understood the fact that my eyes were very blue—bluer than that of my own mother, and younger sister, Harmony.
Harmony always possessed a hidden jealousy of my mesmerizing ocean-blue eyes. Always looking in the mirror at her own eyes and promised herself that when she was old enough, she would get contacts that matched my eye color. I never quite understood why Harmony envied my eyes so much, probably because she knew I didn’t really flaunt it, like she would. To me, eyes were eyes…at that time.
As I stare out of my hospital window, I slowly look down at my fingernails which I had painted a shimmering blue the night before. It was the only blue my mother saw on me in her relentless visits to the hospital I was in. The hospital was specialized in treating their patients for HIV/AIDS. Yes, I have AIDS and quite frankly I believe that the tears I cried, on the weeks after finding that out, was the actual blueness and depths of my eyes gradually being washed away into a state of dryness. It’s nice to remember how it was before I ended up in this place called “hospital”, how it was when Harmony still looked up to me as her hero, how it was when my mom still trusted me, how it was before I contracted the HIV/AIDS virus.
Let me backtrack all the way to Thursday, September 21st; 5 months ago—not to mention my 17th Birthday. I arrived at my High School in my brand-new outfit and was greeted with various “Happy Birthdays” as well as whistles and hoots from the nearby jocks and other guys. I guess you can say I was the hottest girl in school or possibly, just in 11th grade, but I never allowed myself to think either of that—for fear that I would be labeled as a conceited and self-centered person, which I certainly was not. I knew many female students that wanted to look like me or, oddly, actually be me, including Harmony who in fact did have some of my facial features, but was too absorbed in me to see it in herself.
My eyes were not the only thing that attracted so much attention…so did my luscious lips all the way past my curvy hips, down to my long legs, which allowed me to possess a model type walk—very strong and fierce. My hair was a long, golden-brown body of hair that fell past my shoulders, only on special occasions. Other than that, I would wear my hair in a messy bun or a ponytail. This was yet another reason why Harmony would shake her head in disbelief. She would complain: “Your hair is too beautiful to be in that stupid ponytail all the time! Why don’t you just let it out?!” Again, not realizing that her hair was as pretty as mine. I am positive that she appreciates every single strand of it now…
Although I was pretty, I was not exactly one of the popular ones at my school—which I was grateful for. I seriously did not want all the attention, not to mention all the crazy expectations from the student body. Besides, with that status, I may not have had Kristal and Shawn as my best friends. Recalling how we first met forms a smile across my pale face. It was freshman year for all three of us and I remember running through the halls in a panic. It had seemed like I was in a maze, and I was officially lost in that gigantic school.
I remember how I made a right turn around a corner and bumped full-speed into Shawn. My books flew out of my hands and he quickly bent down to retrieve them with apologies spilling out his mouth. “No, no, I said calmly. “I’m the one who ran into you. I’m kind of lost.” I stuck out my hand to introduce myself, but instead fell on top of him because another lost puppy, named Kristal turned the corner blindly and accidentally pushed me down. After a moment of shock and apologies, Shawn burst out in laughter at the irony, and eventually Kristal and I joined in. It was from that moment on that the three of us were inseparable. It’s funny, but I strongly believe that they think HIV/AIDS is contagious, because they keep making excuses for why they cannot come to visit me.
I gently ease myself onto the hospital bed and lay down, staring up at the ceiling as I fast forward through the day of my 17th birthday and slowly pause at the fateful moment when I met him. Saying his name or even thinking of his name makes me sick to my stomach now; so I will just run through the flirtatious introduction, the supposed relationship-of-my-dreams, and the ill-fated conclusion.
He called out to me, as I walked passed him in a graceful manner. “Hey there, Beautiful!” I looked at him and smiled. “My name isn’t Beautiful,” I responded at his weak attempt to get my attention, as well as a tactic so many other guys have tried on me already. I continued walking, but realized that he was following me. “So what is your name?” He asked in wonder. “Because I won’t be surprised if your name really is ‘Beautiful’. I continued walking and to my amazement, he trailed close behind me. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m being rude. My name is Jason.” I stopped and stood there with my ocean-eyes staring into his hazel eyes. Now here was something no cute guy at my school had done: Actually admitting that they were coming off as impolite.
I introduced myself as Melodie and now I regret introducing myself at all. Why didn’t I keep walking and give him my cold shoulder which most guys had seen already? Why did in a matter of weeks I ended up falling into his adorable face, charming smile and role of a gentlemen and not a player—and in conclusion accepted his proposal of being my boyfriend? Kristal and Shawn were happy for me of course; and so was my sister. She always wondered why I never had a boyfriend. I assume it was because she knew I could, with my beauty and all. I didn’t want a boyfriend that thought of me as another ‘easy target’. With having had only two boyfriends in the past, the new guys who entered my life would not get to me so easily; however, Jason sure did—and I wish he hadn’t.
I turn over in my bed as a tear slowly runs from my dull-blue eye onto the white pillow-case. It was early December, and it was around 9 p.m. I had told my mom that I was sleeping over at Kristal’s house, just so that I would not have to worry about her nagging me about my date with Jason. He said that I should come by his house, because his parents were out of town. Like an idiot, I said “yes” and we arrived at his house and had a make out session. That session started in the living room and continued in his room—it was there where he asked me the question that would change my whole life.
I was alarmed at first, but after he repeated that he loved me and felt like we should be closer, I agreed…like a total fool. I was about to ask him about protection, but he started to kiss me and before I knew it, …it was done. It was my second time; however my first experience was with a condom. I shake my head now, at the realization that all I could have said was “NO”.
February 15. I never knew that such a date could stay embedded in my mind, as well as every detail from what happened on that day. Exactly one day since my break-up with Jason. He had dumped me on Valentine’s Day—how wonderful. I was in my room moping around, when my cell phone rang. I held it to my ear and heard sobbing on the other end of the line. “Jason?” I inquired. “Is that you?” I had never heard him cry before, and although it was his number I wanted to be sure.
“I’m sorry, Mel,” Jason said weakly. “I’m so sorry.” I sighed. “Jason, what’s done is done. We’re not getting back together. I—” “I-I had to break up with you,” he blurted out. “I didn’t want to cause anymore problems.” I rolled my eyes. “What problems? What are you talking about?” His voice became shakier and sounded nervous. “Um…remember that day you went to my house, and we—” “Yes,” I responded, trying to erase the mental picture. “We didn’t use protection, Jason, I remember. It’s not like I’m pregnant or anything.” “It’s not like that, baby,” He said. “I…I have AIDS.” I believe I dropped my phone at that very moment and that frightening thought would not leave my mind: Oh my god, I’m going to die!
That day, I vowed to myself that I, alone, would figure out what to do about this horrible situation I had gotten myself into. At dinner, I hardly ate any of the pasta my mom worked hard to make. “Why aren’t you eating?” Harmony asked me, with her mouth full. “You love this stuff.” I made no effort to respond to her; for fear that, I would lose control and break down. However, as soon as my mom asked me what was wrong, I started to bawl uncontrollably in front of them.
The next day, my mother and I drove to a health center for me to take an HIV test. I was more nervous about taking the test than I was telling my mother the day before, that I may have the virus. She was in shock and then almost immediately started to cry, embracing me in a tight and warm hug that reassured me that everything would be O.K. My sister was still very confused at my sudden outburst of tears, and was left at the dinner table with our pet cat, that also sensed some disorder.
At the center, I was taken to a room where I sat in a chair and awaited the nurse who would draw my blood. When the nurse arrived, I rolled up my sleeve and shut my eyes as she did her duty. When she was done, she looked at my mother and me. “The results will take a while, but you can come back tomor—” “We’ll wait,” I blurted out, staring at the white tiles on the floor. “I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I don’t know today.” The nurse nodded understandingly and left the room.
My mom held my hand that signified that the results would come back negative…that I would not have the HIV/AIDS virus…that everything would be just fine…but of course, everything was not fine. About an hour later, the nurse opened the door ever so slowly and desolately glared at my mother and me with a yellow folder in her hand. She handed my mother the folder and we opened it together. Yes, I was HIV/AIDS positive and it appeared to be full blown, given that I had waited months for it to be detected.
I can’t remember what occurred after that. Besides the tears and the nurse’s, little rehearsed, speech on the virus nothing made sense anymore. All that ran through my mind was what was happening to my body. I made visits to the hospital, but there was a point where I was just too weak to stand on my own. Therefore, that is why I am here in this hospital today, staring out the window with vacant eyes feeling sorry for myself.
I close my eyes, just as I hear my mom walk in with my sister. I did not want my sister seeing me like this—without my radiant long hair, now a tangled mess of dull brown, without my exultant smile, now a frown which expressed my depressed state, and finally without my envied ocean-blue eyes, that was currently a monotonous and empty blue that read no emotion. Why should I allow Harmony to see me like this? I used to be her hero, someone she looked up to—now what am I? I feel her gentle hand on my stiff shoulder. Go away! I think. You don’t deserve to have me as a sister!
She kisses my cold cheek and I turn my face away from her, for fear that, she would see a tear fall from my eye. “I know you are awake, Melodie,” She said calmly. “How are you feeling?” I opened my eyes and noticed my mother sitting on the chair staring at me, as if I was somehow a stranger, but at the same time trying to keep in mind that I was her daughter; her first child. I turned to face my sister and was taken aback at how beautiful she was. “You’re so pretty,” Was all I could say. “And never forget that.”
My sister held me in a warm hug. “You don’t deserve me as a sister,” I said feebly. “Big sisters don’t get AIDS.” She let go of me and stared into my vacant eyes with tears streaming down her face.
“I will always love you,” Harmony said strongly. “Yea, what you did was—” “Stupid?” I filled in. She nodded. “Yes, it was; but what happened to you is something you didn’t expect. You are the strongest and most beautiful person I know and the fact that you reached this far shows that you have been getting through this.
I gave my sister a hug and my mother got up and joined in, giving me kisses all over my face. I am thankful for the love that surrounds me. “You are a winner,” Harmony said. “You used to tell me that, when I was little; so now you say it. I smiled and responded strongly: “I am a winner.”