“ I am still not sure how I did it, given how damaged I was, or why I still get these quiet gifts of healing like I am having today, when I open a cookbook and remember to live."
I reach to the corner of the kitchen counter and select a cookbook called “Clean Slate,” and, although it moved 3,000 miles with me, I have never opened it. I find a recipe for cauliflower soup and I begin to assemble the ingredients. This is the first time in years that I have followed a recipe, or have had the desire to. Om was a vegetarian cook and after he left, I ate whatever I could easily order in, heat up, or tear open. I chop the cauliflower. Exactly twenty years ago today, I was diagnosed as HIV positive. In the moments after I left the clinic office, walking stunned around Central Park, I wondered who I would become. A year later, I remember thinking “I can do this,” gagging on a handful of 12 pills a day. For a long time after that, situations I once took for failure became moments that, with some tears and determination, became less and less impossible to jump over. Eighteen months ago, after a dark period of time when my heart was shattered, then almost stopped, then was left to die, I lifted Luke into my truck and we drove from Brooklyn to Portland to try again. I am still not sure how I did it, given how damaged I was, or why I still get these quiet gifts of healing like I am having today, when I open a cookbook and remember to live. Now I sit here, soup cooking, holding Luke, and I am twenty years older than when I heard the anxious compassion of that doctor tell me my life would never be the same. Of course it would not be the same. It is not supposed to be. That virus has taught me I can get back up, again and again. It shows me I can have blind faith in the future. It reminds me to tell the truth. To not be afraid. That the spirit that I have grown through it all is my most precious and valuable weapon. Everything that went into it has made it mine. And no virus, no person, no mistake, can ever, ever take it from me.