• Mathura Hawley

silence

Updated: Aug 2, 2021


“Um, it is never easy to have this conversation with anyone, and I am hoping you are not alone in your life right now. You are HIV positive.” "

I was looking forward to going to my friend Josh’s wedding over Memorial Day, 1999. It had been a tough year for me, my new gay life confusing and overpowering my senses. My self-image was low, and although now openly able to express and explore my sexuality, I found it difficult. My inability to relate to men became apparent and paralyzing. I had no practice, no idea of how to talk to anyone male, and missed the intuitive compassion of my girlfriends. I struggled awkwardly with one guy, then another, hoping for acceptance, years of rejection and humiliation from the men of my own family crushing my spirit over and over. Whatever a man wanted, I did. Whatever he wanted me to be, I became. For the first year, I wandered through the darkness of my new freedom, seldom feeling the slightest bit of joy. On that Friday before Memorial Day, my boss, Sandy, came to the doorway of my office, leaning in her beautiful way, one shoulder on the wall, her other hand casually on her hip. “I just wanted to say goodbye before you left for the weekend,” she told me, then smiled. “Thank you, Sandy,” I said, wanting to run into her arms and hug her. I couldn’t mention where I was about to go, to the clinic around the corner on Central Park South. Ninety minutes later, as I sat quietly on a cold chair in a lime green examination room, a young doctor knocked on the door, came in and pulled up a seat next to me. He desperately tried to keep eye contact despite the guilt that was spread across his face. I felt sorry for him. “Um, it is never easy to have this conversation with anyone, and I am hoping you are not alone in your life right now. You are HIV positive.” I walked out, making my way across Central park, past couples laughing together, under birds singing in trees bursting with blooms, but I was unable to hear any sounds, my world in total silence. I watched kids playing, and thought of the children of my own I would never have. I remembered Sandy, glad she had been the last person to smile at the old me. I wondered who I had become, just minutes ago. If anyone would want to touch me now. If I would someday stop asking “Why?” And knowing that I would carry this with me for the rest of my life, if I would feel a single moment of peace, ever again.


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