Let’s Talk HIV: Sharing My Insights on Living With HIV
I have always struggled with the written word, and am drawn to it at the same time. My thoughts tend to come out more akin to abstract paintings. I can see this in my childhood essays and poetry. When I was in college I had to take a remedial English class and struggled horribly with all written assignments. It did not help that back then they did not have computers, just typewriters. I was a disaster at typing.
It was a relief to graduate. I thought I would never have to write anything again. I had planned to become a doctor at my most ambitious or a physical therapist if I could not pull it off since I was completely supporting myself in NYC at the time. In that last year of college I found out I was HIV-positive and life changed forever.
In 1991 you died from AIDS related illnesses and it made no sense to waste what little time I supposedly had left in school. But I really did not know what to do so I ran -- literally I ran, sometimes 12 miles a day. I also taught step classes and worked as a personal trainer. Everyday was a marathon of exercise, as if I could work off this diagnosis -- or least not have to think about it. But you cannot run forever.
One day I was in my apartment on 4th St. between Avenue C and D and a friend stopped by. She had bought her cousin with her who was a psychic. I had gone to palm and tarot readers seeking answers after my diagnosis but soon saw it all as guidance. All I had to do was listen to myself talk aloud to anyone, whether it was a shrink or a gypsy selling me my future for a dollar a minute. When I laid the demons out on the table, the answers always became apparent.
So I was not too interested in her profession and I was hoping to end the visit in enough time to do a quick six miles down on the East River. We were in the kitchen when the woman suddenly put her hand up and said, there is someone here. I did all I could to not roll my eyeballs. She said this person has a message for you. "Oh geez." not said out loud to be polite. Then she said, "He says give a smooch to the pooch."
It was all I could do to not gasp. That was what my former husband, Donald Ray Huston, used to say. She proceeded to tell me, "He wants you to stop running and start writing." I was in shock and still stuck with the thought of, "How can she know about the pooch?" I asked her to tell him, I loved him. Then she said, "He’s gone."
I didn’t know what to make of this. For this cynic it went against all my beliefs about God, afterlife, ghosts, and spirits, whatever. Whether it was my mind or some far-off realm, from that day on, I felt Donald Ray with me. He always seemed to be perched on the windowsill, urging me to write.
I felt him say it was a this gift and no matter how tired I was, when I felt an idea, poem, song, or story pop up, get up and write it. I have kept that promise and a lot of my work has and still comes to me at 3 a.m. I have boxes and boxes of notebooks with middle-of-the-night ideas, fragments of poems, and whole stories scribbled in pencil, pen, and sometimes crayon.
All of the books, columns, articles, and blogs I have written over the last two decades are a result of requests from editors and publishers. There was no doubt that I am supposed to be a writer. I say all this to conclude this eight-week project of blogging. It has been a challenge. My hand goes to all you bloggers out there.
For many people it’s current and contemporary issues you write about, but for me all I have is my life and my stories. Occasionally something pisses me off like censorship but in general I write about my journey, which has been informed so much by being diagnosed HIV-positive at such an early age.
I hope these missives have given you some insight into what it is like to be making peace with yourself while living with maligned and horridly unacceptable illness. It has been an honor and pleasure to share with you all and I wish you the best in the coming year.
River Huston is an award winning writer, performer, lecturer, painter, and activist. She speaks on issues related to sexuality, communication, and overcoming challenges. River currently lives in The US Virgin Islands running a non-profit art alliance called sevenminusseven. For more info visit www.riverhuston.com
This article is part of our "Let’s Talk HIV" series. Want to read more?
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