The man stared across the desk in disbelief.
"Are you sure? Is there any chance the test is wrong?" he asked in desperation.
"There is a chance that it is a false positive," the doctor conceded, "but it's not likely. We'll perform another round of tests, but you should proceed as if it is true. To do anything else is unconscionable."
As the doctor returned a look of compassion, the man dropped his eyes to the piece of paper in front of him.
The paper that declared the end of life as he knew it.
HIV antibodies: Positive.
"My life is over," he sighed in despair.
"Modern treatment means you may not develop AIDS for years. You can still live a full and productive life, despite this," the doctor interjected quickly, alarmed at the reaction of the ashen-faced individual sitting in front of him.
"You don't understand. My life is over. This means the end of everything," the man declared, disbelief warring with despair.
The doctor started scribbling furiously on the prescription pad.
"Now, don't do anything rash. Take your time and think things over carefully. If you take care of yourself, you'll have years. Don't throw that away!"
Ripping off the top sheet from the pad, he extended it over the desk.
"I've written you a prescription to help you over this initial period. The drugs will help calm you down. This is not as bad as it seems," he said firmly, maintaining a professional but compassionate expression. "I have also given you the names of a couple of counsellors who specialise in helping men in your position. Please contact them and arrange for an appointment as soon as you can. I assure you that you'll find things are not as bad as you may think."
The man accepted the piece of paper automatically. The doctor's statements were not sinking in as he knew the doctor couldn't comprehend the magnitude of what those simple words really meant.
With barely any courtesy, the man rose to his feet and headed out the door. His body was operating on automatic as his mind ran around in ever-decreasing circles, going through the consequences.
It had been a senseless act, but one he'd gotten away with before. He knew he should have used condoms, but in the heat of the moment, he hadn't. He liked the feel without them, and so he never insisted.
Anonymous gay sex: the only sort he ever had; the only sort he ever wanted. He knew the places where he could get it, and visited them whenever he got the chance.
He couldn't do it anymore, at least without a condom. Condemning someone else to this fate was not something he could do as the doctor said, it would be unconscionable. Even with a condom, he wondered if he could ever go through with it again.
Sitting in the bus on the way home, he thought about what he was going to do, what he was going to say. The comfortable life he'd been living was about to end, but to try to pretend that this wasn't happening wasn't going to be fair on anyone.
Was there an easy way to do it? If there was, he couldn't think of it. His mind was racing at a million miles an hour, but there was no solution he could find that would allow him to survive this unscathed.
Still clueless on how to do it, he got off the bus and slowly walked the short distance to his house. Each step was made as if his legs were covered in lead. Forcing his way against an imaginary tornado, he struggled to his front door.
Long seconds elapsed as he held his key up to the door, motionless. With a final sigh, and a grunt of determination, he thrust the key into the lock in front of him. A bitter smile crossed his face as he contemplated the possibility that was the last bit of thrusting he might ever do.
"Daddy!" squealed the little five year old girl, as she saw her father appear in the doorway.
Dropping to his knees, he held out his arms and embraced his little girl. Squeezing tight, he wondered if he'd ever be able to do this again.
Reluctantly, he let her go and rose to his feet to meet the quizzical look of his wife.
"You're home early," she remarked.
He nodded. Now was the time to end his life.
"Honey, I have some bad news. I think you should sit down."
Waiting for her to drop into the nearby couch, he watched her concerned face. He loved this woman, and he was about to rip her heart to shreds.
"The first thing I have to tell you is I'm gay…"
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Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.