By EMILY HEIST MOSS
An email arrives from an old friend with the name of your ex-boyfriend in the subject line. In the body of the email, just this: “I’m totally shocked. When was the last time you talked to him?”
You sigh, what now? Is he getting married? Having a baby? You head to Facebook, the one-stop shop for dirt on old flames. No wedding announcement, no ultrasound. Instead, there’s a video. Same crooked grin, same floppy hair, and this:
“This is a clip of me taking my first dose of Atripla, which is a combination antiretroviral drug. My name is Jake Earl, and on May 13, 2013 I was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).”
There’s chaos in your brain for 30 seconds before you’re able to make some sense of what you’re seeing. Order descends and you start a convoluted march through a series of reactions: Self-preservation. Nostalgia. Anger. Fear. Curiosity. Admiration?
Self-preservation: How long has it been? That’s the first thing you inevitably wonder when you see the words HIV next to the face of someone you’ve slept with. Am I safe? It suddenly feels like yesterday that you woke up in his twin bed in an apartment with pizza boxes on the floor and philosophy books stacked on every surface. But it wasn’t yesterday, it was five years ago. It was many partners ago. It was many clean STD tests ago. You’re fine, breathe easy.
Nostalgia: You read his Facebook post 10 more times. Then you read all of the comments. You look at familiar and forgotten names that have liked it. You wonder who he is close to these days. You wonder who he confides in. You drift into a daydream about a particularly blissful week in the spring of 2008. When you follow the train of thought, you remember that it ended in a fiery crash and middle-of-the-night tears on your roommate’s shoulder.