Chapter Eleven - The Test
by Jeff Wilson
"Why don't you hand me that wrench?" Mr. Smith asked. Dustin quickly grabbed the tool and handed it to his father under the car. "No, you fucking idiot! Not that wrench! THAT Wrench!!!" He bellowed from under the car. "How did you get so goddamn stupid?" "Sorry." Dustin replied. He quickly found the right tool and handed it under the car. Then, when he stood up, he calmly kicked the jack out from under the car. "Aaaaaahhhhh!!!!" His dad screamed from under the weight of the vehicle. "Gee, that was pretty stupid of me, wasn't it?" Dustin shouted. "How do you like those apples?" It was then that Dustin awoke with a start. He blinked a few times, trying to gain his bearings for the morning. More and more he had been murdering his father in various ways in his dreams. He'd shot him a few times. He'd dropped an anvil on him. He'd now crushed him under a car. And while he knew it was bad, he enjoyed the dreams sometimes. He found himself tangled up in his blankets and struggled to free his body from the results of his tossing and turning through the night. He was a restless sleeper. It was hard enough to get to sleep to begin with. But then once he was asleep, his mind still wouldn't shut up. He kicked his feet out of bed and sat up. He had yet another headache. He had been getting them ever since he stopped taking those drugs. He wasn't going to give in, though. He wasn't going to go back to the way he used to feel. They weren't going to control him anymore. He walked to his bathroom and looked in the mirror. He slipped out of the boxers he'd worn to bed and stood naked. The dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep were worse that day than usual. His hair was a tangled red mess. He yawned and watched his muscles stretch across his thin body. He had been much more filled out when he was younger. Now, he was a little too tight in the muscle department. He wanted to put on more weight to fill out a bit more. He was about to start shaving when a knock came at his door. He walked to the door and peeked outside. What was Brett doing there? He opened the door. Brett blinked a few times when he saw Dustin standing there stark naked as the day he was born. "I guess you aren't ready yet." Brett said, having a quick glance down before looking back up to Dustin's face. "Ready for what?" Dustin asked. "Your test." Brett replied. "My what? Oh... Yeah... Right... Did you want to do that today?" "I have to get out of that house. Billy's mom is taking care of all that stuff. I told you I'd take you today, didn't I?" "Yeah... Yeah... I'll go get ready." Dustin said. Brett watched Dustin's exposed behind as he walked back to his room. He smiled for the first time in a long time and sat down on the couch while Dustin went back to his room to get ready. Brett looked around at the apartment and felt a little embarrassed for Dustin that he lived in such a dump. He heard the shower kick on and heard Dustin yelp because the water was either too hot or cold. Brett took the chance to walk around a bit. He looked out the window and saw some kids playing around outside. He walked into the kitchen area and poked around a bit. Dustin re-emerged from his room wearing a pair of jeans and a pullover with a hood on it. Brett couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Dustin unshaven. The short dark auburn stubble gave him a different rugged look that Brett actually found a little attractive. "You ready?" Brett asked. "Yeah, let's get this over with." Dustin replied. When Dustin and Brett walked out of the apartment, Dustin wasn't surprised that Mr. Johnston was sitting outside in the hallway. "No I didn't fuck him." Dustin said. "What?" Brett asked, thinking that Dustin was talking to him. "Oh, I know." Mr. Johnston replied. "Going out?" "This is the boyfriend of the other guy that was here. We're going to pick him up and have a three-way." "Hey, he's not my boyfriend." Brett corrected. "Oh right. He told me about the two times a day thing." Brett blushed. "Alright, alright... Let's go." The two of them walked outside and sat in Brett's car. For a while they quiet as Brett drove. Dustin was always a little awkward around Brett. He never really knew where he stood with him. "I'm sorry about your mom." Dustin finally said. "I know." Brett replied. For a long time after that, there was that awkward silence again. "I appreciate you taking me to get this done." "Well if you would take care of yourself I wouldn't have to." Brett replied. "I know." Dustin replied. "How long is this going to take?" Dustin asked. "Haven't you ever had an AIDS test before?" Brett asked. "Well actually..." Dustin started. Brett sighed heavily. "Good grief, Dustin... Okay, the test won't take long at all. The nurse will ask you a bunch of questions about your sex life. Okay, so it might take a little longer for you. Anyway, they'll take your blood and then you wait for about three days or so. It's pretty easy." "So you've done this before?" Dustin asked. "Billy and I went with a group of guys at Pitt. It was a lot easier for us than for the guys who were all clubbing and stuff. Hopefully you don't have anything. It'll be a bitch for you to have to contact everybody you've had sex with." "Yeah... This'll be the last time I have to do something like this." Dustin said. "I'd say maybe you'll get the hint and stop being so stupid with your health. But I doubt it." Brett said as he turned off the interstate. "What's that supposed to mean?" Dustin asked. "Come on Dustin. Do you really think that you'll be able to stop fucking anything that moves? Sure you might slow down for a while because you're scared. But if you're negative you'll be back to the way you were in a year." "We're not all meant to be in a relationship like you are." "And that's why you'll be back to your old self. No promise that you make today is going to mean shit, Dustin. If you're not ready to make the changes you have to make, then this little scare isn't going to change you. If you don't want to change then you'll be back here again and again, wondering if you gave yourself some disease." "Why are you being such a dick about it?" Dustin asked. "Why don't you stop thinking with your dick and maybe you'll see that I want to help you. If you aren't careful you're going to die. I don't want that. Billy doesn't want that. And I think that you don't want it either." Brett said. They pulled into the parking lot of a large building. A sign marked "State Health Center" pointed to a small door. "We're here." Brett said. "I don't want to go in there." Dustin said, his voice giving away his fear. "Listen, I know you're scared." "I'm not scared." Dustin interrupted. "I know you're scared." Brett continued. "But you have to deal with this. This is the first step Dustin. You either face it now or you'll be a no good dirty rotten coward. I know you can do this. And you'll be able to handle whatever happens because of it." "And what makes you think I can do it?" Dustin asked. "I don't know. I just know that mom seemed to think you were worth helping for some reason." "Do you think I'm worth helping?" Dustin asked. "I don't want you to die." Brett replied. "That's not exactly an answer is it?" "I'm here, aren't I?" Brett replied. "Are you coming in with me?" "I guess." Brett replied. The boys got out of the car and walked into the building. Dustin tried not to show how nervous he was, but he wasn't doing a very good job. He was ready to leave before he even sat down. Brett signed them in and explained why they were there to the receptionist, then sat down next to Dustin. "It'll be a little while. They have a lot of people here today." "Yeah..." Dustin said, looking around at the various people sitting around. "Are all these people here to get tested?" Dustin asked. "No. No... This is a free clinic. People come in for all kinds of things. It just happens that the test is free here. There's places you can go and pay for the test, but this will work for what we need to do. Our tax dollars at work." "Oh..." Dustin said. He looked around for a while before turning back to Brett again. "I really appreciate you doing this." "It's no trouble. I needed something to do this morning." "Well you could have stayed with Billy and stuff." "Well he'd just want me to cry or something. You know." "Why?" "Well, you know how he is. He'd just take care of me all day long and not let me do anything so I could mourn and all that. But I'm fine. I knew she was going to die. We accepted it and made our peace. She died in her own house and she actually spent time with me for a change." "It's still sad." Dustin said. "What's sad about it? People die. It's just life." "But..." "I don't want to talk about it. I'll have to deal with this stuff all day. And everybody's going to be all sad and stuff, but they shouldn't be. I'd rather remember mom for the time I spent with her, rather than have everybody be all sad that she's dead." "I just wish that she could help me." Dustin said. "Well she can't. Get over it. She gave her life for years to help you and people like you. I hardly saw her sometimes because she was always helping somebody else's kids." "Sorry." Dustin said. "Why? You needed help and she helped you. I don't hate you for that." "But you're mad." "I just wish that I could have spent more time with my mother before she got sick. Is that such a crime?" "No." "You know what I mean, don't you? You know what it's like to have your mom be gone all the time. Your mom worked, what, three jobs?" "Yeah." "And you know how it feels to not see her. To not have her be there when you need her. But you know what? You can go see your mom. I can't. I had to cram in everything I could with her because I knew she wasn't going to make it. And she was still trying to help everybody else." "She was awesome, Brett. You know she was. She wasn't going to stop helping people just because she got sick." "Well she should have." Brett snapped. "She should have taken care of herself instead of worrying about everybody else. She should have realized that I needed her too. I needed her to be there for me too, you know. All I got was a few months at the end when she realized that she was going to die. And she wondered why I got so close to Billy. Billy was there for me when I was trying to figure out who I was. Billy was there any time I needed him. Where was my mom? She was always out helping somebody else." "I'm sorry." Dustin said. "Don't be. I'm just being a jealous jerk." "No you're not. You wanted to have your mom around but she was too busy with everybody else's kids. What's so bad about that?" "Because I shouldn't be jealous of people who are less fortunate than me. I know it's wrong." "Mr. Smith?" The receptionist called. "Well, go on!" Brett said. "And hey... I'd appreciate it if we kept this little conversation between us, okay." Dustin rubbed the rough hairy skin of his chin and wished that he'd shaved that morning. He stood up and walked to the receptionist. She directed him to meet the nurse who was waiting for him at the end of a short hallway. Dustin walked to meet her. "Dustin Smith?" She asked. "Yeah." Dustin said, his throat suddenly much dryer than it had been. "My name is Betty. Come with me. Don't be nervous." She said. Dustin liked her instantly. She seemed very nice. Together, they walked to a small room and Betty closed the door behind them. She directed Dustin to have a seat. When they were seated she pulled out a folder. "So this is your first visit with us?" "Yeah." Dustin replied. "And you're here for an HIV test?" "Uh huh..." "Okay. We just need to get a little bit of information from you. Do you think you've been exposed to the HIV virus?" "Yeah..." Dustin said, noticing that Betty was writing something on an official looking paper. "And how do you think this you were exposed?" "I, uh... I mean... I... I had sex with a... a guy." "Okay." Betty said, writing in her folder. "Where will this information go?" Dustin asked. "If you're negative, no where. But if you're positive, then this information will be helpful. But it will all be confidential. So how many partners have you had in the last six months?" "I don't know." Dustin said. "More than five?" She asked. "Oh yeah." Dustin replied. "How many would you guess?" "I don't know... Twenty-five? Thirty maybe?" "And were you the receptive partner for any of those encounters?" Betty asked, not even seeming to care that Dustin had been with so many partners. "No. I never bottom." Dustin explained. "And how often do you use protection?" "Almost never. I do if they want me to. I guess." "Well, part of what we're here for is for education. You do know that using a condom during intercourse can help reduce your risk of infection by almost ninety-seven percent." "Yeah." Dustin replied, his face was almost as red as his hair. "Do you need some condoms? We provide them here for free." "No, my mom just bought some for me." "Have you ever been immunized for hepatitis?" "I... I honestly don't know. I doubt it." "Well, if you're having intercourse with men, I highly recommend it. We can do that here today for free if you'd like." "Uh... Sure." Dustin replied. "Okay. Now, a little about this test. How much do you know about the HIV virus?" "I know that it can kill you." Dustin replied. "Well, yes. But not as quickly as you might think. Nowadays it's very much like living with diabetes. It will weaken your health, but with proper medical care you could live symptom-free for a very long time. The important thing is to detect it as early as possible. Now, ideally this test is best after about six months after exposure to the virus. But three months is still very reliable. How long ago do you think you were exposed?" "It was around the end of August." Dustin replied. "Okay, so around three months. Let me explain what this test does. It doesn't actually detect the virus. It will detect the antibodies that your body will produce to fight the disease. If there are no antibodies, then there is no virus. It's almost one hundred percent accurate. Are you ready?" "I guess." Dustin replied. Betty tied a rubber strip around Dustin's upper arm, and then took a small sample of blood from his arm. Dustin was surprised at how quickly it was all done. He looked at the small red capsule on the desk and wondered in amazement that his life now depended on that little bit of blood that he'd just lost. Betty gave Dustin a pamphlet on the hepatitis vaccine and asked him if he was allergic to eggs. Dustin assured her that he wasn't. After he'd read the pamphlet, she gave him a shot in the side of his arm. When it was all over, she told him that they would call in anywhere from three to six days to call him back for his results. She wished him good luck and that was it. Before Dustin could even get started on worrying what was going to happen he was already in the lobby waiting for Brett. After a few minutes, Brett walked back through that small hallway and joined Dustin in the lobby. "Okay, simple as that. You ready to go?" "Yeah." Dustin replied. As they rode home, there was again that awkward silence between them. Dustin wasn't quite sure what to say. A few times he started to talk, but his voice failed him before he could even get a word out. A few times Brett looked over at him, but then right back to the road before Dustin even noticed. Finally, after about ten minutes of that uncomfortable silence, they both spoke at the same time. "Do you think..." Dustin started. "About what I said..." Brett said at the same time. "Sorry." Dustin said. "You go ahead." "No. What did you want to say?" Brett asked. "You go." Dustin insisted. "Well, I just wanted to tell you that I really don't blame you for needing my mom. I know that she helped people. It's stupid for me to be jealous of people who had to go through so much stuff like you did." "I'm telling you, Brett. Your mom was so... I mean... I don't think I could think of two better people than Billy's dad and your mom." "That's nice of you to say. I really appreciate that. George was the greatest man I ever knew. You putting her up there with him means a lot. So, what were you going to say?" "I was just going to ask... Do you think we could talk sometimes?" "What do you mean by 'talk'?" Brett asked. "I mean, just sit and talk sometimes, like we did at the hospital. Like we did today. I like talking to you." "Well, you know where to find me. Just don't expect me to be some kind of replacement for my mom." "No no, I would never ask you to do that. It's just... You actually listen to me. I just..." "Dustin, we've never been friends have we?" "Not really." "Why?" Brett asked. "I... I don't know." Dustin said. "Think about it. Why didn't we ever become friends?" "Because we're too different, I guess." "Maybe. But I'd say it's because we're both in love with the same guy." "I don't love Billy." Dustin said immediately, almost out of habit. "You want to talk, then be honest. I know you love Billy. You always have. And I used to hate you because of it. But I started to think, I hate you because you love the same person I do. How does that make any kind of sense?" "Because you're afraid that I'll steal him off of you." Dustin answered. "But you wouldn't. Billy's told me about the time you guys kissed. He told me how close you were to doing something more... But you didn't. If there's one relationship in your life that you never screwed up, it's you and Billy. Believe it or not, I actually trust you with Billy. So why shouldn't we be friends too?" "Well, there was the time I beat you up." Dustin said. "That was a long time ago. I totally understood why you did that." "Do you want to be friends again?" Dustin asked. "Yeah." Brett replied. Then he laughed. "Wow, this feels like we're eight year olds." "I think that was the last time we were friends." Dustin replied. "Hey, I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am about what happened with Sarah." Brett said. "I can't imagine how hurt you are." "Yeah..." Dustin said. "Maybe sometime we'll talk about that too. I just don't want to think about that right now." "I understand." Brett replied. Soon after their conversation, Brett dropped Dustin off at his apartment. They would see each other later that day at the funeral home. In the meantime, Dustin sat at his computer. He never did get around to shaving. He just didn't have the motivation to make himself look presentable. He didn't sit at his computer for long before he was checking out his usual sources for sex. Only this time, he knew that he couldn't participate. He knew that he shouldn't even be tempting himself with such sites. But that didn't stop him from looking and eventually losing his pants as he bounce from website to website. The sight of male flesh filled his vision until at last he released what he knew could be a big load of poison if his test turned out positive. "It won't matter though." Dustin said to himself. "If I have it, it's not like I'll be around long enough to give it to anybody else anyway."
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