This story may occasionally include explicit depictions of sexual acts between consenting adult males. If you are underage or it is illegal to view this for any reason, consider yourself warned. If you find this material offensive, please leave.
This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entire a coincidence. As the author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me. This work is copyright © 2014 by Steven Wells.
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John's Journey Forward
"I need to find a boyfriend first," Jorge told the group. "I didn't ask this before, Noel, but how did you two meet?"
Noel became suddenly unresponsive.
"What's wrong, bro?" Jorge said as he saw the change in Noel's behavior.
Noel looked at me before he answered his brother's question, "Do you mind, John?"
"Nope!" I told my boyfriend. "I think we need to get the last elephant out of the room."
"There you go again with the clichés," Noel told me in a hushed voice.
"Sorry," I said to Noel.
"We met at an HIV support group," Noel quietly told his brother.
"HIV support group?" Jorge asked not knowing where this conversation was leading.
"We are both newly diagnosed with HIV," Noel continued.
"Shit, bro!" Jorge finally said.
"We are fine, thought, Jorge," Noel explained. "We are on HIV meds, and we were both diagnosed early in the game. Both our CD4 counts are normal. We are waiting for the viral load to become undetectable."
"So that means you are going to be okay?" Jorge asked.
"As long as we stay on the meds, we will be healthy and we can live a normal life," Noel continued. "And, to tell you the truth, Jorge, I wouldn't have met John and wouldn't be working at Haney Dawson if I hadn't contracted the disease and started to attend the support group. The boyfriend of the guy that hired me is in our support group."
"That would not be my first choice of networking opportunities, but it worked for you!" Jorge said as a smile returned to his face.
Chapter 09: Going Slowly
The next Tuesday Noel and I went to the HIV support group. Jake was as chipper as usual, "So, guys, how was your weekend?"
"It was eventful," Noel told Jake. "I think I would like to explain about our weekend when the group gets started."
"I will put you at the top of the list," Jake said as he turned his attention to another member of the group.
After a few minutes, Jake called the group to begin, "Okay, guys. Let's start. I know a few of you have some things to share, so let's get going. Noel, why don't you start?"
"John and I hosted the dinner party from hell last Saturday evening," Noel began. "It involved my brothers, Manuel and Jorge, my sister-in-law, Kerry who is married to Manuel, and my mother. Everything went swimmingly until my mother arrived. It's a shame that she couldn't be more like John's parents who were very accepting of the two of us. If I used the word `bitchy' to describe my mother's behavior, it would be too kind. Manuel and Kerry already knew we were a couple, and they reacted as one would expect an intelligent person to react—with love and respect for the two of us. Jorge, it turns out, is also gay. If you know of someone in the market for a boyfriend, let me know and we can introduce him to Jorge. Fast forward to Saturday at 7 pm when my mother arrives at our apartment. She was rude to John from the very beginning. I almost threw her out several times. But, after we finished dinner and were about to have dessert in the living room, I broke the news that I was gay. She went ballistic. Ranted and raved about John and I being `sinners' and `faggots' and a few other choice words before she stormed out of the house. So, now I am left with two brothers and a sister-in-law to call my immediate family."
"How do you feel about your mother not accepting you as a gay couple?" Jake asked.
"Shitty!" Noel summarized before he went on. "I was actually hoping for something like `I don't understand being gay, but you are my son and I love you no matter what.' That didn't happen. So, I am actually hurt that she would turn on me that way."
"She's the one who will miss out on a lot of joy and happy occasions," Bobby told us. "She will miss your wedding if you and John decide to get married. She will miss knowing her grandkids if you and John decide to have children. She will miss out on a lot of family functions. It sounds like Manuel and Kerry would invite the two of you instead of your mother to functions or events. So, maybe when she realizes that she is not part of any of her children's lives, she might rethink her strategy. What do you think?"
"That sounds reasonable to me, but I don't think that will be in the cards unless she has a total turn around in her religious thinking," Noel answered.
"I went through a similar experience, if you remember Noel," Jake began. "It was hard at first knowing that you would probably never see your parents again. But, it is sort of like going to a funeral. It's part of the grief process. I'm not saying it will be easy, but you will get through this. Just remember John will always be there for you. Your two brothers will always be there for you. Your sister-in-law will always be there for you. You are lucky in that respect. Sometimes when parents turn against their kids when they discover the kid is gay, the whole family is almost literally eliminated from your life."
"So, I should have a funeral for my mother?" Noel asked.
"Not literally," Jake told the group. "You might want to write a letter to her to describe how you feel. You can decided whether to send it or not send it once you have finished the letter. Writing about your feelings sometimes help you to understand yourself much better. I would suggested that before you send it you show it to someone to get a second opinion if you think you want to send the letter."
"Thanks guys," Noel tells the group. "I will write the letter. I may even read it to you. By the way, Jake, when is your book coming out?"
"Ah! The book!" Jake began. "It launches next month. I will invite you to a book signing when I have a schedule. And, no, you don't need to buy the book. I'm giving everyone in the group a copy!"
"I have an announcement," Chris tells us. "Gavin and I have decided we are going to get married. We haven't set a date, but you will all be invited to the wedding."
We all congratulated him, shook his hand, and some of us gave him a hug.
After everyone settled down again, Jake asked a question. "So, you and Gavin have come to terms with your previous issue?'
"Yea!" Chris told us. "It was actually John and Noel that put things over the top. One night when the four of us had dinner together, John and Noel pointed out that both of us used the phrase, `I'd be a mess without him in my life.' Thanks guys!"
George Hassan and I were working on a project together. George is a gorgeous hunk of a Middle Eastern man. He's about 6'2" tall with a muscular body. Dark hair. Darkish skin. He always has a five o'clock shadow. If I were not in love with Noel, I could see myself with George. We were two weeks into the project. George, who is usually extremely animated, was quiet.
"Is something up George?" I asked. "You don't seem to be your exuberant self."
"You noticed, huh?" George quietly admitted. "I'm just going through some things. I try to put them out of my mind, but it doesn't seem to work."
"If you want to talk about the issues sometime, I'm willing to listen," I offered. "And, I am not one to judge others. So, let me know, okay?"
"Thanks, John," George said as he looked out the window. "Do you want to go for a walk at lunch time?"
"Sure!" I answer. "Let me know when you are ready."
About an hour later, George and I were walking in the park next to the office. "Why don't we sit down?" George asked.
"There is a bench over there with our name on it," I said pointing to my favorite place to sit.
"John, I am hesitant to bring this into our work environment, but I have to talk to someone," George begins.
"Spill," I told him. "You need to get it off your chest or it will affect your work. We both don't want that to happen."
"I don't know where to start," George said quietly. "I... I tested... I tested HIV positive. I need to repeat the test to make certain, but the first test came back positive. I'm afraid I'm going to die, John! I don't want to die!"
By this time George was wiping away tears that were rolling down his cheeks.
"George," I begin. "You aren't going to die. You have good health insurance at work. You will be put on medication and you will be fine. People don't die from HIV anymore, George."
"I wish I could believe that," George whispered. "My family will disown me when they find out."
"Why do they need to find out, George?" I asked.
"What if I get sick?" George asked.
"Where did you go to get tested?" I asked.
"Fenway Health," George told me. "They assigned me to a doctor. His name is Dr. Mark Rosenberg."
"I've met him through a friend who works at Fenway Health," I said. "He's a nice guy!"
"And, cute, too!" George said. He actually smiled.
"I would have to agree," I said. "Chances are, they will do what seems like a billion blood tests and probably start you on medications fairly quickly. Your CD4 counts are probably not that low if the infection was caught early. Once the meds kick in your viral load will be undetectable. You will get to know the people who take the blood for the tests really, really well. But, you will be fine. You are NOT going to die!"
"How do you know all of this?" George asked.
"Well, George," I begin. "Noel and I are both HIV positive. We met at an HIV support group."
"You!" George uttered.
"Yup," I tell him. "Less than nine months ago, I had a rash on my legs that wouldn't go away. I went to my doctor and he did some tests, including an HIV test. It devastated me for a while, George, but I am okay with it now. The initial shock goes away and you just live with it."
"Thanks for talking with me, John," George said. "It makes me feel better knowing that someone else is aware of my problem. Do you think we should get back to work?"
"Yup!" I answered. "And, George, I won't tell anyone, I promise... Can I tell Noel? We can be your support group until you actually go to one."
"Sure," George agreed. "You can tell Noel."
When we returned to work George was his exuberant self.
On my way out of the office at the end of the day, I knocked on Chris's door before I left.
"What can I do for you, John?" Chris asked.
"I was wondering if someone here at work were to attend our support group, would it bother you?" I asked.
"Of course not!" Chris answered. "And, I assume you are not going to tell me who that might be until he visits the support group for the first time."
"That would be correct," I told him. "Have a good evening!"
"You, too, John!" Chris said. "Say hello to Noel for me."
"Will do!" I answered.
Noel, George, and I walked to the HIV Support Group from Starbucks where we had met. "George," I began. "Do not be surprised if you know someone at this meeting. And, please, don't go running out. This is a safe place, okay!"
"Okay!" George answered. "I'm nervous as shit. This will be the first time I have publicly admitted that I am HIV positive."
"George," Noel added. "Like John said this is a safe place. We are all in the same boat. You will feel a lot better once you have the first support group meeting out of the way. Who knows, maybe you'll find a boyfriend."
When we walked into the Aids Action Committee offices, Charles, Bobby, and Chris were huddled around Jake talking and laughing.
George stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed Chris. His mouth was open in disbelief. Chris joined us, "Hello, John, Noel! Hello, George. And, yes, I am HIV positive, too! Welcome to the group. And, no, John didn't tell me YOU were going to be here tonight."
Chris gave George a big hug, "We're in this together, George. No one else at work needs to know."
Bobby joined us as Chris was hugging George, "Hello, George. And, Chris is right, we are in this together."
George, still a little stunned, wiped a tear from his cheek. "I don't know what to say."
"Don't say anything, then," Noel told George.
Jake called for everyone to gather in our circle.
"Jake, this is George," I said. "He was recently diagnosed. Noel and I convinced him to come to the support group tonight."
"I'm glad you came here tonight," Jake began. "This is a safe place. We are all in the same boat. We are all HIV positive, and we want to be your friend. In order for George to feel more comfortable here, I think we need to share how we came about being here."
Jake told his story first. Then, I decided to go next. Noel followed with his recount of events that led him to the group. Chris explained his situation, including Gavin's support. Bobby and Charles were the last ones.
"Do you have anything you'd like to share with the group, George?" Jake asked. "It is completely optional."
"I think I would like to share my story with all of you. I've never told anyone about how I was infected. I am the second son in a Muslim family. My parents were born here. I have an older brother who owns a furniture store in Somerville. My family practices a fairly liberal version of the Muslim faith, but I am certain having a gay son would not make my family happy. About the only people who know I am gay are my coworkers." George told us. He was starting to shed a few tears.
"I have a fairly lonely existence because I am trying to stay in the closet," George continued. "One night, I met a man at a party. We were both pretty drunk by the time we left the party together. I went home with him and we had sex. I don't remember many of the details. A few weeks later, I decided I should get tested because I wasn't certain what had happened that one night. I went to Fenway Health. When I went back to get the test results the next week, I met with Dr. Rosenberg. He told me the first test was positive, but he was going to re-run the test to make certain the first one wasn't a false positive. It came back positive as well. I didn't know what to do. I had thought of committing suicide, but I frankly didn't know how to do it. I only had unprotected sex that one time. One fucking time! Then, one day at work, John noticed I was a little off. We went for a walk. John was the first person I told that I was HIV positive. I think, John, you may have saved my life."
I was crying at that point. I got up and hugged George. By the time it was over, all of us were involved in one big group hug.
We finally broke up the group hug and we sat down again. Jake began to speak in a quiet, soulful voice, "George, we all want you to know that we are here to support you. We all want you to know that you can talk to any of us. And, please, please, please, if you every feel you are even remotely close to taking your own life, I want you to call me at any time of the day or night. Will you promise me that, George?"
"Yes," George said in almost a whisper. "I will call you, I promise. But, I think after tonight, I won't think of doing something so permanent."
"Where do you live, George?" Jake asked.
"I have a studio in Kendall Square near where I work," George told us. "Why?"
"Just curious," Jake said. "At least you have the privacy so that you will not need to come out to your family until you are ready. We can talk about that when you think you might want to consider that option. Until then, I think we are done here for tonight. I look forward to seeing everyone next week at the same time."
Noel and I decided to organize a party to celebrate my acceptance at MIT to continue working toward my Bachelors. We invited my brother Anthony and his boyfriend Terrance. Naturally, Noel's brothers and Manuel's wife Kerry were invited. Chris and Gavin were on the list as well as my work team and significant others if there was one. We invited Mel and Mark, but Mark couldn't make it. The party would strain our home, but we thought it would be fun.
My brother Anthony and his boyfriend Terrance were the first to arrive.
"So, bro," I said to Anthony. "How is life now that Terrance is keeping you in line?"
"Good!" Anthony said. "We have decided that we are going to live together. We need to find a bigger space than either one of us has at the moment."
"Congratulations! We can keep our eyes open around here," Noel offered.
"Thanks," Terrance said. "I would like to be around Harvard Law, but I don't think either one of us can afford to split the rent on places around there."
"Central Square is a nice alternative," I told them.
"I guess it is only a subway ride away," Terrance agreed.
The doorbell rang. It was Manuel, Kerry, and Jorge. Chris and Gavin were right behind them.
As we were introducing everyone, the work group arrived together. I opened the door, and then began another round of introductions.
"Beer, wine, and soft drinks are in the kitchen," I announced to everyone. "Help yourselves and enjoy!"
After several minutes, Noel decided to make a toast. "John and I are really happy that you could share the evening with us and to celebrate John's acceptance at MIT. Finishing his undergrad degree is something he has dreamed about for a long, long time. Now, he is about to start down the path to make it a reality. So, I would like to propose a toast to my boyfriend—and best friend. John, good luck on this journey. I know you will succeed. Here's to John!"
Everyone clinked glasses.
"Thanks everyone," I said to the group. "I appreciate all of your support."
"John," Chris said as he handed me a wrapped present. "It's a little something from your work team and me. We thought you'd need a distraction when you are deep in the throes of studying."
"You guys didn't need to get many anything?" I said.
"We know, but we did," Sandy said. "Just open the damn thing."
I ripped open the giftwrap. It was a new iPod.
"We thought you could use this while you studied," George suggested.
"Thanks guys," I said. "That's so thoughtful!"
Anthony handed me an envelope, "This is from Noel's family and Terrance and me."
It was a $100 iTunes gift card. "Even if I flunk out, at least I will have music to get me through it!" I said.
Everyone continued to have a good time. Noel and I tried to circulate among our guests. Finally, Noel spotted Jorge and George still sitting and talking.
"John, Jorge and George have been sitting there talking with one another almost all evening," Noel told me. "Do you think the chemistry is working?"
"Let's go find out," I said as we made our way over to Jorge and George. "How's it going guys?"
"Terrific," George said. "Jorge was telling me about growing up with you and Manuel!"
"I've been telling George about how klutzy you used to be," Jorge joked.
"Klutzy!" Noel exclaimed. "I wasn't the one who was klutzy, bro!"
"He was actually saying how much he looked up to you and Manuel," George came to Jorge's rescue. "It must be nice having brothers that you actually get along with."
Noel smiled at Jorge, "We did have a good time when we were kids. Then, our mother went bonkers on religion. So, it's just the three musketeers now!"
"We were also talking about how much you and Anthony look alike, John," Jorge said. "You even seem to have the same sort of personality."
"I'm smarter than he is, though," Anthony joined the group. "Ain't that right, bro?"
"He's spreading lies again," I told the group. "That is a major character flaw of his. That and his penchant for gambling."
"Dickhead!" Anthony added. "The real reason we came over here is to ask when you and Noel are getting married."
"We haven't even decided on who is going to take out the garbage," Noel said. "After we have some of those issues resolved, we will move on to the bigger issues."
Noel and I were sitting in the living room of our apartment reading the Sunday paper after we had cleaned up from the party last night. About mid-afternoon Noel's phone started to ring.
"It's Jorge," Noel said as he answered the call and turned it on speaker phone. "He, bro! How do you feel this morning?"
"Very good, thank you," Jorge responded. "I just wanted to say I had a really good time last night. I especially like talking to George. He's cute as shit! What's his story?"
"What do you mean, Jorge?" Noel asked.
"He seemed to get a little nervous when I suggested we should get together and hang out," Jorge told us.
"He's just going through some things in his head," I told Jorge. "I think he is worried that his family will find out he is gay and disown him."
"That's a bummer, I know," Jorge agreed.
"I think if you are persistent, but don't pressure him into anything heavy, he might come around," I told Jorge. "What do you think, Noel?"
"John is probably correct about not pressuring him," Noel agreed. "Keep it simple and light. Maybe go for coffee somewhere."
"Or, how about the four of us go for coffee?" I asked. "Nonthreatening environment. Safety in numbers."
"I like that idea," Jorge said. "Can you arrange it John?"
"I'll do my best," I said. "When are you free, Jorge?"
"Any night this week after 6," Jorge confirmed. "My social life seriously sucks right now, so I am available any time."
"Why don't I try for Thursday," I told the group. "That way, I will have time to work my magic!"
"See you on Thursday, guys!" Jorge said as we ended the call.
"Do you think George will be in any condition mentally to even think about a relationship?" Noel asked.
"It's not likely he will be agreeable immediately," I said. "But, you need to remember that I wasn't going to jump into a relationship. And, look at me now. I'm sitting in my living room with my seriously good looking boyfriend. And, I've even been thinking for the last few seconds that I might want to invite my boyfriend to follow me into the bedroom."
George and I met Noel at Starbucks before the support group meeting. "Hey, boyfriend," I said as I gave Noel a kiss when he came through the door.
"I missed you," Noel told me. "How are you doing, George?"
"I am seriously nervous," George admitted.
"About the support group meeting?" Noel asked.
"No," George began. "Noel, I really liked your brother. I think he is cute, funny, warm, caring, and interesting"
"I am glad to hear that George," Noel said. "But why would that make you nervous?"
"I don't think I can have a relationship with him," George admitted. "As much as I would like to, I just couldn't do that to him."
"Do what to him?" I asked.
"He's HIV negative, isn't he?" George asked.
"Yes," Noel said.
"I couldn't run the risk of infecting him if we were to have sex together," George admitted. "Without sex, I have this feeling he won't be willing to have a relationship with anyone."
"George," I begin. "Chris and Gavin have a relationship. Chris is HIV positive. Gavin is not. I am certain theirs is not a sexless relationship."
"I know, but they were already in a relationship," George countered.
"If you are honest with Jorge or any other man you want to consider having a relationship with, you can work together to eliminate the fear of transmission," I told George. "I think you need to talk to Jake about your issue. One of the other guys was having doubts himself. Jake helped him through it."
"Speaking of Jake," Noel said. "It's time we head to the support group."
After we were settled Jake started the meeting.
"Okay guys! Who would like to start?" Jake asked.
George raised his hand. "Yes, George. What's on your mind?" Jake asked.
"This is a little difficult for me, but here goes...," George began. "I was talking with someone at a party over the weekend. He's a really, really nice guy. But, I know for a fact he is not HIV positive. I know I need to tell him before we do anything except talk, but... but... how can we have sex without me infecting him?"
"Excellent topic to discuss!" Jake enthused. "Let's start at the beginning. Has your doctor started you on
taking HIV medicines daily to prevent HIV infection. The CDC recommends that this be considered for people who are HIV negative and who are in an ongoing relationship with an HIV positive partner."
"Gavin does that, George," Chris offered.
"So, George," Jake summarized. "Does that make you feel any better?"
"Yes," George told the group. "But, I would feel guilty if something happened to a sexual partner."
"George," Jake began again. "You can hide in a cave and be a hermit. That is not living. I think you will agree with me on that. Go easy. Go slowly. Play safe."
"I understand, Jake," George answered. "This is all new to me. So, I think the best advice you have given me tonight is `go slowly
"Hi guys," Jorge said to Noel, George, and me as he arrived at Starbucks. "Sorry I'm late, but the subway was delayed."
"Not to worry Jorge," I told him. "What can I get you? It's on me."
"Thank you. Dark roast, black will do the trick," Jorge told me.
When I came back from getting Jorge his coffee, I noticed George was looking a little nervous.
"How was your day, Jorge?" I asked.
"Shitty," Jorge said. "I love my job most of the time, but today I had an encounter with one of my colleagues. She was her usual nasty self. It just got to me is all."
"We all have those kinds of days," Noel said.
"You seem quiet, George," Jorge said. "Is something wrong?"
"No," George said. "Actually, yes... Maybe I should just leave you guys alone. I don't want to be a drag."
"Please don't go," Jorge said. "Meeting you tonight kept me going today."
"Maybe we should leave Jorge and George alone for a few minutes," Noel suggested.
"No!" George almost screamed. "I think I would like you two here... Jorge, I really enjoyed our talk at Noel and John's place on Saturday. I know I did a silent number on you when you mentioned getting together again. I'm sorry about that, but there are a few things I need to tell you before we go any further."
"Just for the record, George," Jorge began. "I enjoyed talking with you, too. And, I meant what I said when I suggested we get together again. I think you are a really nice guy. So, what's wrong, George? Is it because I have a shithead brother like Noel?"
"Watch it Jorge!" Noel countered.
George smiled, "No. There is something about me that may make you think differently... I'm... I'm... I'm HIV positive." George looked down at his coffee cup as he broke the news.
Jorge sat for a moment and looked straight at George. He wasn't smiling. He wasn't pouting. He was just thinking. Finally, Jorge broke the silence as he stood up from the table. "George, I think you need a hug."
George stood up and stood by Jorge. Jorge held him tightly for a few moments. Neither said anything. When Jorge released George from the hug, he told George. "Listen. Ever since my brother told me he was HIV positive, I have been doing some reading on the subject. I know what is involved in having a relationship with an HIV positive guy. It is doable. Don't let this scare you because I'm not letting it scare me."
"You mean you don't want to run away?" George asked.
"Nope," Jorge said to George. "I think we have a lot in common. I like you. I knew I liked you the moment we started talking. I hope I don't scare you away. I'm sort of weird in some ways."
"He's also a slob," Noel added.
"No one is perfect," I said.
Jorge and George both sat down in their respective seat across from one another. Jorge put his hand on George's. "Now, when are we going to get together next? Just you and me."
"Noel," I said. "I've been thinking. We need to clean the bathroom."
"No time like the present," Noel said with a smile. "John only cleans in his Calvin Klein's."
To be continued...
I hope you liked the direction that "John's Journey Forward" is taking. I would like to hear from anyone who reads this story.
I would enjoy hearing your comments about this story. You can write to me at MaWriterBoy@yahoo.com.
This is my 8th posting of my third story on Nifty.org. Please also see:
Sam and Chris in the College section.
Jeffery Comes Home also in the Beginnings section.
Life With Tim in the Authoritarian section (Please note, this story is not for everyone because there are several scenes depicting Master/slave and BDSM relationships. So, if you are not interested in this activity, please, please do not read this story.)
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