I have always liked to consider myself open-minded. Little did I know how much that would be tested when I met Tom*.
We had gone to the same church for about two years, but I had never spoken to him. One Sunday morning, I noticed he was on crutches and out of the blue, I marched myself over to talk to him. To this day, I am still not sure what made me talk to him. We got along rather well and spoke on the phone several times over the next couple of weeks. Finally, we made plans to meet and have a drink together. That night I was so nervous. I wanted only to be friends with him, as I was convinced that I wasn't attracted to him, and, on top of that, I was already seeing someone else. So I was very concerned that he would get the wrong idea.
We had a great time, laughing and joking around. He even met my boyfriend at the time! After that evening, we spent many hours on the phone and hanging out together. We confided in each other; he was quickly becoming my best friend. When I decided to break up with my boyfriend, he was there to encourage me and help me choose the right words to say. Through everything, he gave me support that I had never known before. Whenever I had a problem, I would run to Tom's.
As much as I tried to deny it, my feelings were starting to change. I would find myself missing him as soon as I would leave him or right after we would hang up the phone. And I knew he was feeling the same way. We were inseparable.
One night while we were entertaining some mutual friends, he confessed in front of everyone that he was in love with me. I was so happy! Finally we could be together. In the next breath, he told me that we could never be together, but he couldn't tell me why. When we were alone, I asked him again why we could not be together. I sensed that it was something important, and since he would not divulge the information, I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind, "What, do you have AIDS or something?" The look on his face spoke volumes to me. He was HIV positive.
I don't remember much about the next few hours, except that I buried my face in his chest and cried harder than I had ever cried before. I realized that I had finally met my soul mate, and he would be taken from me. At that moment, however, I also knew that no matter what was going on inside of his body, I would stay by his side. He was meant to be in my life, and no disease would take that away from me.
Dealing with HIV has not been easy. I went through several different grief stages, from wanting to know everything about the disease and how he got it, to taking pictures of the two of us because I thought he was going to die. It has been a challenge, but we have managed to stay together and make each other happy. I never expected to find this kind of love at this stage in my life, but now I can't remember what it was like before him.
We have been through many challenges together, the greatest of which, by far, was breaking the news to my family. They have not reacted well, but our love is continuing to shine through. We know that we will make it together. I am certainly not trying to tell anyone what to do, but sometimes amazing things can happen when we open our minds and our hearts to new possibilities.
*Name has been changed