07 March 2006
"Can't exactly tell the church choir"
"I hope this doesn't offend you," he said, "but, you see, I'm HIV+."
I stood shivering outside with a man in my neighborhood today when he said those words to me. We don't talk often, but we've talked before, sharing stories about how the perils of freelancing will never outweigh the joy of doing what you love. Today, I asked how he was doing because I've been concerned for him for weeks. The day after Valentine's Day, I could hear him outside yelling into the telephone, saying that he wished it would all go away.
So when I asked how he was doing, he knew that I'd heard him before. He was much better, he said. And as he explained his depression, I guess he wanted to tell me that the source of his sadness was his illness. Yet, he felt the need to state his non-offense before speaking the words.
I've never known anyone to say, "No offense, but I have cancer." "Please don't be offended, but I have heart disease." "I hope this doesn't upset you, but I have diabetes."
I told him I led a workshop in Memphis Saturday about HIV/AIDS. His eyes smiled relief. We talked for a while, and as he left my house he said, "I can't tell you what a blessing this is." He told me that he feels so lonely with HIV. His friend with cancer is surrounded by support. "You can't exactly tell the church choir you have HIV, though," he said.
Why can't the choir handle it?