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How AIDS can be Innocently Shared -- A redoux, not quite flash fiction
“I’m HIV positive, you’re sure?” Angie asked, her voice quivering. Shocked beyond belief, she sat on the examination table and shivered in the icy room of her doctor’s office. She stared disbelievingly at a Norman Rockwell print of a small boy watching a large hand approach him with a huge syringe. She felt like she was the one who had been stabbed – in the heart.
“I’m so sorry, Angie, but the tests came back positive,” answered Dr. Taylor. Dr. Taylor had been Angie’s doctor since birth in the small town of very few doctors and none of them specialists. He knew his patient well.
White faced, Angie sat silently. Big tears formed in her brown eyes and rolled down her cheeks. She turned to face the doctor and said, “Can you run it again? I just can’t believe it! I …”
“Angie, I already have. I was so surprised that I requested a second test. I’m really sorry,” answered the doctor. “You and Bobby Dale have been dating for several years and you have been sexually active. Bobby Dale will have to come in for a test, too. I hate to have to ask you this, but the law says I must. Has there been anyone else? I need to know everyone you have been with,” he asked as tactfully as he could. “We have to report this to the health department, and then they take it from there. It is out of my hands now.”
Angie’s face clouded. She said harshly, “Nobody else, he’s my one and only, at least so I thought." What a fool I’ve been! I didn’t do anything! He had to have been two-timin' me, she thought to herself.
“The damned bitch infected me,” Bobby Dale spat the words when he received news that his HIV test result was positive. He wondered who Angie had double-crossed him with. Was it Tyler ? They've been awfully friendly lately, he thought. He was shocked enough when he had been called in for the test. He stared at the gray-flecked tiles on the floor with loathing, then at the doctor. Like Angie, the same doctor had treated him since birth for his colds, his cut fingers, even a broken arm when he was five, but never anything like this. Dr. Taylor was shaken that out of all his patients, these two would have positive tests.
Dr. Taylor replied, “No Bobby Dale, Angie is HIV positive; you have full blown AIDS. It is more likely you infected her.”
An expression of relief crossed Bobby Dale’s face for an instant as he decided that Angie probably had not been untrue to him, but then the total realization of his condition hit him. He sat entranced in his own world allowing the words to sink in. I have AIDS, I may be dying, he thought. At least it explained a lot, his constant fatigue that he tried to hide from everyone, and he was getting a lot of colds lately despite all the orange juice he'd been guzzling. But where … how? The doctor broke into his thoughts with the same question, “Bobby Dale, who might have infected you? Who else have you been with?”
“Nobody, doc, that’s just it,” he answered. "We guys like to brag a lot. I admit I’ve done my share of braggin’, but braggin’ is all I’ve done. I’ve loved Angie since we were 14. We were each other’s first, and to tell the truth, I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of bein' with anybody else. You are sure it couldn’t have been her?” He was almost hoping for an affirmative answer.
“Very unlikely,” answered the doctor. “But we need to get to the bottom of this and make sure. You haven’t had any blood transfusions, so what about drugs? Have you used a needle?”
“No, absolutely no drugs, not even steroids when I was playin' football!” the former high school athlete exclaimed.
“Okay, sorry, but you didn’t get AIDS from a toilet seat. You had to have been exposed to somebody’s body fluids. It only takes one time, you know. Think back, where and how.”
“Well, nobody’s bitten me, and I guess the neighbor’s dog don’t count,” Bobby Dale said sarcastically. “I just can’t think of any…. He gasped, “Oh… Oh…Oh, crap … Jason.” Bobby Dale’s brown eyes widened and his mouth flew open. It had to be Jason. His mind flashed back to that summer nearly nine years ago and what he and Jason had done.
The realization was too much of a shock. “Jason, why did we do that! What have I done?” Bobby Dale fell to the floor wailing in despair, his hands covering his face. “Oh, no, no, no!” “We were so stupid!” he moaned. "Now I may have killed Angie!"
Jason was Jason Bilheimer who came down from Detroit to spend the summer with his grandmother. Grandma Shirley had moved into a small house across the street from Bobby Dale’s family just months before. Bobby Dale was pleased when he found out that Jason was nine years old, the same age as he. Their age and size were about the only common ground for Bobby Dale, the dark haired, brown-eyed southerner and Jason, the blond, blue-eyed northerner, but after only a couple of hours, the two boys felt like they had known each other all their lives. By the end of the summer, the boys were as close as two friends could be.
Two morose boys sat at a picnic table in Grandma Shirley’s backyard. Jason would be going back to Detroit in a couple of days, and they were dreading the separation.
There’s an old song my grandaddy used to sing to me when I left his house,” Bobby Dale teared up. “It’s called ‘I miss you already and you’re not even gone.’ I can’t remember who it’s by. Some country singer, I think.”
“It must be old, because I’ve never heard of it,” Jason responded sadly, “I can’t hardly wait ‘til next summer.” Jason was already beginning to pick up Bobby Dale's southern brogue.
“Me, too, I wish we were brothers,” Bobby Dale said wistfully. He dreaded being lonesome for a friend his own age. His baby sister was still too young to be any fun, and besides, she was just an old girl.
“I know how we can always be brothers!” Jason exclaimed in his childish soprano. “We can do like the Indians and be blood brothers.”
Bobby Dale watched as Jason pulled a shiny pen knife from his pocket. He noticed for the first time several thin scars on Jason’s small wrist. “How many times have you done this?” he asked.
“Just a couple or three,” Jason replied. He opened the knife and deftly made a shallow cut across his left wrist.
“Does it hurt?” Bobby Dale asked, staring at the beads of blood oozing from the slit in Jason’s skin.
“Nah, just a scratch. It stings a little bit at first. You just gotta bring blood, that’s all.” Bobby Dale’s pupils dilated in fear. Jason said, “Don’t be a baby.”He handed Bobby Dale the knife and said, “Your turn.”
Still skeptical but determined to please his friend, Bobby Dale took the knife and, before he could lose his nerve, dragged the freshly blooded blade across his wrist. “Ouch, it stings, ” he said.
Jason extended his arm, and Bobby Dale reached out and placed his bleeding wrist against the fresh cut on Jason’s wrist.
“Now we are blood brothers forever,” Jason said.
Jason never came back. His parents got a divorce, and Grandma Shirley moved to Detroit to be near him and his mother. A few years later, someone said that Jason had gotten sick and died, but Bobby Dale didn’t know why. Until now.
Two little boys innocently sealing a friendship. Life isn’t always fair.