“Tell me why I shouldn’t slap you.”
What had started as a simple prescription refill had morphed into a tune-up and oil change. Now my doctor was telling me I needed to lose 20 pounds.
“Do you follow this AIDS stuff at all?” my doctor asks, scratching at his prescription pad.
“Then you know HIV is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes diabetes and heart disease.”
“You may want to consider retroviral therapy.”
“What ever happened to, I might not have to worry about this for as long as I live?”
“I know how you feel about pills. I’m just asking you to consider it.”
Walking home I consider taking up smoking to lose weight and help me think.
It’s solstice, and I have plans to go to the Roundhouse for the lantern festival with a friend. Luckily my friend is a pharmacist who is on retrovirals. I tell him about my doctor’s appointment.
“Twenty pounds! Did you slap him?”
“This is serious. I need advice.”
In line for the labyrinth, my friend explains the best and worst case scenarios of not taking the pills. It reminds me of the argument for global warming: Even if it doesn’t exist, what’s the harm in a cleaner planet?
It’s moments like these I wished I believed in a higher power — even Cher would do. The candle-lit labyrinth will suffice. I try losing myself in the maze, wishing for an out-of-body experience.
What if the pills make me sick? What if they weaken my immune system? I’ve prided myself on fighting the virus on my own, and now I find out I could be doing it all wrong.
My friend describes some of the side effects of the pills as we move from one performance piece to another: psychosis, diabetes and kidney problems. I feel like I am being diagnosed all over again.
“Oh my god, I’m going to die,” I say.
Some friends on a date interrupt our self-pity session.
“What’s up?” they ask.
“Nothing,” we lie in unison.
The skirts of a Whirling Dervish catch our attention. We are drawn to her, mesmerized by the look of serenity on her face, which glows with perspiration. It is as if she is sucking the troubles of the crowd up in a cyclone, spewing them into the heavens. I am exhausted watching her.
I tell my friend, “Just talking about the pills makes my heart race.”
“Maybe your body is telling you something.”
Maybe. I’ll know for sure once my head stops spinning.