. . . Yeah, that’s right, it was after the Eagle one night; I’d met him outside. He started following me home but he wasn’t my type — too young. He kept following me though, so I made him kiss me on the street to see if it’d make me hard. It was crass, but he was willing, I was drunk and I was turned on so I brought him home and we had sex. It was nothing to write home about, but he was a nice kid. I think his name was Owen. Yeah, for sure it was Owen. I decided not to acknowledge that I recognized him. I wasn’t in the mood for a “catch up” so I went over the reception desk and asked for a survey. I might as well get a Starbucks gift card while I’m waiting for my HIV test.
The survey questioned my sexual practices, preferences, and whether I’d heard about PEP and PrEP. Was I interested in them and how much would I be willing to pay? Could I adhere to daily use and so on? It was a no brainer, I finished it in less than five minutes — easiest $5.00 I’ve ever earned. When I looked up, young Owen was grinning at me with recognition. I didn’t give in. I didn’t feel guilty because he hadn’t said anything either.
I went back to the reception desk. “Why don’t I just get tested for syphilis while I’m here. Why not?”
“Oh, okay.” He grabbed a clipboard. “Fill this out.”
The syphilis form required much more information: my first and last name, phone number and my email address. It didn’t seem very anonymous.
“Um, why is it asking for so much information?”
“We don’t get the test results right away so we need to contact you in case you’re positive.” It was bizarre to hear him say “positive” in referring to syphilis. “Unfortunately we can’t have set times where you pick up your test results.”
“Oh, I thought maybe there were rapid tests for syphilis now or something.”
He just shook his head no.
I returned to my seat and filled out the rest of the form. When I was done I handed it back.
I thought that there was nothing worse than waiting in St Mike’s emergency room downtown but this one was pretty damn close. It was starting to feel like purgatory where time had no meaning. The daddy from before came out of one of the rooms, smiling. He didn’t look over, he just continued on down the stairs, leaving the rest of us behind. I guess everything was fine in his world. I couldn’t stand waiting any longer. It’d been almost an hour. I felt like I wanted to stand up and scream.
“Michael?” a nurse said, coming out of a room.
“That’s me,” I said. “Right here!” I stood up and grabbed my backpack. He led me to one of the rooms. I suddenly wasn’t afraid anymore. It was the waiting that got me, the anticipation, the fear that builds up. I guess there really is nothing to fear but fear itself. I sat down, he pricked my index finger and collected my blood. Done.