It was February 2013 and I sat alone at home in Atlanta, Georgia. While I’d go on the occasional date here and there, what I really wanted was someone who’d fall madly and deeply in love with me. But that never seemed like it was going to happen.
A couple of days later, a friend called and wanted to connect me with someone who was doing a human interest piece about sons of ministers, and thought I’d be perfect. I let my friend give my number to the project manager, and a couple of minutes later, my phone rang.
“Hi, this is Johnny. May I speak with David?”
He said our mutual friend had told him about me, but he wanted me to describe myself in my own words.
My heart stopped. What did he want to hear? I’m boring. I go to work, come home to have dinner alone, and wake up every day to do it all over again, I thought.
After about an hour of telling him about myself, I decided to flip the script and ask him more about his personal life. As we continued to converse, we realized that six hours had gone by! We agreed to end the call as it was well past both our bed times. But we decided to keep talking the next day, and the next, and the next, with each conversation lasting no shorter than six to seven hours.
During these conversations, all I could think about was that he sounded great and could really be someone I might be interested in beyond this project. But I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d still want to have those long-lasting conversations if he knew I was hiding something.
I didn’t want to tell him over the phone, but I knew if we were going to continue to talk, I’d have to tell him, and it’d have to be face-to-face.
Meeting for the first time
We agreed to meet for dinner, and it was great! As usual, the conversation was so good that I didn’t want it to end. Not to mention, he was very handsome and intelligent. This was way too good to be true. I thought Ashton Kutcher was going to come out and tell me I was being punked at any moment. But there were no cameras — just two guys who were obviously interested in knowing as much as they could about the other.
The restaurant was intimate, but not a good place to share news about my HIV status. I decided I’d wait until the end of the date to tell him. That way, if he bailed, at least I would’ve experienced one night out with an amazing guy without any physical interaction.
The moment of truth
Once dinner was complete, I invited Johnny into my place to have the conversation. I sat him down, offered him some wine, and thought to myself, David, it’s now or never. Don’t let a great guy like this get away. Who knows when another one will come along? Just tell him!
Before my nerves got the best of me, I gulped my wine down and said it.
“I’m not sure how you will take this, but I feel like we’ve gotten really close over the last few days and there is something you need to know if we’re going to move forward. I’m HIV-positive.”
He sat and looked at me. I could only imagine what he was thinking or feeling at that moment. I expected him to get up and leave and I’d never see him again. Surprisingly, the exact opposite happened.
“You’re not the first person to reveal this to me. I appreciate you for sharing this with me,” he said.
He then asked questions about my health, about my emotional well-being, and really got a chance to know me beyond the virus. He allowed me to tell him about the virus and what I was doing to maintain my undetectable status. I talked about my regimen and how working in public health made me keenly aware of stigma and how it can be perceived among people who aren’t as knowledgeable.
Five years later…
As I walked him to my door at the end of that night, I wanted to hug him as long as I could. Then, as if on cue, he stopped and hugged me. We shared the most intimate moment at my front door without saying much of anything at all. If nothing else, I had met an amazing person who would love me no matter what. My HIV status didn’t change anything.
That project he initially called me about? It never happened. But I fondly remember the day I met Johnny over five years ago. It will always remain the day I met the love of my life and my current fiancé.
David L. Massey and Johnny T. Lester are partners, content creators, relationship influencers, businessmen, and passionate HIV/AIDS advocates and allies for youth. They’re contributors for POZ Magazine and Real Health Magazine, and own a boutique branding/imaging firm, HiClass Management, LLC, which provides services to select high-profile clientele. Recently, the duo launched a luxury loose leaf tea venture called Hiclass Blends, of which a portion of the proceeds goes to youth education on HIV/AIDS.