Rise Up

By @ricardorguezt

Chapter 1

Prologue

Fit Top: hey man, how are u?

How am I?

Dozens of voices inside my head repeat the question over and over again, reaching the point in which the words blend themselves and it’s impossible to make out a single thing. I just want to run. Maybe hide under the bed. But instead, I remain seated by the desk with my phone unlocked to a gay social network.

Me: hey, i’m good and u?

Of course: that is a lie. Usually, you don’t go around telling everyone your problems. Most of the time they don’t care, and I already have enough people in my life not caring.

Fit Top: u know, ***** af, could use some help. u up for it?

No, I’m not. With everything going on in my life, I shouldn’t even be registered in an app like this. But sometimes all you need is a distraction, and everyone has its own way to cope with sadness. Mine? I let guys turn me on.

Me: sure. what do u have in mind?

Fit Top: how about u show me something good?

I get on my feet and walk over to the mirror by the closet. It is big enough to reflect my body, but without showing my face. I take off my shirt, throwing it behind the bed so it doesn’t ruin my picture.

A part of me says all this is wrong. It was my taste for men what led me to this depressing stage of my life. And yet, here I am, adjusting the position of my body to get the right angle in which I look muscular.

Snap. After the picture is taken, I press the ‘Send’ button and take a sit by the bed, waiting for a response. It’s so easy to do this now. I still remember how hard it was to talk with gay men when I didn’t accept myself. It’s still a secret, but at least I’ve come to terms with my sexuality.

Fit Top: man ur so hot. how about u show me some ass?

No, my mind says. I’ve never felt comfortable of showing my ass. So far I’ve liked being a bottom, but it’s not as hot as topping for someone.

But when this guy sends a picture of his ****, I can feel my blood traveling south, compelling me to do as told. Quickly, I take off my pants and trunks. Snap.

After I send him a picture of me lying face-down upon the bed, he immediately replies with his live location.

Fit Top: how about u come make me some company? just passing by the city, come to my hotel. room 314. no one

will know.

By this point, I can’t help feeling a huge amount of anxiety. I’ve only had sex with one person—various times, but just one person. Usually, whenever I was turned on I went to him, but now that it’s over I don’t know what to do. Should I accept this offer? Maybe I should just block this guy.

On the other hand, I could go and prove that I’m not broken after everything that’s happened.

Me: be there in 15 mins.

As I dress up, somewhere inside my head the rational part of me shakes its head in disappointment. It’s telling me, You’re not the kind of guy to do hookups, you just want to feel desired by someone to feel like everything’s okay. And I know it’s true.

When you feel like you’re worth nothing, sometimes you need a reminder that you are worth it.

Fit Top: i’m here waiting for u.

Attached to his message there is a new picture: him, lying on the bed of a fancy hotel without any clothes on. Quickly, I put my shoes on and prepare to leave.

But before I can even get out of my room, the rational part of me speaks again. If you’re going to do this, at least you should tell him the truth.

The truth.

Sighing, I plop down on the chair by my desk. I know I should tell him before anything intimate happens, but if I do I wouldn’t be escaping from reality.

Still, he has the right to know.

Me: hey. there’s something u need to know.

Fit Top: what is it? are u not single? don’t mind me, i’ll leave in a couple of days. no one will know.

I wish it was that simple. I would never cheat on anyone; a relationship, for me, is something sacred. But I’d prefer to be unfaithful to my partner rather than be here.

Me: no, it’s not that.

Fit Top: what is it then?

I stare at the screen, feeling lost.

Tell him.

Don’t tell him.

How am I?

The voices come back, this time repeating different things. I cover my ears to stop them, but they just keep talking and talking.

Go on.

Do it.

Are you nuts?

“That’s enough,” I say, loud enough to make someone think I’m completely mad. Fortunately, my family’s not home, or else they would send me to get psychological help. That’s the last thing I need now.

I grab my phone as if it could fall or something, wishing to get some strength from it.

Me: okay, i’m going to be honest. i have hiv. but i’m completely normal, we just need to use protection.

No response.

I wait in silence, reading my message over and over, until I convince myself that this has to be a joke. The man of the laboratory must’ve made a mistake. Maybe he used someone else’s blood sample, or maybe he gave me the wrong diagnostic.

Maybe he wanted to write ‘Negative’ and wrote ‘Positive’ instead.

I’m so distracted hoping to be alright, that after ten minutes of waiting I realize that the conversation with the guy is gone.

He blocked me.

No. Maybe he just had to delete his account. Like, right now.

But who am I going to fool? He was grossed by my disease. Silently, I lock my phone and throw it on the bed. I take a seat on the floor between the desk and the closet, hugging my legs to my chest.

You’re a freak.

No one will want you like that.

You’re dead man.

“Stop,” I say, tears running down my cheeks. I don’t want to cry anymore. My eyes are red and swollen from crying all weekend. But I can’t control myself. “Please, just stop.”

But this time, they don’t obey me. The voices don’t stop.

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