Don Doesn't Have Herpes - Part I
August 20, 2022 Journal Entry
Don doesn’t have herpes.
We went to the doctor Thursday, which also happened to be one day past the eleven-month anniversary of my positive herpes diagnosis. The doctor looked at what Don has stubbornly persisted in believing is a herpes outbreak, although it looks and behaves nothing like a herpes outbreak, and said it appeared to be a fungal type infection.
“This type of thing is commonly contracted in hot climates,” she remarked. Don had mentioned earlier the condition began when he was living in Jakarta. She prescribed an anti-fungal.
They drew blood for the herpes tests. The right tests. Tests that will give him accurate results. That was why I was in with him. I wanted to make sure the doctor ordered the right tests.
Driving back from the doctor’s office, Don said the chance he had herpes was 50%. What he meant was, he was starting to doubt he had herpes, but only about 50%. I took that as progress.
Then he looked at me, perplexed, and asked, “Why would X. tell me she got herpes from me?”
He seriously asked that question. He and his ex-wife hate each other. With a passion. How could it never have occurred to him to verify what she’d told him? He has Asperger’s, he doesn’t lie. But he KNOWS neurotypicals lie. And he knows how dangerous and vindictive his ex-wife is.
“Because she LIED,” I said, looking him straight in the eye. “Women do that sometimes.”
Back at his apartment, Don had me set up MyChart on his phone, so I knew his login and password. Without any qualms whatsoever, I watched that app like a hawk waiting for those test results to drop.
I’ve known all along, and I mean all along he doesn’t have herpes. I should have insisted on condoms from the very beginning, but he was so convinced, and so convincing, and he didn’t want to use them. Men and condoms. (Insert eye roll here.)
About 11 am Friday, BOOM! The first test results dropped. Negative for both HSV1 and HSV2.
I texted him in excitement. I was so happy for him! I was running late for a doctor’s appointment in Olympia because I’d taken time to text him several excited paragraphs. I ran to the car. As soon as I got my seatbelt on, the call came through.
“What does this mean?” he asked.
“IT MEANS YOU’RE NEGATIVE! YOU DON’T HAVE HERPES — NEITHER ORAL NOR GENITAL!”
I went on and on for a while, effusive as ever, telling him how happy I was and how excited I was he could finally let go of all the shame he’s been clinging to for five years, which was always built on a horrible mind-fuck of a lie.
After a few minutes, OK actually several minutes, I decided maybe I should pause, take a breath, and see what Don had to say about his negative results. I was quiet for a few seconds. OK, several seconds. OK, like 20 seconds.
“How accurate is the test?”
“Very accurate! But you’ve got the IgG coming and the Western Blot. The Western Blot is THE gold standard for accuracy.”
More silence. It’s SO HARD for me to let those pauses rest, to not fill them with empty words and meaningless sentiments, to not repeat myself. But I did. But it is SO HARD. Those pauses don’t just last seconds, sometimes they last for minutes. Often, I literally put my hand over my mouth and wait.
What is it like to have nothing to say? What is it like to take so long to form a thought and articulate it out loud? What is it like not to feel compelled to burst forth with words and emotion? I can’t imagine.
The pauses don’t frustrate me so much as slow me down. He’ll never get equal floor time, we both recognize that. Because I love him, value him, value what’s in his heart and am hungry to know more of him, I force my silence. I’m not perfect at it, but I get better every day. I’ve shown him, time and again, I’m invested in genuinely hearing him. I want to hear his heart. I want to know his heart. His heart is precious to me.
The technique I’ve found works best when we’re together is to look away from him. It allows him time to really think without feeling anxious about making eye contact. He’s fully conditioned to understand eye contact is what makes neurotypicals comfortable. And it is. But it blocks him. I no longer hold him in a constant gaze while waiting for a response. Simply looking to the side while he’s thinking has had a miraculous impact. I didn’t realize I did that until just now.
Those first few months were incredibly tumultuous. Yet, I was compelled to push through. It was Spirit. I barely heard her over my fear, and when I did, I argued with her. But I knew it was her. I knew it to my core.
Eventually, worn out with my own fear and anxiety, I let go of my need to read him. I made a conscious decision to back off, relax, rest in him, let him be him, let us be us. Once I did that, the thing I wanted so badly came about. I began to read him.
My choices freed him up almost overnight. He’s begun to read me. He knows he can rest in me, he can trust me. Where there was immense fear and confusion and anxiety, there is now rest and safety and trust. Even when I’m over the top intense, overflowing with emotion, he knows to look beyond that. He knows it will pass. He knows he can trust me to always have his best interests at heart.
Back to the phone call.
After a very long pause, he said, “So, there’s a 75% chance I’m negative.” He wasn’t asking me, he was telling me.
I do not know where he came up with 75%. I’ve told him many times I think it’s incredibly foolish when people arbitrarily pull a percentage out of their ass to support a belief they’re not willing to part with. He knows and he even agrees, but he still does it.
What he really meant, was, “I only believe you 75%.” I laughed. He doesn’t have to believe me at all. The proof is in the test results. I knew that, but I wasn’t done being frustrated quite yet.
Without lowering my intensity, I continued the tirade. More aptly termed scolding? I don’t know. Was I appropriate? I don’t know. But I was all me. The Full Coco. I so desperately want him to be free. I so desperately want him to finally embrace the truth. And how could he not? Now that irrefutable evidence exists?
“Uh, no Don, there’s a near 100% chance you’re negative. I’ve done the research, Don. You know I have. Why would I lie to you? Why would you assume I was wrong or skewing things just to make you feel better? I know about this stuff, and you know I know about this stuff. I have a herpes educational blog post with over 3000 views! I’ve done the research. I’ve helped hundreds of people, Don! I mean, WHAT THE FUCK, DON?”
And then I started crying, big crying, loud crying, and my exhortations got big and encompassed a whole lot more than trying to convince him he doesn’t have herpes.
“I don’t know what more I can do, Don! I’ve told you you’re attractive, that you have much to offer. Stand in front of the mirror, Don, and tell me you’re not attractive! I’ve told you you’re smart and interesting and intriguing and charismatic! I’ve told you women are attracted to you. I’ve told you there will be a woman, the right woman, who will come into your life and you will fall in love and you will have happiness. All along I’ve told you these things. AND YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME! I am NOT stupid, and I am not lying to you! Why why why why can’t you hear me?”
After a fair bit of histrionics along these lines, I got hold of myself. I notched down, and in a smaller softer voice, said, “I’m sorry for yelling. I’m sorry for yelling. I’m sorry for yelling…” And then I was silent.
“Maybe I deserve it,” Don said quietly.
I was surprised. Stunned, actually.
“You’ve done more to help me than anyone else in a long time.”
This would have been a perfect opportunity for me to be still and let the feeling of happiness from his statement flood through me. I regret not having done that. That moment was my moment. I could have taken a pause for me.
But I wasn’t done yet.
“Good! That means some of it got into your head. I thought it was a total bust. That is why I’d given up. I’m glad to know some of it stuck. I just want you to be better, to feel better, to see the truth of you,” I said.
When I pulled into the parking lot of the doctor’s office, I told him I had to end the call, but I wasn’t done yet. In other words, I primed him to expect more chastisement. I was red hot angry with his persistent hard-headed refusal to accept an obvious truth. I was mostly angry because I can’t for the world understand why anyone would want to believe they had herpes in spite of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.
I saw the doctor and received more bad news about my health. Another issue. A major issue. That will get worse and that I’ll have to actively manage for the rest of my life. Jesus fuck shit piss goddamn. What more? Can I get a fucking break already? Jesus Christ ON A FUCKING BIKE!
Just now, writing all this, I cry. I sob. I’m so angry. So angry at the Universe at myself, at all of it. I say over and over, “I can’t take it, I can’t do this!” I say that a lot. I say it inside my head and I say it out loud and I look to the sky and I hold up my fist and I yell it at God.
A soft knowing comes. “Yes, you can. You’ve proven your resilience, your persistence, your tenacity. You always manage, you will always manage, and you will absolutely prevail. You are an integral part of the grand plan. No one else in all of the universe in all of time has the unique contribution you and only you are called to, and you will absolutely achieve your destiny. Rest in that. Trust me. Persevere.”
There’s so much more but I hate long blog posts. People don’t read them. It’s important people read them. I have incredibly important things people need to hear and people need to know. So I’m stopping here. This is Part I.
Photo by Cristofer Maximilian on Unspla