FOREWORD: Coming on the heels of the conclusion of Bobby’s Before I Die series, and here to share Tuesday mornings with Reverend Hot’s Those Awkward Moments, is another riveting real-life story about a KDian living and journeying through life with HIV. It is stories like this that make me proud of what we’re doing here on KD. Read below, be inspired, and share your thoughts below.
People always say that the very beginning is the best place to start, and I agree with them. So it was only natural that I would try and find my own ‘Once upon a time’ over the past few weeks. But I have tried and tried, searched old diaries and my fickle memory to the very day when it all began and why. Yet I can’t seem to. Perhaps this is because, for me, there are so many beginnings that I cannot tell which is relevant anymore. Or it could be because I have wandered so far off that even if I tried to retrace my steps, I couldn’t.
So I’m starting from here, this lonely Sunday evening, sitting here and typing my very first journal entry. Hopefully I can pick up the pieces as we travel along.
My name is Temidire Oluwadurotimi Cole and I am HIV positive.
One of the very few positive results we so desperately pray will actually turn out to be negative. No matter how prepared we are. No matter how cool, calm, collected we are. No matter how enlightened we are about how normal people with HIV can live in the world today. We do not want it. As a friend told me, it is always easier, much lighter to travel without this . . . burden. Every time I write it or say it or think about it (which is a lot these days), it feels surreal. But it is what it is and I’m learning to make my peace with it. I am HIV positive and this is my story.
So my story, well this chapter of it anyways, begins with a purchase on dealdey.com, Bobby’s very inspiring series here on Kito Diaries, and a gnawing feeling which I could not shake off over the past few months.
I developed an online shopping disorder over the last two years, a compulsive need to buy. Dealdey, Amazon, Konga, Jumia and Alibaba paved a channel for me to indulge my cravings. Every morning, just before the madness at the office begins, I’d logged onto the various shopping sites and buy, buy, buy – from Mango Bum-shorts to bedside lamps, to dildos, to Calvin Klein shoes. And so, it came as no surprise that I would stumble on a Home HIV Test Kit on some fateful day on Dealdey. As I stared at the item and contemplated whether or not to add it to my cart, there came that annoying little voice:
‘Temi-D, you should buy this kit and get tested. It’s been too long and we both know you have been careless since your Udara left you last July…
‘You need to know our status. I know labs freak you out, but with this one you can finally take the test in the comfort of your room where you can roll on the floor and wail or slit your wrists or whatever if you see something you are not prepared for…
‘You have no excuse not to buy it… You can no longer hide behind the auspices of not being able to take time off work to get tested. The home test can be done at whatever time you want to and it looks pretty easy to use…
‘Just buy it and take the test when you are ready!’
So I clicked on Buy and added another table lamp and a grater for the day I would finally enter my kitchen to prepare a meal. I clicked on Checkout and paid for my order. Soon I forgot all about the test and the grater. Life went on as usual. Work. Booze. Work. Random hook-ups. More booze. More work. Same old, same old…
Then I stumbled upon the Before I Die series on Kito Diaries. The episodic story was poignant yet very alluring. Bobby’s journey validated the arguments I’d often advocated for, that life could go on despite being positive. I even dared to flirt with the idea that for me, it would make my life simpler. At least it would form the bedrock of my dreams of a solitary life in a bungalow somewhere faraway with Shadow, the German shepherd I was yet to own. I had often envisioned this would be my life in a decade or two. Perhaps being positive would motivate me to kick my addiction to cigarettes and imbibe a healthier eating habit or maybe not. But it would definitely spur the career change I had been dwelling on for so long.
I hadn’t wanted to be a Finance Analyst for as long as I could remember. The pay was fantastic, of course, close to half a million monthly, with the perks of living in the choicest part of Lagos, indulging my shopping antics and buying bottles at bars every other weekend. Life at the moment was very good; miles away from where I was coming from. But I often felt that there was more I could do, should be doing with my life, since I knew firsthand what it felt like not to have anything, to go to bed hungry, to be the last one to pay the school fees. I often felt that I should spend the rest of my life trying to make the world a better place. I knew I would do that someday. But when? Maybe if I tested positive, I’d find the courage to finally take the bold step towards what I believed was to be my calling.
This should be a breeze for me, I thought smugly, the day the package containing my testing kit arrived at my desk. Whatever the results would be, life would go on. And if I turned out to be positive, it would trigger all the grandiose plans I had for myself.
I told Josh, my wingman, the thoughts my mind had been barraged with lately. He laughed and told me it almost seemed liked I wished I was positive. I told him I didn’t, but I wasn’t going to let my status be the reason why my life would take a downward spiral. If not for anything, it was going to make me a better person. I had it all figured out. I always have it all figured out.
I remember the last thing he said to me that day, after one too many shots of vodka, was: “Temi-D, it is always easier not to be Positive.” He said it with the wisdom of someone who had walked this road before.
I would learn how true this was in the weeks to follow.
Written by Temi-D