It couldn’t have been any sweeter. A spring fling for the books. Afternoons in the park and drunken walks across the city. Kind, intimate moments hidden under the covers, the ones you see in photos and whisper I want that to yourself. Nights spent dancing to shitty house music, reveling in each others company, shamelessly filled with glee. A beautiful boy with disarming blue eyes who was patient enough to handle my many quirks. How could I resist?
He would be moving back to Europe after a few short months which meant that he’d leave while in the peak of our honeymoon phase. The expiration date made whatever time we had left together ever so special and ensured that the commitment issues that I usually let dictate my behavior took a backseat. I was smitten and I let him in and took the metaphorical stick out of my ass. I was reminded of the wonderful joys found in being stupid with someone, cooking for two, staying in on a Saturday night to “watch a movie”, and most importantly, trust. But before we knew it, we were having our last late night date night eating ice cream on dramatically lit museum steps trading “I’m really, really gonna miss you” proclamations.
As a parting gift he gave me a letter I was only allowed to read once he was already on the plane home, while I made him a little photo album that included several of our photos together with a line from a poem I wrote on the back of each one. Cheesy? You betcha. Even those cut from the same cynical cloth as I can’t help themselves when it comes to a cheesefest of that magnitude.
Reading his incredibly sweet words, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little misty eyed. Having weeded through a ton of less than stellar suitors, it felt great to finally meet someone sincere who I trusted and who hated ‘the game’ as much as I did – only to have him leave forever. But that’s life and with that, I put the beautiful letter down and went to pee before bed.
It was then that the fire breathing dragon who took residence in my dick for a week and a half reared its ugly head. Worried and in pain, I did what any self respecting 21st century neurotic would do and sought the infinite wisdom of Dr. Google. All roads led to gonorrhea. With Mr.Blue Eyes being my only partner in the usual time frame during which gonorrhoea makes itself known, and having been tested not long before that, it seemed obvious that he was the culprit. Having been royally stupid enough to not wear a condom when things were getting hot and heavy once, and never protecting ourselves where matters of oral gratification were concerened, you can imagine the dread that crept over me.
After waiting for what felt like an eternity in the crowded waiting room of the closest STI clinic, a friendly doctor who tried his best not to wince upon examining me confirmed that I indeed did only have The Clap. Even if it felt like I was peeing out 100 of the spiciest chilli peppers in the world (among other undesirable symptoms), at least it was curable. Granted I had to make a second visit due to an initial treatment failure (stubborn dicks FTW!) and take a second round of meds instead, which meant another hour of playing the waiting room specific ‘Guess What STI He’s Got’ in my head – but you certainly don’t see me complaining.
With the Skype call to inform my prince charming Mr. Blue Eyes of his penile gifts came the confession that he had two other prince charmings on the side. My shattered trust and bruised ego aside, what I felt the most was anger. Anger at him for not being able to keep his dick in his pants while making me feel like I was his one and only, but mostly anger at myself for being so cavalier when it came to my sexual health. He may have carried the STI prior to being involved with the other boys or they may have given it to him, at this point it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I, like millions of other gay men, wasn’t being safe. And when your screening process before you sleep with someone is as simple and half assed as a “are you clean?”, an idiot can tell you that you’re bound to catch something at one point or another.
Many people carry STI’s without being aware of it, we all know that. Many people however wouldn’t fathom the idea that they themselves can get infected out of the billions out there. Basic adolescent perceptions of invincibility if I’ve ever seen it. As I indulged in my own little teenage dream, I let my heart dictate whether I could or should trust someone enough to not have put latex between us. How could he ever have an STI if we were in a supposedly exclusive relationship the whole time? That’s the sound of naiveté and it’s unfortunately what hundreds of thousands of people sound like too.
The intoxicating joy of falling in love and the power of an orgasm are as seductive as they are dangerous. There isn’t a conceivable way to have the 411 on a potential or existing partner’s sexual health unless you carry around your very own lab kit, but there is a very realistic way to protect yourself. There’s no excuse to make careless mistakes with potentially insurmountable risks. Risks that we take every time we hook up with that hotty who’s been eying you across the dance-floor all night, every time we meet up with someone from Grindr for some ‘discreet’ fun, every time we guiltily crawl back into an ex’s bed, and every other situation where we play Russian roulette with our sexual health.
Regardless of how much you may trust someone (’cause I sure as hell did), you can’t police their every move. What you can police is your ability to listen to the thousands of billboards, posters, and ads urging you to practice safer sex. It may not feel as good, but it’ll still feel a whole lot better than the infection will. And as much of an inconvenience as it may be, taking the hour or two to get tested regularly may prevent the inconvenience of contracting a potentially life altering infection.