So, last Friday, Carlos and I drove up to Chapel Hill, to the university there, so Carlos could talk to students about HIV.
T'was an interesting drive, though, from Smallville to Chapel Hill. You can either drive either miles east, then 150 miles north, then 90 miles west, to get there, or you can take the backwoods roads, most of them two-laned and, thankfully, paved.
We took the shortcut, and it was a lovely drive. McBee, South Carolina looks cute and we may head back that way. Cassatt, on the other hand....as we drove through, past the gas station, some kind of store, and the Post Office, Carlos asked why the road didn't go through town, but around it. I told him it did go through. Cassatt. I wouldn't even stop for gas. Now, Pittsboro, North Carolina is another adorable town, and I told Carlos we could live there, in my best, semi-homegrown Southern accent.
Why we live in Pittsboro, y'all.
Most of the time, though, we were in farmland, or in the trees, and most of the time we could drive fifty-five, which was a good thing, because I could swear that, through the open car windows, I heard the Deliverance banjos.
That's the drive.
The pride came once we reached the university. The students in question were Advanced Placement students from around the country who had come to Chapel Hill for a week-long session of classes and discussions on the medical field. All these kids--and sheesh, I felt and sounded like such a geezer around them--were thinking of going into medicine, so that's what brought them to North Carolina. They viewed surgeries--ack!--and spent roughly eight hours a day in classes on a variety of subjects.
The day we arrived, the topic was HIV, and Carlos would be speaking to a group of about twenty students. Since I was just the DD--designated driver--because of the backwoods Google map, and because it was a long-assed day, up there, speechifying, and then back again, I thought I'd sit out the lecture as I didn't want to intrude on the classes. But the folks running the whole shebang said it would be fine if I went with Carlos while he spoke, and I must say, I'm very glad I did.
i know about HIV. As a gay man, I believe it's my responsibility to know about it. How it works....how you get it....how you care for yourself if you do become infected. But, sitting in that classroom, listening to Carlos talk to these high school kids about HIV, I learned a great many things I hadn't known before.
Not so much about HIV, but about Carlos.
He is such a great communicator, especially with these young people. There was no 'talking down' to them. There was no cutesy ways of speaking. it was blunt, it was direct, it was educational, and, I believe, it made an impact.
He has a way with telling the story, using a house as the metaphor, and wind and rain as HIV. He taught them how to protect themselves from HIV, he taught them to say No, if there was no condom He taught them to realize that, if you do become infected, it isn't a death sentence; it's a condition. One that you can treat with the right medicines and a good doctor and a positive outlook.
He spoke to them in terms they could understand; the hot guy who wants to have sex with you, but he doesn't have a condom; the hot girl.....Just say No. At one point he even talked about blow jobs, which stunned the class. One girl even turned around to her friend, with her hand over her mouth, in shock. But he simply said, "C'mon, people, we all know what a blow job is....."
When Carlos left the veterinary field, and took a job as an HIV counselor, tester, and outreach worker, I was a little shocked. He didn't care much for homeless people, or high school kids, and suddenly, those were his clients and students. I assumed he would stay at the job for a while, and then move on to something else, but he's been at this for three years now, and he has become quite the advocate for the homeless community, the HIV community, and those in need of an education about HIV.
This, coming during Pride, reminded me that I don't need to be proud of being gay. That's kind of like being proud that i have blue-eyes. I was born with both. But there is a pride at living openly and honestly, and rather in-your-face--especially in a place like South Carolina--that is really lovely.
But, for me, the real Pride is now also about Carlos. Proud of what he's done, what he's doing, and how he's done it; proud of the joy and the passion he has for teaching people--of any age, of any race, of any economic or religious background--that we are all the same.
We can all be HIV+, but we should mostly be positive about life.
Carlos, for me, is my Pride.