By Joss Barton
Baby birds squallin’ in a nest made of hay, twigs, and garbage lodged beneath the sleeve air conditioner outside your apartment window. Should you ask the landlord to have pest control destroy the nest? You think of how death based on discomfort always brings the worst kinds of karma, like six months of cold showers and no heat, or your mother letting you know you’re breaking her heart. Your bed still smells of the stale poppers you spilled on your sheets last night while getting fucked by a man you met off Craigslist. He’s bisexual and you fucked before, one summer afternoon after his soccer game. He arrives sweaty with moist milky skin, his thick cock throbbing through mesh shorts. He fucked you raw but pulled out to shoot his load. But last night, as you straddled his body, running your hands across his hard flesh, his cock ramming up your ass, he is disconnected. He continues to fuck you, but his eyes go somewhere past your skin, his erection slowly deflating with each thrust. You know he posts ads looking to fuck men and trans women, but only in the ads targeting men does he say he’s POZ/undetectable. You tell him you know, and that you don’t care. You just want his cum. He ends up pumping two loads inside you.
He isn’t the first man with HIV you’ve fucked. You loose your virginity the first semester of college at 19. A good part of those first sexual years are spent terrified of HIV. You use condoms like you’re told to, take them like candy from bowls at prevention centers across campus. You’re even okay with settling for sloppy blowjobs because seroconversion by oral sex would require taking anon loads right after oral surgery, like, CUM INSIDE MY BLOODY WISDOM TOOTH DRY SOCKET DADDY!!! But sometimes the condom isn’t on, and in those moments, you always whine to the tops please, don’t cum in me. This pattern continues thru your 20s and each year your interest in condoms wanes while your fascination with erections grows with blissful intensity. You realize somewhere in your early 20s, coming up through the faggotry, that statistically a good percentage of the men fucking you were already HIV+ or would seroconvert at some point. You’ve lost count but your best guess is you’ve had sex with somewhere between 300 and 400 men. Every HIV test you take comes with a feast of inner-paranoid shame, self-loathing, and fear. You admit, every time, the process feels better, healthier, with each kernel of knowledge and de-stigmatizing you teach yourself about HIV, treatment as prevention, incubation periods, seroconversion symptoms, risk-reduction practices. You know systems profit off HIV and marginalized bodies, and that under capitalism, The State works by employing medical industrial systems to remind us our bodies are not our own. We can’t liberate the cells or the genitals. We can’t be seen in the wrong bathroom. We can’t evolve without AIDS.
Last year, your black butchqueen sisters start to get on PrEP one by one. You kiki with them on the phone about taking raw dicks, start using the hashtag #TRUVADARYDR, very faggot homage to EVE’s WHAT YA WANT: BOMBSHELL JUST A SECOND/MAMI WANNA SPEAK OUT: Sunday brunches spent gagging over gangbangs and five load Fridays. The #TruvadaWhore think pieces prompt you to ask your friends how they got on the drug. You more than meet the requirements for a high-risk patient. Cum was now QWEEN of your sexual life. You craved it in your mouth and ass as much as possible. What once seemed like a shy fascination was now a full-grown HOBBY. Your pussy becomes a beaming Technicolor rainbow but with a pot of cum at the end of every afternoon fuck.
Obamacare comes through and you’re able to make an appointment with one of the few queer/trans-affirming doctors in Saint Louis. You sit in the exam room listening to him explain the PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) consultation and what to expect with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). He tells you he’s starting you off slow on a low dosage and that if the HIV test is negative you can get started on Truvada (the brand name of the drug used for PrEP). Behind you, on the wall, is a huge multicolored painting of Judy Garland, her face repeated over and over again in rows of film, transitioning between pastel colors and black and white, and she just stares at you, her face in her hands.
You’ve been on HRT and Truvada for two months now. The estradiol starts white at half a milligram, hues sky blue at 1 milligram, and when you pack your PM pill in your plastic wallet the two milligrams sometimes look like crumbling robin’s eggs lining the red seams with light dust. The Truvada stays blue. Your pussy is the divine drunk on desire. It don’t give a fuck about HIV. It needs weed and silicone lube. It is a queero-faggot-tranny-god. Your body isn’t soft enough. It has ugly feet and missing eyelashes. What will your mind do when the fear of HIV is gone? Will you realize you’re poor? Will you demand a pill to cure poverty from your body? Where is the gene therapy to get Islan a murder conviction? These pills won’t stop you from being slaughtered. They won’t heal you from cultural genocide. You write a poem after Tamara Dominguez is killed in Kansas City: death stroked our hair and kissed our cheeks and asked us to never call their phones only text only let it fuck us at five or six in the morning only wear a wig and black panties and neon fishnets and shiny heels only snort and smoke what it brings over in clear plastic baggies only sleep when it’s all over.
The men fucking you are all sad in their own ways. The short, tatted stripclub bouncer who lives around the corner constantly wants to know if you’re negative yet always wants to cum raw in your ass. The HS basketball coach made you the sidechick through two different girlfriends. The hung former frat boy turned Trump supporter who you run into walking his Labrador one morning in the lobby of your other trick. Their textfloods are always looking for pussy and ass and your clit or your cum and always how horny they are and how they miss your body. They always fuck you in beds where their wives or girlfriends or buddies won’t find, where your value is sold on ripped thigh highs, 7-inch pumps, hard nipples and your cock tucked into velvet thongs. They’re the kind of men who drown cigarettes in puddles, whistle a lil sunshine with a lil rain, lust on you, the girl picking skin off her lips, tossing the flesh on the bar. They never take off their wedding rings. You take them raw or if they insist rubbered. It doesn’t matter. They want to own your holes. Is it clique to believe bottoming is an art?
These medical interventions you’ve chosen are the best resources and tools you have to ensure you stay alive in this world. You believe this because you know there are people and institutions that want you erased. Your humanity is still debated and negotiated while your sisters shout and fight for freedom in North Carolina. You dream of jails and host cells exploding with virus. You think of how the mind is a wonderful and frightening place. You vogue yourself back to health with duckwalks and deathdrops and druggy cunty wrists. Survival sounds like Minnie Riperton singing Rainy Day in Centerville, tastes like fresh March mud worms, feels like the ravenous mouths of screaming chicks.