There are a million people in the U.S. alone suffering from HIV/AIDS; you’re one of them. It all started when your parents divorced just as you were entering high school. Your father was given full custody of you due to your mother’s drug addictions. I guess bad habits run in the family. You dropped out of school at sixteen and got into your own ‘vices’.
Once you were old enough, you moved out and found an apartment compound at a cheap price in downtown Los Angeles. It was thanks to your run of the mill waitress that you were able to afford it. Alongside your job, you continued your drug usage, even more so that it was now even easier to come by with all the different dealers and the fact you didn’t have to hide it from your dad anymore.
Discovering you had AIDS was devastating. You were scared; what was going to happen to you? Your drug usage went down but didn’t stop even though you now had to use a fraction of your paycheck for refills of your AZT.
Today you were heading to a Life Support group for people with your condition. Just as you were coming up to the door, you ran into a young man with short black hair. “_____?” he called you by name but you didn’t recognize him.
“Uh…” was all you could say.
“It’s me, Yao; remember?”
“Yao? Yao Wang?”
Yao had been your best friend throughout grade school. His parents moved him to a private school after fifth grade which judging by his wardrobe and location he didn’t stick with. You shared a hug and a smile. “What are you doing here?” he asked.
Before you could answer, your monitor went off, reminding you to take your AZT. “Oh no,” Yao muttered as you gulped down your pill.
“What?” you spoke. You thought for a moment before repeating his words, “Oh no.” You weren’t the only one in this conversation with AIDS.
An awkward silence fell around both of you. Yao quickly changed the subject to the cliché ‘it’s kinda chilly out here’. You went along with it as the two of you walked into the building to join the group.
Afterwards, Yao invited you for coffee and you both continued your previous conversation in a nearby park. “Sorry I didn’t recognize you,” you began. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you with short hair.”
“It’s okay,” Yao smiled.
“It looks nice, but I liked the ponytail better.” Yao chuckled; you’d always tug on his tail at school when you were younger.
“I never thought the next time we’d see each other was at Life Support,” Yao continued.
“Same,” you replied.
“How?” he asked.
You were hesitant because you felt embarrassed. After a moment you spoke, “it was right before ninth grade; after my parents split up.”
“Oh I’m sorry.”
You nodded and continued. “I was basically on my own. I dropped out at sixteen and started getting into drugs. I wasn’t prepared for it.”
“No one ever is,” Yao added.
“How’d you end up like this?” you asked. “I thought your parents sent you to private school.”
“They did; it sucked. I dropped out too, but I wasn’t doing drugs. I did however hook up with a girl who had been.”
“She was very persuasive; and drunk. One kiss and I was hooked. That’s one sour way to lose one’s virginity. I feel horrible just thinking about it.” Tears started to drop from Yao’s eyes. You put down your coffee and wrapped him in a hug.
“It’s okay,” you said in a comforting tone. “We’ll get through this together.”
“Thank you ______,” Yao managed to crack a smile.
As the sun started to set, Yao walked you back to your apartment. “Well I guess I’ll see you later,” you smiled going up the steps.
“Yeah, guess so,” Yao added.
“You know what the worst thing was about going to that school was?” Yao asked following behind you.
“What?” you responded.
“Living every day without you.”
“Yao I—” You were silenced by a spontaneous kiss from Yao. Your eyes widened, blinking rapidly after Yao pulled away.
The young Chinese man before you became flustered, realizing what he just did.
“Um…I should go.”
“Wait,” you called to him; he turned back to you. You went up, wrapped your arms around him and kissed him back.
“Aiyah,” Yao blushed once you had pulled away. “So does this mean you like me too?” You nodded with a sincere smile; he smiled back. “Can I stay with you ______?”
“Oh course Yao; anytime.”
“How about all the time?” You tilted your head, slightly confused. “I got evicted this morning; I am homeless.” You giggled and lead him inside.
With Yao back in your life, life had definitely gotten better for the both of you. You stopped using drugs and your work ethic had improved. Best of all, you got to fall asleep in Yao’s arms every night.
Together, you fought your battle against AIDS, but it would only last so long. You passed away from the virus almost two years after you encountered Yao for the first time since the end of grade school.
At your funeral, Yao stepped up to your coffin and placed what was supposed to be your engagement ring on your frigid left hand. Yao had been planning on proposing to you. Truly a tragic turn of events.
After you had been laid to rest in the local cemetery, Yao knelt down at your grave, ushering the other attendees away. With tears in his eyes, he said softly, “I don’t know when I’ll be joining you my love but I am sure to do so; wait for me.”
The next morning, the cemetery attendant was surprised to find Yao lying at the foot of your headstone. When he was woken up, he apologized by saying, “I’m sorry sir; I just had to spend one last night with her.”