Air and Light
Writen by: Lenny Courtemanche
After I found out that I was positive in 1992, I told very few people. In fact, I have relatives and many friends whom I consider close friends, who to this day have never heard about my status from my lips. I already felt like a leper. In my head I was walking around with my own scarlet letter A that everyone could see. I didn’t need to add more people to make me feel even more ashamed. I believed that I could control the number of people who might look down on me and ostracize me. I could keep my “dirty” little secret locked away inside me.
The day I got my results and went home to be with my then partner Marcos, one of my five sisters was at my house. I made her promise me she wouldn’t tell our other siblings or my father. She said she wouldn’t but as I would find out in 2010, she had.
In 2010 with my immune system obliterated by E-coli and two of my other sisters by my bedside I had to tell them. Both sisters confessed to having been told years before. My second youngest sister asked me why I didn’t’ feel I could tell her. I said because I was afraid that if she knew, she wouldn’t let me take care of her two sons who in 1992 were only 5yrs and 3yrs old.
She reminded me of a day when I was in my kitchen at my sink with my youngest nephew standing by my side. While I don’t recall how I did it, somehow, I had cut my face and my nephew, lovingly and instinctively reached up to touch my “boo-boo”. I startled my nephew with how swiftly I grabbed his hand, leaned in closer to him and I said if Uncle Lenny is bleeding YOU DON’T TOUCH HIM. What I didn’t know is my sister, their mom, was standing just outside the kitchen door and had witnessed to whole thing. She said to me as I laid in my hospital bed, “I knew you would never do anything to hurt my kids”. I cannot express the weight that was lifted from my shoulders that day.
This path of self-disclosure is new territory for me and while I’m still working on it and not always successful, I try to remember and employ what my best friend told me years ago. That sometimes it’s best to rip the Band-Aid off and let the fresh air help our wounds heal. Another friend said to me recently that Shame lives in the dark, it cannot survive being spoken and brought out into the light.
Here’s to living in the fresh air and the light