My friends did not understand when I staggered to the table to steady my self. They looked at me for a second and went back to debating the new billionaire owner of Chelsea. It was just as well; they did not come all over me to inquire what was the matter with me. They are at times too caring, it sucks.
Their voices became one with the hum of the florescent tube. The noises from out side the window also faded until it was just my albatross and I. All alone in the world, I felt colder than I have ever felt. I knew I was all alone because what I had just read could not just be swept under the carpet like some small issue that can be handled by Dr. Feelgood. The information in my hand was character destroying and I did not know how far I could trust my friends.
Feeling weighed down by these thoughts, I sought a chair. I had to sit down. Why did this have to happen to me now? There was too much on my horizon for this to be true. How was I going to break the news to my wife and kids? Would a four year old understand the meaning of the word AIDS? I was having problems understanding it myself.
The piece of paper fluttered to the ground. The movement brought me back momentarily from my reverie. This paper held my death sentence. I leaned and picked it up to stare at it. I kept on thinking that I would wake up soon and I would turn over and hug my wife, pregnant with our third child. This had to be a nightmare. I had just got my lucky break. All my dreams were on the verge of coming true. The doctor must have made a mistake.
But then I remembered that unforgettable night and I felt all the shame. Corporate dinner, young and upcoming professionals all around me, every one having a good time. Deals were being cut and the expensive wine was flowing. This was the life. This is where I belonged. I had worked so hard to attain this and I was going to enjoy every last bit of it.
That is when I saw her. She was something from a dream. She looked so unreal, I blinked twice. On asking around, I discovered that she was a new kid on the block. An emerging advertising force. She looked like a panther. Her movements were lithe. It was like wine moving around in a silky bag. The kind of softness that slides around in your hands yet does not drench you. She was the personification of beauty.
My interest was purely academic. I did not really think of it beyond the normal appreciation of beauty. I am a man. A man who has got to do what a man has got to do. Every man I know of likes to look on a beautiful flower. So when she glided towards me, glass balanced expertly in the most beautiful hands I have ever seen, my interest was pricked.
By the end of the evening, we were like Siamese twins. All thought of my friends and family had evaporated. I was in trance. The woman had beauty and brains. That is something that you do not find every day. Our conversation swung from the stock to the implications of Gaetano’s stay in the Big Brother house on our economy to family values. I had not had such an enlighting conversation in a very long time. My impression of her was changing constantly. She was a woman with heart but she was also as strong as nails.
How was I supposed to know that she was also a good actress, that she hated men with a passion? When she suggested that we get out and find a more private place, away from all the inquiring glances, I thought it was the best suggestion I had heard from anyone in a long time. I wanted to talk some more. I swear it was just that; wanted to pick her brain some more and drink in her beauty some more. Then I would go home.
But I did not realise that I had bitten the bait. She was a smooth operator. From the moment we walked out of the room, she turned into something else. She was cold so she asked for my coat. To get even warmer, she had to hold onto my arm a tad possessively, I thought at the time, but that did not mean anything. I wrote it off as just an eccentricity.
She knew her game. Before long, she had told me about her life and that contrary to the façade that was her confidence; she was an emotional wreck who just needed love and understanding. I fell for it.
Now I have to grapple with this enormous fact; that I have put my wife in danger and that no amount of sorry-saying will bring back the good times. Who will look at me and say sorry, who will listen to me and absolve me, who will cry with me?