15 minutes. Approximately 15 min.
That's how long I've been sitting in front of a blank page attempting to determine the approach I will take while writing about the 8th anniversary of my HIV-positive diagnosis.
I'm normally a "sleep in" type of person, but today, I've been awake since 8:30 am. For the first time in years, the arrival of this date didn't keep me from sleeping last night. I wasn't cloaked in trepidation. There was no kryptonite on my chest depleting my super powers or my breathing. Untraditionally, I was peaceful.
Yet, this morning, my reality was unavoidable. I, Melanie YeYo Carter, am HIV-positive. I'm my mother and father's daughter. I am HIV-positive. I have a 12-year-old daughter. I am HIV-positive. I have a beautiful woman and fiancé in my life. I am HIV-positive.
I am a poet. I am a Spoken Word Artist. I am a college student. I am a best friend. I am a friend. I am a sister. I am an auntie. I am a writer. I am bipolar with PTSD. I am a rape survivor. I am an abuse survivor. I am a black woman. I am a black lesbian. I am HIV-positive.
I am alive. Unlike some others, I will not diminish the gravity of my own situation with the carbon copy phrase “HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence anymore”. I understand the medical advancements that have been made towards minimizing the effects of the illness and to improve the quality of life of those living with the illness. This acknowledgment is a reflection of my logic, but the most intricate human parts of me find no comfort in “it’s not a death sentence”. To know that my blood is my enemy is repetitiously unnerving.
On the difficult days, if I let it, my mind would convince me that I can feel the disease replicating itself. Each copy of HIV, a blow to the skin that binds it. Occasionally, this thought is so loud that it synchronizes with my heartbeat. During these times, I imagine my white blood cells as Spartans, and HIV is an invasion. Perhaps I deem this 300 analogy fitting because the hero still dies in the end. Perhaps the lesson in this 300 analogy is King Leonidas didn’t allow the possibility of death to deter him. Shit, I’ve always said that I am not waiting to die. Death will have to come find me.
I have been living openly and honestly with this illness for 8 years. 8 years of needle sticks and blood and fear and laughter and crying and perseverance and advocacy and determination and mental hospital admissions and memories and letting go and holding on and “fuck forgiveness” and love poems and lesbian-black-girl shenanigans and I feel beautiful and don’t look at me and 2 fist fights because they said “you’re dying slow anyway” and “that’s why you got that shit” and learning that living is more than survival. 8 years later, and I’m doing so many of the things I thought I would never get the opportunity to do.
If ever I’m asked what my greatest accomplishment was, my answer will be simple: I lived when life, my past and humanity said I couldn’t. I lived it, and I survived. I survived it, and I lived.
Last year, I wrote a list of my thoughts concerning my diagnosis date. I’m going to share them again because they are still extremely relevant.
🔹RANDOM THOUGHTS AT MY 7 YEAR HIV+ MARK IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER🔹
For those of you who took the time to read me, thank you. Today, I will be creating new memories. Today, I will let that shit be glorious.
Melanie YeYo Carter
This is a single from my upcoming Spoken Word project titled "Machete Grace". RESPECT AND LOVE.
So, I forced myself to live today
Every breath pushed out in an unnatural birth of rhythm
Each, a calculated approach to survival
Each one, stretching out to the universe with conviction
Just hoping someone or something would reach back
Would help me hold all of this falling apart together
Every exhale released an invisible cloud of sorrow around me
I was walking enveloped in a storm
Flooded Drowned Drenched down to my core,
And no one even noticed
No one noticed how my smile didn’t reach my eyes
That it was merely painted on, and I was Mona Lisa
There is an art form in holding your shit together
A gentle stroke here, and a hard stroke there
And if you angle your strength just right in the light,
People will assume your smile comes easy
That it is without sorrow
Without scream imprisoned behind it
They will not see the force nor the effort it takes to do something so natural
To inhale exhale
So, today, I forced myself to live
Today, I was a magician
A work of art and an artist
And in the right light,
My smile looked easy
"I was blessed with the ability to make ugly look pretty. This is my superpower."