THE TOWELING: A Halloween Horror Short Story
October 31, 2014
Gary lays naked on his bed in his modest NYC apartment in the East Village. The window is cracked open and a breeze comes in as he channel surfs. He shouts towards the cracked bathroom door that is several feet from the bed. “Save some hot water for me!” Gary tugs the sheet with his toes, managing to cover his knees without the use of either hand. “Don’t pretend you can’t hear me… ACE?” A loud laugh echoes from the shower. “You jackass,” Gary says as he sighs, speeding through the channels before landing on a friendly face. “Oh, Anderson- now we’re talking.”
The water stops.
“Alright Gary, it’s all yours-”
“Shhhhhhhhhh,” Gary yells out. “It’s the Coop!”
“Then pause that shit, Gary.” Ace grabs a toothbrush, squeezes some paste onto it and hurriedly begins to brush as Gary bursts into laughter. “Whash sho funny?” No answer. Just more laughing. “Paush it, Gauwee!!!” Ace spits into the sink and rushes to the bedroom, which is the living room as well. Gary manages to shift his attention from Anderson to Ace. “Sorry, you took too long, missed all the good parts.” Gary says teasingly as Ace stands beside him, dripping wet and still naked.
“Back it up- I want to see something funny.” Ace demands.
“I guess it’s only fair that we both get to see something funny right now,” Gary says, prompting Ace to suck in his stomach before making a play for control of the remote. They wrestle for it until Gary agrees to Ace’s demands. “Alright, alright, I’ll back it up, geesh… but shut up because you gotta hear this.”
Anderson Cooper throws to a clip of Pat Robertson from The 700 Club: “You might get AIDS in Kenya. The people have AIDS in Kenya. The towels could have AIDS.”
“Oh my God, he didn’t,” Ace says, stunned.
“I know, right?”
“Back it up, I gotta hear that again,” Ace says.
“Are you sure?” Gary asks with a smirk.
“Because it looks like you’re already too scared to use my AIDS towels.”
“Oh shit,” Ace says, looking down at the puddle of water at his feet. “sorry…”
Ace starts heading to the bathroom; but Gary stops him just long enough to grab a condom, wrapper and stack of tissues from the nightstand, plopping them into Ace’s hand. Gary grabs Ace’s elbow. “And don’t forget to take your prep.” “I never do,” Ace replies.
“Any side effects?”
“No- two months in and I don’t notice anything…”
“You know, Ace,” Gary begins. “I’m undetectable, we use condoms… you don’t have to-” “Shush, Gary,” Ace says. “I’m not scared and don’t mind. It’s more for the guys out there who don’t know their status, anyway, they’re the ones I’m worried about.”
“Well, you shouldn’t be worrying about them at all,” Gary says.
“Oh, ready to lock this down are we?” Ace asks.
Ace leans into Gary for a quick kiss before heading to the bathroom, where he discards the sex paraphernalia into the trash can before gazing into the mirror, shaking his head and smiling to himself. Ace flicks open the mirrored cabinet door and retrieves a prescription bottle. Before he opens it, he looks around for a towel but doesn’t see one. “Please don’t tell me you are out of clean towels,” he whispers to himself before squatting down to check the cabinets underneath the sink.
“Gary, where are the— Gary?”
As Ace emerges from the bathroom he sees Gary laying on the bed, only now he has a white towel over his face. “You goof, playing peek-a-boo with yourself?” Ace asks as he walks toward Gary. “Give me that-”
Before he can finish his sentence, the towel flies up from Gary’s face and floats above the bed. Gary’s eyes are open, but are lifeless and white. Ace stumbles back towards the bathroom, reaching behind him for the doorway as the towel floating above the bed takes on the form and physical characteristics of a bat, flapping its wings. Through the cracked window several more towels fly in and head straight for Ace, knocking him into the bathroom and sending him spiraling through the shower curtain and causing him to fall into the bathtub.
The bathroom door closes. The only sounds to be heard throughout Gary’s apartment now is the crackle of city life on the streets below and Anderson Cooper sarcastically taking Pat Roberston’s warning to task: “Overseas… everything overseas is bacteria… you just can’t even imagine. I’m starting to think that we’d be better off not traveling at all.”
I’d also like to thank Pat Robertson and Anderson Cooper for their roles. Without Pat’s imagination stories like The Toweling would not be possible.
A Boy, A Virus and the Education of a Community
January 20, 2014
Recently I was contacted by Brian Bridgeforth, a fellow Waynesboro, VA native and the little brother of a longtime classmate and friend, Patti. (I believe Patti and I met in Kindergarten in 1980, and graduated together in 1993.) Brian works for the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation and invited me to write a guest blog entry about how my testing positive for HIV at age 11 affected our hometown.
(To read the full post, please visit The Waynesboro Heritage Foundation website!)
“Despite being born with the bleeding disorder, hemophilia, I enjoyed a
pretty typical childhood growing up in Waynesboro. I lived in a quaint
neighborhood, just a few skips down the sidewalk from my best friends.
Summers were spent swimming at my grandparents’ pool and many hours were
dedicated to the latest Atari games when I wasn’t outside pretending to
be Rambo in a game of war.
Yes, I am a child of the 1980s.
And one of the most impactful events of that decade was the emergence
of HIV/AIDS. It was during a time when there were gaping lapses in
blood safety standards. Due to my reliance on blood products for
treating my hemophilia I was at risk for HIV infection. There were
signs that my immune system was compromised in the 4th grade when half
of my body broke out in shingles. I did not receive a standard HIV test
until two years later in 1987. It was the spring of my 6th grade school
year and, aside from a bout with strep throat, it was one of my best
years until I failed that “pop quiz.”
After I tested positive for HIV my mom informed my teacher of the
results. My teacher had concerns about the risk of transmission to my
classmates, and when she spoke with her doctor it started a chain
reaction of fearful reactions that led to me being kicked out of school.
I wasn’t allowed back in class for the last four weeks of the school
(To read rest of the post, click HERE!)
New Adventures in HIV Medication
July 30, 2013
In 2002 I made a decision regarding my HIV medications- I’d been on combination therapy for 3 years after receiving an AIDS diagnosis in 1999, and the HIV medication most certainly brought my health back. But at the same time, I was feeling the side effects and was concerned about long-term side effects.
At the time, I’d read a couple of things about structured treatment interruptions and heard Larry Kramer rant about HIV drugs at my friend Stephen Gendin’s memorial. Larry yelled, “I have no ass because of these drugs! We should all take our medication for one week, then take a week off so they get half the profits!” Needless to say, he was pissed off about more than just losing a friend that day…
I’m fortunate that my doctor and partner, Gwenn, were okay with giving a structured treatment interruption a try. I was quite relieved when my t-cell count continued to climb, even with a week off, and my viral load remained undetectable or very close to it. In 2009 I wrote a column for Poz about my experiences with week on/week off therapy. You can read it here.
All in all, I’ve been happy with the results of the experiment. But last year, it felt like time to try a new combination. So I switched from Norvir, Reyataz and Truvada to Complera, continuing the week on/week off schedule. After six months of experiencing changes in mood, from being more angry than usual to feeling depressed, I through in the towel and decided to go back to my previous combination. But the lack of energy on that combination- which was quite severe during the first week of July- left me a bit shaken…
I was texting with a trusted friend about all of this, and asked how he dealt with side effects. “I don’t really have any,” he replied. I followed up on email because I had so many questions, and he confided that he approaches HIV medications the same way I do, but has implemented the strategy a bit differently. Instead of a break from HIV medication, he takes less than is normally prescribed but doing so under the guidance and knowledge of his doctor.
Needless to say, I was intrigued.
So I spoke with Gwenn about it at length and once again huddled with her and my doctor, who researched the idea. We’ve all agreed to give it a shot, and for the last week I’ve been taking 800 mgs of Prezista with 100 mgs of Norvir. In about five weeks, I’ll be going in for lab work to see how things are going.
Am I scared to experiment with this? Not really. Partly because of the last ten years of how I’ve been taking my medications. In terms of effectiveness, every combo I’ve been on has done it’s job of attacking the virus and neutralizing its ability to wreak havoc on my health. I’m convinced that far better treatments- and possibly a cure- are on the horizon, and it’s not insane to think that could be ten to fifteen years off. But I’m not interested in sitting idly by- I know I have a great shot at being around for the next big breakthrough in HIV treatment, but I want to be in the best position to enjoy the time between now and then. I don’t like living in a haze, or feeling like I need a nap after a fifteen minute conversation with friends.
I know a large part of my health is simply the culmination of living with this virus since 1984. But I also know that decisions regarding treatment can also affect how I feel. And, simply put, in my heart and mind I know it’s time for a change. I don’t mind not having that week off from taking my pills, and am not worried about forgetting to take them every day.
I’ll keep you guys updated. Wish me luck, and I sincerely hope this finds you well.
My Poz.Com Exclusive Article, “Adventures in Baby-Making”
April 8, 2013
I had the pleasure of talking with Mark Zatyrka about he and his wife’s decision to have children using sperm washing. (Mark’s been HIV positive since childhood, his partner, Sasha, is HIV negative.)
Read it on Poz.com here:
Adventures in Baby-Making
VLOG: Draw My Life
February 26, 2013
Here’s our latest video- it’s a Draw My Life video. A lot of YouTube Vloggers are doing them, and Gwenn thought my life would work well in the context. And I do like to draw, so I gave it a shot, thinking that a Draw My Life with a little story about HIV floating around out there might educate some folks… plus, it was fun to do. A lot of work, but totally worth it.
Regarding our last video and the subject of How To Survive A Plague… was bummed that they didn’t win for Best Documentary. I haven’t seen the others that were nominated, but I’m glad we have the time capsule that is this very powerful movie.
Hope your week has started off on the right track.
VLOG: Truthloader Interview, Win a Book!
January 15, 2013
Our second video of the new year? It’s mainly an interview we did with Truthloader, a new YouTube Channel dedicated to providing the truth on a vast array of topics, HIV included. Gwenn and I were honored to be selected as their featured vloggers this week!
Also, watch our video to find out how you can win an autographed copy of my book, My Pet Virus. Hope everyone is doing well!
Interview w/ Books and Booze Podcast
September 13, 2012
I’ve been a bit quiet here in the blogosphere lately, mainly because I’ve been hard at work on new music and a screenplay for My Pet Virus. Last week I came out of my cave and spoke with the good folks at the Books and Booze podcast. You can hear the interview below!
Contest Is Over… Now What?
March 21, 2011
So the next installment of the Labtest Contest isn’t until July, when my labs are drawn two days before I spend a week celebrating my 36th birthday. But I can’t fall into the trap of looking forward to mid-summer excitement, which is four months away… so what does a positoid do to entertain himself?
I haven’t posted too much about finishing my second book, because I think I’ve posted in the past about “finishing” my second book. To be honest, I haven’t put the finishing touches on it to the point of where I’m willing to submit it to my agent. One of the reasons why I haven’t obsessed over it recently is because writing takes away quality time with Gwenn.
I know, I’m being mushy. But after the last go around with tweaking, writing, printing and reading my next book, I realized that the hours a day I was spending on it wasn’t worth the frustration it was causing. And the doubt. All the usual “writer crap”. With My Pet Virus, I had natural writing spells followed by lulls that inspired the next batch of writing spells. It was organic. With the second book, I set aside time, put in the hours, and in a tangible sense I don’t have anything to show for it at this point….
By the way, the next book is a vampire book and I’m not embarrassed to divulge this. I started a while back, before the first Twilight movie hit the theaters. My reasoning for writing a vampire story was to do something different and indulge my love of horror: horror with a sense of humor. When the moon is full or the mood strikes again, I’ll get back to it. One of the problems with reasonably decent health (for me) is that I don’t feel like there’s a clock ticking. If there was, finishing this book wouldn’t really be at the top of my priorities list.
In terms of time and energy, something that is far less consuming is music. I’m planning to write some new songs this year, with hopes of releasing another Synthetic Division CD next year. The appeal of doing music is that it’s instant. I can write a song and share it with people in a very short period of time. With writing a book, it’s different. I accomplished a decade-long goal when My Pet Virus was published in 2006, and the messages I continue to get from people who are discovering the book today makes me feel like I’m contributing something to the planet even though I spend a lot of time drinking iced mochas and napping.
The next book will not have the personal impact that Pet did, because it’s a made-up story about made-up people, even though some real life problems do creep in. That could be another reason why I’m having a hard time dedicating more time to it than I already have. That, and sometimes when I read what I write I feel like I’m not very sharp. Music trumps fiction writing because I’m a happier guy when I’m working on music. So setting aside some time over the next few months for that is going to be my plan.
And we’ll just have to see if synthpop can help get those t-cells back up to the 600 mark.
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Website: ShawnandGwenn.com Also check out the lovely Gwenn’s Fashion/Coffee Blog
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