it was november 7, 1991. i had just spent a weekend with a man who broke my heart. you know what, let me rephrase that: i had just spent a weekend with a man who fucking knew he was going to break my heart when i got on the plane in new york to fly to ann arbor, michigan. he knew he was going to break my heart. he was an asshole. and i was a girl who was very, very, very much “in like,” and totally blind. i was on top of the world. my career was taking off. a script i co-wrote was about to be made into a big hollywood movie, i was writing a TV series and … i was dating a guy who was teaching at the university of michigan, and holy mother of god, he was a doctor. oh my frickin’ god, life was swell. i always said if there were three men sitting at a bar, i would choose the one who just got out of prison for a heinous crime. i went for bad. i went for mean. i went for less than. i went for pond scum. and, truth be told, i was promiscuous. i slept with – had sex with – many men. many on the first date. some in the elevator on the way to their apartment. and so here i was – in michigan – with a guy who knew before i got on the plane that he was going to break my heart in pieces. on friday night we had dinner, we had sex, we had champagne. on saturday we had breakfast, we had sex, we took a long, long… long… walk. on the long long long walk he told that he met someone and fell in love. his exact words were, “I met someone and fell in love.” i asked him through my snot nose sobbing why he didn’t just tell me this over the phone, why he just didn’t call me… he said he wanted to tell me face to face, he felt he owed me that much … after all we were “dating, and you know, long distance relationships are, you know, hard… difficult.” i asked him where this woman lived, the one he fell in love with. he told me australia. i asked/said, “australia, michigan?” i felt dirty, i felt used. i felt spit out. “we had sex,” i said, “how could you do that if you’re in love with someone else? how can you do that?” after i caught my breath, and shot the snot out of my nose, i told him he owed me air fare and a week at a spa of my choice. he didn’t find my humor appealing. and, i found out, he preferred women with very large breasts and accents. clearly, i was not that girl. i wanted him to die a slow painful death, but instead i told him to have a nice life. and so… it was november 7, 1991, i was at the airport, waiting to catch a flight to fly back home to nyc where i would slip under the covers for a week or two, and cry myself silly and then realize – an epiphany – that this guy was so the wrong guy and get out of bed and start life over again. the airport was crowded. the tears were non-stop, the flights weren’t. i was hoping to get on an earlier flight. for a girl who hated to fly, the airport became my only safe haven. i went to the sports bar and ordered a drink. the bar was filled with men. i hated all men at that moment. the TV screen was right in front of me. magic johnson was about to hold a press conference. I wasn’t following basketball, but i certainly knew who magic johnson was. and then he said it. he said the words. he told the world that he had contracted HIV. he was HIV positive. everything & everyone at the airport stopped. all eyes on him. you could, honest to god, hear a pin drop. i believe, although i can be wrong, at that time HIV/AIDS was thought primarily as a gay man’s disease, and here was this man – this straight sports god of a man – sharing his pain & sorrow & sadness in not only contracting this god awful disease, but his sheer stunning determination that he would beat the disease. it was profound. it was stunning. it was shocking. it scared me. it hit home.
i was a girl who mistook sex for love.
sex was easy. love was hard.
i was always taking crumbs.
how fitting, i thought to myself, that his name is magic. he shook the shame-crumbs off the tree. i made a vow (a silent vow) right then and there – at that airport on that day – that i would never again give away the goods.
i was going to love me.
beginning of story.