June 17, 2024

The past came back knocking on my door last night.

It was raining heavily so I stayed in and watched a marathon of a soap opera I couldn’t care less about while eating pizza. That’s when I heard loud banging on my door that didn’t seize to startle me. I got up and opened the door to Ryan. At first, it was like seeing a phantom. He was completely drenched, his wet hair covering half his face. I quickly let him in and grabbed a towel to dry him up.

I was beyond happy to see him. In the past eight years, I’ve only seen him twice, maybe three. When Tye was diagnosed with HIV, they moved to Dallas and stayed with his parents. A couple of years later, he came back for a quick visit. That day, we met for coffee and chatted briefly. He talked a little bit about his desire to come back since living with Tye’s parents was unbearable. He wasn’t welcome there, and they didn’t even try to hide it. For them, he was a pariah, a dirty parasite who they suspected infected their son. However, they knew they’d lose Tye if they ever showed him any disrespect or asked him to leave. I never really understood Ryan’s total dedication to Tye. As far as I knew back then, Tye was controlling, eccentric and unlovable. I can’t help but think of him as someone who always took him for granted.

The next time Ryan visited was in 2019. He came over to my place and seemed to be doing a little better. He had convinced Tye to move out of his parents’ house and into a small condo in Ann Arbor, and he eventually accepted. They both rented a small space downtown and started their own business, opening a tattoo parlor. Unfortunately, it didn’t do well, and Tye plunged into a deep depression in the wake of that. Ryan explained to me that during the first few years after his diagnosis, Tye was in complete denial about his illness. However, when he couldn’t fake it anymore, he found himself overwhelmed by a feeling of shame and disgust. A chronic condition like the one he developed made his depression fuel additional problems such as his failure to take his life-saving antiretroviral medication when Ryan chose to embrace his sexual status, not letting it define who he was. Tye kept on pushing himself down an infinite black hole and became dysfunctional. Hearing how their relationship was slowly taking a turn for the worst made me nervous. I had ruined the life of a couple forever, and my greatest regret was the fact it was hard for Ryan to deal with all the stress thrown at him.

We sat down in the living room, and his eyes kept staring at the floor the whole time. Then he said it:

“Tye’s dead. He killed himself.”

Hearing that made my blood run cold, and a sickening relief followed. I didn’t want to know how or when he did it. I was just glad it was over. Eight years were robbed from us, and although I considered that a long time, it didn’t matter because in that moment, we were finally reunited, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I gave Ryan dry clothes and took him to my bedroom. I lied next to him as he cried himself to sleep, and thought about the painful past few years he had to survive through. Putting myself in his shoes, it’s absolutely devastating to feel like your whole life hasn’t mounted up to the level of someone you once knew, but instead had to live long enough to witness it all fall apart.

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