I asked him if he was ok. Stupid question. Of course he's not. He's sulking on his bed without his shirt on, with unkempt hair, looking dazed. He asked me to stand guard by the comfort room's door. He needed to take a bath but he was too scared to be alone. I knew that feeling. I remember one night when I crawled my way to my sister's bed because I was too scared to be alone in the dark. I needed to feel a semblance of security. I needed someone to lean on to lest I breakdown and lose it.
"He added me on facebook. Should I confirm his invite?"
"Well, you told me you have moved on. Besides it's Christmas," I answered back.
"Guess what? He changed his status from single to in a relationship. At about the same time, JM did the same thing. And I know that they knew each other way before. You think they're together?" he asked Lia.
"I don't know but Carmie said that JM's new boyfriend is a nursing student from XXX."
"He's a nursing student!"
And then Lia revealed something totally unexpected.
"Are you guys my friends?"
"Nasa akin ba ang loyalties niyo?"
"Tinatanong pa ba iyan?"
"Kasi alam niyo, for over a year now JM has been diagnosed as HIV positive."
My friends and I go back for more than a decade already. Most of us met in gradeschool and we practically grew up together. Lia's younger brother went to the same school and had his own circle. JM was in that younger circle. Interestingly, that younger circle sort of paralleled our group. We identified who our younger selves were just as the kids identified who among us older guys were most similar to them.
JM was my parallel. Smart. Geeky. Silent.
Hay, I know I've been rambling. I can't think straight but I know I have to write this one down. My heart sank when I heard the news but I know I can't barge on JM, console him, give him a hug. That would be betraying Lia's trust and in turn, JM's trust on Lia. I honestly don't know what to feel. I'm choked up. I wan't to cry. He's too young. Just 23. And I'm scared because I see myself in him. What if I end up just like him? I feel for JM, I really do. Lia told stories of JM attending sessions in Alabang to get his meds. How he'd have adverse reactions to the drugs which at one point caused his nose to bleed. How he hasn't told his parents and how difficult that must have been.
And then there's the friend's ex who's most probably JM's present. JM's responsible. He never striked me as someone who'd risk another. But then friend knew his ex. And so the whole "responsibility" thing creeps in. From our end, we know that we're not in the position to do an intervention. Even if he's the ex, he has no right to just barge into JM's new-found relationship. But what if JM has not really told friend's ex? Should we unburden ourselves of this would-be guilt?
I really don't know. I feel so helpless.
I want to cry but I can't force the tears out.
I never knew HIV would hit us, hit me this close.