Even though I’m not finished, I’m certain that we won’t get to the point when I had “the test” for the first time. I had excellent reason to be concerned. Not because of my history in general, but because of a specific part of my history: Danny. He won’t figure into the ms so I’ll tell his story here. Sadly, it’s a ghost story.

Danny was smart. Razor smart. Hard working, too, despite his attitude. (The word “slacker” was not yet undefined.) His doctor mother called Danny lazy. His boss said he had unrealized potential.

No question, Danny’s brain was big enough for his job and more. He loved being an paramedic. As far as he was concerned, he and his comrades were the real heroes, much more than the prissy doctors who got the bodies after Danny and crew cleaned them up. He dreamed of going to med school. He was smarter than half the ER docs in the county, and he knew them all.

Danny was madly in love with his beautiful young wife. For whatever reason, they were separated when he took up with me. But the rhythm was off. The problem with us, he told me, was that I wanted to make love and he just wanted to fuck. He could only make love with his wife, he told me in sincere apology.

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Then he recounted the parties he helped organize, some with a mechanical bull fixed with a dildo attached to a hand-drill. “We had to strap the girls in,” he confided. “It was so intense, they would fall off if we didn’t.” There was more after that, too.

We broke up. It was for the best. I wasn’t game to ride a dildo attached to a mechanical bull. And I wasn’t game to do anything in front of a room full of strangers. I cared, he didn’t. We could still be friends.

Danny left a message on my new answering machine in the fall of 1987. We had to talk. It was important. He heard I’d met somebody. Somebody serious. (In fact, it was the man I would marry.) Call me, he said before he hung up.

I got no answer.

Later that night, the paramedics went to Danny’s house out in Loxahatchee and carried his body out on a stretcher. He was dead before they got there. I wondered if it was his dying wish or his greatest nightmare. Or both.

I never found out why he made that call the afternoon before he died of an “accidental” overdose. Danny was a walking pharmacopeia; no one who knew him thought it was an accident. No, this was something he orchestrated. Down to the paramedics.

My fear kept me from taking the test for two years. When I finally did, I was negative.