I was diagnosed with HIV when I was sixteen. I didn’t cry. All I could think about was my mother because that’s what she passed from. She was a prostitute and she used to shoot up intravenous drugs and smoke crack. One time she stabbed her finger with a crochet needle. Me being a mama’s boy, I ran upstairs to get a Band-Aid. I tried to put it on her finger and she hit me. She was like, “No! Mommy’s sick. Mommy do it myself.” I didn’t know then, but I know now. The day before Mother’s Day she left, and she just never came back.

When I was seventeen, my grandmother and I got into a big argument over the dumbest thing, ’cause I wouldn’t wash her dishes. She was like, “Fuck you, you faggot. You’re going to end up just like your mother.”

But I think I would be dead if I hadn’t gone back home to my grandma. When I came back to live with her, I was so sick with meningitis. I had dropped all the way down to 109 pounds and I wasn’t eating. I couldn’t hold myself up. After two weeks of living with my grandmother, I gained weight, I got back on my medicine. It’s bittersweet.

Growing up, my grandfather was the only man in my life. He taught me how to take a shower, how to shoot a gun. When he found out I was gay, it broke his heart. But he didn’t act like anything was wrong. He said, “Hey, if that’s what you believe, I ain’t going to knock it. I don’t feel comfortable with it. But I do love you.” I like my grandfather. He’s my buddy.

Everybody always asks me, “Are you scared to die?” No, I’m not. The only fear I have in life is to waste it. To have no meaning. I don’t think that I’m a failure. I don’t doubt myself. I try to stay positive.

My friends are all I have, since my family isn’t really there for me. My friends all look up to me. They ask, “You always smile and stuff. Why? Life ain’t that happy.” And I’m like, “To me it is.”