Running of the Bulls: When My Partner and I Talked About My Status

by: Max Alborn

Note: This is an experience told to and interpreted by the author.  The names have been changed to protect privacy.  You can read the first account in this series here.

I sometimes wish I worked the night shift.

The only way I can describe getting out of my job is akin to the Running of the Bulls: lacking in order, to put mildly. It’s a small tide of designer jackets, jeans, Bose headphones and other items I could never afford. Then, there’s the “get out…of my way” attitude, meaning you better fight for your place on the sidewalk or die defending it. While it can be lively and certainly makes you feel like you live in a bustling city, I can do without sometimes.

My fight out of work was underlined by having gotten a cryptic text from Allen hours prior, wanting to talk after work (warning sign #1). He asked to meet near my job, so I set it up near a fountain that in warmer times sends water flying about 20 feet into the air before crashing down on unsuspecting bankers. It helps the spot is off the foot-traffic lanes most people take to get home.

I break away from the main crowd towards the fountain and find he’s beaten me there (warning sign #2). When we meet each other, there are no hugs or kisses exchanged (nail in the coffin, by this point). We swap how the day has treated us at our jobs and weird folk we encountered on the train; dancing around the corpse that was our budding relationship. I won’t be the first to say it out loud.

“So…” he says.

“Yeah,” I halfheartedly smile back.

“I just…can’t.”

I don’t respond. I know what to say, but I don’t want to say it. I just stare into the fountain, thinking of when this guy told me days ago that something could be swung, regardless of my status. I feel hurt and lied to, but not all that surprised. Allen keeps talking.

“It’s just, if I were to catch it, I don’t know how I’d handle it. I mean, I freaked out when I got a canker sore.”

I turn to look at him. Suddenly, I want to laugh, but I hold back. Canker sores? Really? I’d hate to see what happens when his water heater breaks down. He just stares at me, waiting for me to make a move. I turn back to the fountain. Allen continues on, though I begin to tune him out, until something catches my ear.

“…and it just pissed me off that you knew and didn’t tell me.” Okay, I’m ready to talk.

“What?” I ask.

“That you knew you had it and didn’t say anything before we slept together.”

“That isn’t true. I told you everything as I learned it myself. All of this started just after we got together.”

“You saying I gave it to you?” he says defensively.

“No. I’m saying exactly what I said. That I learned about this after we hooked up and I immediately told you. Don’t paint me like I lied to you.” I fire back. “I don’t know when I got it, Allen. It could’ve been last year or last month. It doesn’t really matter. I’ll adapt. I’ll be fine.” I do my best to stare right through him. “So thank you, for making this easier.”

“What’s that mean?”

“I mean that I’m the one who has it, not you. It means I’ve got to be the one to have this conversation, who knows how many times? And the only thing I’ve heard you talk about today is yourself.” He stares blankly at me.

“You have no ability to think outside of yourself, do you?” I ask. He tries to speak but I cut him off. I’m done with this conversation and I’m done with him. I’m not thinking about what he wants. Hypocritical, maybe but I don’t care. I say a quick goodbye and walk as quickly as I can in the opposite direction.

What hits me next is a rush: a strange mix of emotions. There’s a sense of pride in how I (at least I felt) had put him in his place and there is a sense of shame I carried over from my initial doctor’s visit that day.

I jump on the train heading home, sit down and my emotions and thoughts boil into sadness. I wasn’t sad I lost Allen. It’s the thought that I’ll likely be dumped for the same reason many times in the future. Maybe that’s all my future has left for me: being dumped next to fountains by guys who just “can’t.” What’s worse, it feels like there’s nobody in my life I could talk to about this sort of situation. I’ve never felt so isolated from the rest of the world over something that in the scheme of things was relatively minor. But I’m far from rational right now.

I throw on my headphones, turn my head to the glass and quietly cry my way home.

Max Alborn is an Oregon-raised graduate of DePaul University, specializing in Media and Cinema Communications studies. He began writing about the entertainment industry during his Junior year and has done so for the DePaulia, HEAVEmedia and Player Affinity since then. Often on the outskirts of the Chicago LGBT community, Max has slowly been integrated through LGBT-focused volunteer work–with an interest in LGBT seniors/youth outreach. He spends his off hours writing, threatening his roommate and spinning as fast as he can in swivel chairs. He was also an RA for two years and was run over by a horse at the age of 5.

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