The second time I visited Robb’s home, he was cooking dinner and we thought it would make a good “slice of life” story, showing him at home, doing a normal activity and talking about some of the extra precautions he takes with his diet that most of us do not have to worry about when our immune systems are strong.
At this point, I was still a bit ignorant about HIV and still uncertain about being in direct contact with Robb.
He cooked a pasta dish as he explained how he has to drink bottled water that has been purified even more than normal tap water. He explained how he could not take the risk of letting chicken thaw on the counter because of bacteria that could develop that his body could not fight off.
I liked Robb. His sense of humor was coming out as he was cooking and talking. My favorite moment was when he tasted it and said, “It’s good, if I do say so myself.” I was beginning to be drawn in by his easy nature and his smile.
And then it was almost ready and he asked, “Would you like some dinner?”
I froze. Literally. I thought, “Holy crap, I’m going to contract HIV from his silverware.”
At first, I said something like, “Maybe.”
He replied, “I have plenty. Come on, have some dinner.”
My mind was racing. Okay, Ken, you have done some interviews about this and you have done some reading. You don’t contract HIV from toilet seats, you don’t get it from shaking hands, and you are not going to get it from putting a fork in your mouth.
I don’t think.
Shut up, I scolded myself silently. Don’t be stupid.
Robb did not know I was thinking all this. Perhaps he could guess, because he was accustomed to the reactions of people and he knew the fear that ignorance creates.
“Sure, I’ll have dinner,” I finally said.
Robb seemed happy at that decision. He fixed a couple of plates and I kept the camera rolling as he sat down to eat. He took a bite. Beth Wehrman had arrived, but since she came in late she stayed out of the picture. You can barely see her arm during the final shot of Robb at the table.
I put the camcorder down and picked up the fork. “Oh well, what the hell,” I thought, and I dug in and ate. It was one small step forward in my education.
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