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by Kyle Lark

Have you ever wondered what truths our bodies hold? If you haven't, then you might consider taking some time to reflect upon the reality under our skins. For some this should be easy. For others there lies a journey to the depths of an unshakable reality.

On a very base level, there exists within all of us organisms that dictate our lives. No matter our education, geographic location, or religious inclination. "Duh," some of you may say. Yes, there is an accepted consciousness — well, maybe a better way to phrase this is to say there is accepted belief — because I should not assume that everyone is awake, or even waking up to the reality that despite hue we are all made the same. It is this undeniable truth that is often hardest for me to move beyond because I am aware of other universal truths that are in constant opposition to the ideal.

I am a black man who happens to fancy the company of other men. This does not make me unusual in 2001, but the aspect that does is the fact I like all types of men. I can be honest and say that when I initially accepted my sexuality I was extremely selective in who I chose to pair up with. I would only have relations with the fairer set. Call it an attraction to the opposite that everyone accepts as being the Bay Area norm. Call me a "Snow Queen" in search of my true American dream man. Or I can tell the truth and say that my own internal racism led me away from myself and to what we — as in everyone living in America — are told is the most powerful and acceptable form of masculinity out there — the White Male.

In my flight to fantasy I learned greater truths. First, despite how I talked, dressed, danced, or my zip code I was still black. Some may consider this an unavoidable reality, but I was operating on a Bay Area aesthetic — "we are all just people." This was made clear to me in two very poignant ways. I was either shunned completely or I was hunted like my ancestors were years earlier — for their black bodies and nothing more. At this same time I began to give myself over sexually to a great deal of men who, both parties would agree, wouldn't be seen with me outside of the dark corners and rooms we shared. The reason for this being that just as my color could not be denied, neither could my "flaming" sexuality.

I often found it difficult to be this sexual undesirable. I say sexual because I was rarely tricked into believing that it was anything else. Yes I had my issues with weight and I've never been the "boy toy" type, but never to the degree which crippled my quest or my gains. It was merely the way I chose to react to this situation. I denied the reality of the risks and compromised my body any chance I could get. I began to exist, sexually, on this level of self-sacrificing satisfaction. My ignorance of the truth led me to greater ones that hid in depths of my person.

In September of 1995 I was diagnosed with HIV. It could not have come at a worse time. I was a sophomore at a private college, which was very much in opposition to all of my lives. As I struggled to create a place for myself amongst America's newest Nuevo Riche I had to somehow balance my impending death. Yes this is an extreme way of looking at things, but I must defend my position by looking at both realities. There I was in the midst of the future. Kids who get out of bed everyday to prepare their lives. I was one of them who had serious plans of becoming this world-renowned author, and I had just as much momentum as the lot of them. I also, on the other hand, was somehow managing to deal with the fact I was a carrier of a virus which took no hostages and had no remedy. This constant conflict overwhelmed me and I gave in.

I began to drink and frequent places throughout campus where sex existed on an unseen- and unspoken-about level. Through bathroom stalls I was allowed to sink further into my misery. I somehow managed to graduate, but by that point I was so completely hooked on methamphetamine that I could have been struck by a car and have gotten up and quickly found another hit before the pain set in. I was gone as were my hopes of the life I had spent so much time and money to secure. I had become what I had wished for in my high school yearbook — "to live less than zero."

When I decided to come up from zero — there had been four years of hard-core damage done to my body. I had lost several friends who had refused to watch my descent. I had been through several jobs. I moved across the country only to continue my drug use. I destroyed my credit and most upsetting I had lost the voice I had worked so hard to cultivate and make separate from anyone else's. What I was left with was a black man who had HIV and a drug habit that was destined to kill him.

I got help with the drugs and have lived my life in constant awareness of how close zero is and will remain. I continue to deal with the reality of my actions. I wonder if I infected anyone in my selfishness. I often wonder about the one who infected me and the condoms I bought that night. I think about the children that I won't create. And until this moment I was plagued by the truth that lies within me. You see more than any other element — my race, my sexuality, the creditors' calls — HIV and desirability dictate my life. I want that to cease because there is so much beauty in my chocolate skin, there are masses of love in my human heart, and there still remains a voice that promises to make everything else inconsequential. I don't think one disclosure has that much power. I know that truth in itself is greater than a society's projected fears and ignorance. What I have learned in this atypical tale is that there is a power I possess which is the strongest any man, woman, or animal can — it is a love of self. Yes, this is easy to say and most difficult to realize, but until you have given yourself away and earned it back you will have a different truth. Let's just hope it is not for very long.

Kyle Lark is currently plotting his move from the suburbs to the big city. Kyle is also still on the hunt for his "Dan Connor." One day.