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Love in the Time of Viagra

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This is part of a serial, "Sex Love Enlightenment." Previously: After many weeks of no sex with Billy, I decide I'm ready. To see all posts in chronological order, Click Here.

What's it like to go for AIDS tests at a public clinic when you're over 50? We're about to see. I know that I'm clean, and Billy believes he is, but I don't trust that because he's had unprotected sex with two other women since his divorce. If I'm asking him to get tested, it seems only fair that we both do it together.

As we drive to the County Health Department, Billy asks why the test will take an hour. I say they'll probably ask questions and try to educate us about safe sex.

"What! I'm not going to answer personal questions," he says.

Please don't be rude, I say, nervous, knowing Billy can be a wild card.

"I'll tell them I'm just there for the test. That's it."

We're the oldest people in the waiting room--by decades. They give us forms, asking for name, address, phone and social security number. That stops me. "I thought the test was anonymous."

The attendant, Sheree, says, "It's confidential, but not anonymous--where you just have a number. No one does that kind of testing in this area."

I glance at Billy. He wanted anonymity for insurance reasons. "Are you OK with this?"

He hesitates. Sheree says, "You can say your name is Donald Duck, or whatever. We don't ask for ID unless you want a paper copy of the results."

"We don't," Billy says, and we sit down to work on the forms. He puts "Tom" as his name, saying, "It's a good cowboy name." I write "Jane." He puts "Hayden" for his last name. I put "Fonda." I start to sign the release and he says, "Don't sign your real name!"

I was doing it by reflex, so I tear up the release and ask for another.

Moments later, a beefy, hirsute man with a thick Slavic accent calls out, "Tom and Jane?" We walk toward him and he holds out his hand. "I am Bojan." He says he's from Bosnia. "I know you are couple, but I am government, and rule is: One test at a time. Who goes first?"

"Tom" says he will, and I excuse myself to use the restroom. When I return to the bench outside Bojan's office, I hear the two of them laughing hysterically behind the closed door. That's a relief, Billy's not being rude.

Then Bojan sticks his head out. "Tom would like to share his results with you."

I walk into the room and he shows me a small plastic strip on the table with one line in blue. "Is negative," Bojan says. I throw my arms around Billy.

"Test is 98 per cent accurate," Bojan adds.

"What?" Billy says, in mock indignation. "I didn't come here to get a 98 per cent chance of getting laid! I want 100 per cent." He gestures toward me. "I was 98 per cent sure I didn't have AIDS last weekend and she wouldn't go for that." Bojan laughs.

"I accept the test results," I say.

Billy points to a grimy macramé peace sign on a necklace hanging on the wall. "See," he says, "I knew that peace sign would bring me luck."

Bojan tells me it was a gift from a client who didn't have money for the test but he gave it to her anyway. "She take off her necklace and ask me to keep it. I say, I am government, I am not allowed... But she say, if I don't take it, I will assault her."

I'm puzzled, then say, "Do you mean... insult her?"

"Yes, insult her." The peace signs looks creepy and germ-ridden.

Billy leaves the room and Bojan starts down a list of questions, checking off my answers on a clipboard. "Have you had sex in last 3 months?"

"Yes."

"Sex with man?"

"Yes."

"Sex with woman?"

"No."

"Sex in anus?"

"No."

"Sex through hole?"

I start to laugh. "Sex through hole? Like, glory holes?" When I'd written a book about Rock Hudson, I learned that at gay bath houses, there were holes in the walls of adjoining rooms and men could stick their members through the hole and wait for... glory.

"Yes, glory hole."

"I can't believe these questions. Did you ask Bi... I mean, Tom, all this?"

"Yes. He make jokes for answer."

Bojan pricks my finger and after a minute, we see the same blue line as on Billy's test result. "You are fine," he says.

Billy and I leave the office holding hands. This is love in the time of Viagra, I think. We're certified by the health inspector, good to go.

But when we return to his McMansion in the pines, there's an awkwardness, and it feels like we're do-si-doing around each other.

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