Torquere Press, $1.95
Contemporary Romance, 2007
Dr Jake Miller has cut himself off from the world after having contracted HIV while whoring around in the national park bathrooms while supposedly doing his job as a Park Ranger. Seems the jerk gave HIV to his wife too, who is not happy with him over this fact. Out of his three kids his daughter Lisa is the only one that will still talk to him, the wife and his two sons will have nothing to do with him. I wonder why?
Unfortunately, Lisa decides to run off to help a troubled family of wolves in the nearby Gila National Forest. Her college professor Dr Nathaniel Briggs calls Jake up to get his help in finding her. Turns out Dr Briggs is also HIV+, having contracted it from his lover who later committed suicide.
If you think for a minute this is a lighthearted romp of a gay romance, I have some Russian novels I can review that will leave you in stitches.
This is an early story by Sarah Black and once I read the blurb for this one I knew I had to read it. Let’s just get this out there. I have been HIV+ since 1989 so this story was just begging for me to read it.
Jake rubbed down between his eyes. Was he getting a migraine? He needed to take some aspirin before they left.
“She telling everyone?”
Nathaniel shook his head. “I don’t think so. Besides, people are so wrapped up in their own pain, you know?” He shrugged. “They don’t have room for anyone else’s burdens.”
Jake got to work on his breakfast again. “What did she…?”
Nathaniel got up and went to the stove, poured another cup of coffee. “I think she only told me, Jake. And she told me that you picked up HIV somewhere, and nobody knew you were sleeping with men until you gave HIV to her mother, who is dying because of it. And the rest of the family, and all of your friends, have ostracized you. You’ve put yourself into voluntary exile, in punishment for your sins.”
Jake nodded, his food abandoned. “That’s about the size of it.”
This was the first warning sign. I love imperfect heroes with dark pasts and guilt. This however is not much in the past here. In fact, it is still going on and he seems pretty comfortable with his daughter running around the campus telling everyone his life story. That sucks in my book. I would smack her one just for making my HIV status the topic of her conversations, but add in the whole betrayal thing and man, I would be most angry with her.
Jake nodded, a little reluctantly. “I am, because I’m sure there’s a reason I should be. I just can’t imagine what that reason might be. I keep thinking I’ll figure it out, why I need to keep living. They’ll lose the life insurance if I shoot myself. I don’t know. And Lisa’s mother is not dying, unless she’s dying of spite. She’s taking the medicine, too, and enjoying being a feminist martyr. I’ve ruined her life several other times before this. But giving her HIV, that was a big one, no question.”
As I was saying, I love dark imperfect heroes but not one that calls the mother of his three children a “feminist martyr” because she happens to be a little pissed at him over his betrayal of their wedding vows and the little fact he gave her a terminal illness. How am I supposed to want to see this jerk in a new relationship? This is a gay romance right?
“I know this is awkward for you, Jake. I’m sorry. I know so much about you, so much personal stuff, and you didn’t have any say in it. I feel like you’re a really private person, and the dog just got into the laundry basket and dragged your dirty underwear out into the middle of the living room.”
Jake smiled. “I think I’m just used to being alone. I’ve never taken my medicine in front of anyone else, not even Lisa. My ex-wife, now, she probably takes her AZT with a video camera rolling.”
“What do you mean? Come help me with this firewood.” They walked back over to the downed tree and started breaking the smaller branches over their knees and feeding them into the fire.
“She tried to convince the DA to arrest me for attempted murder. She’s video-documenting the course of her illness and death, in case they ever change their mind and decide to toss my sorry ass in jail.”
Nathaniel looked up, surprised. “Are you kidding? Why does she think you gave her HIV, anyway? Maybe she gave it to you.”
“I don’t think so. I never saw her when I was out trolling the park for a quick blow job. Besides, we were just acting out our assigned roles, you know what I mean? Our lives have been set in stone since we were teenagers.”
Nathaniel shook his head. “Tell me.”
“I was seventeen. Her mother called me to get over there quick, the rabbit had died. I walked into her house. Gail had flung herself face down on the sofa, sobbing like Scarlett O’Hara. Her father’s glowering from the corner, balling his hands into fists. Her best friend’s perched next to her, stroking her hair and making all these soothing little noises. And that’s what it’s been like between us since. She’s the victim, I’m the asshole who ruined her life. So it was really no big surprise for either of us when I gave her HIV.”
“Trolling the park for a blow job? That sounds real lonely, Jake.”
Jake turned away, and his voice sounded like he was strangling. “That’s what I really regret. I can’t get it out of my mind. I think about those guys. Some of them were so young, and I didn’t even know their names, most of the time. Tad, Todd, I never cared. I hope I didn’t make any of those guys sick.” He cleared his throat and looked up.
“If we don’t get this fire going and change the subject pronto, you’re gonna be eating peanut butter crackers for supper.”
What the fuck? Hey! Wow, wait a second!
First off this jerk, this doctor, this scum bag, has no fucking clue there are these things called condoms available over the counter at most corner 7/11s? Is protection from pregnancy and STDs the little woman’s job in his opinion? I mean, with that “feminist martyr” crap he is spouting I get the feeling that Dr Jake Miller is a chauvinistic PIG FROM HELL. Not to mention all the self hate he displays for only a brief mention of all the men he probably infected also. All those men he was so hot for when he should have been home taking care of his wife and kids.
The first kid was a mistake. I can handle that. The second kid and the third kid were what? Forced on him by the eeeeevil bitch that trapped him into marriage? This with his continued harping on how she is somehow overreacting to HIS betrayal of their marriage, HIS giving her a terminal illness, and HIS public shaming of her by having “come out” in such a fucked up way.
Altogether this guy is a royal fucking jerk. At no time in this whole story does he admit just once he should have talked to her and been honest about the fact he was bisexual (the kids… I mean three, come on, catch a clue) or gay, snort. At no time does Jake really state he is responsible for the mess his life has become. Again and again I get this feeling he sees himself as yet another unfortunate victim when he chose to act in the way he did. There is no personal responsibility here for his own actions, no feeling that he honestly regrets anything but getting HIV and getting caught. Otherwise he feels he is spotless. What an asshole!
Let’s look up the definition of involuntary manslaughter for shits and giggles, shall we?
An unintentional killing but with a willful disregard for life.
Oh yeah, I think Jake with his little “Condom? What’s a condom?” problem needs to be a little less nonchalant when it comes to the legal ramifications of his irresponsible sex practices. If she dies he could fall under this in a court of law. He most likely will not, but he could, it is possible. Where is the motivation here for him to change his love of strange sex in bathrooms with other men when he figures out he is not going to die tomorrow? I think he will not, not with the drinking and the denial and I hate to think he probably will infect others eventually.
Do not get me wrong after ten years in the Navy I can handle the fact male sexuality is not black and white. That due to our culture’s prejudiced nature married men suppress their sexual attraction towards other men all the time and in doing so find relief in the local public restrooms and parks. Hell, I have even been there. But… I do not lie to myself. I take responsibility for my own actions and try to live my life so I have as few regrets as possible. Not disavow my mistakes like this guy is doing and blame peoples negative reactions towards me on some stupid conservative pablum like a gay Rush Limbaugh. If I know they have a good reason to hate me, I will freely admit it has nothing to do with my being gay or HIV or whatever. If I make a mistake I try my best not to depend on shaky justifications and face the truth.
I could not possibly ever want to see this asshole fuck anyone else over in another relationship with the admitted lies and demeaning attitude towards women he displays. It shows there are probably other deeper issues that simply do not make him a prize catch for anyone gay or straight.