The Infected Husband

My buddy “Sylvan” this week passed on some bad news to me about a married, down-low buddy of his, “Mike.”

“Mike called me Sunday to tell me he is HIV positive,” Sylvan said.

I was on my way to work, had just parked my car and was talking on my cellphone as I walked to the commuter train. I almost paused in my tracks.

“Wow, how did that happen? Was he having unprotected sex — getting fucked up the ass raw?”

“He didn’t say how he got it but I assume that’s how he got it,” Sylvan said.

“Damn,” I answered, my breathe forming a fog in the cold air. “Did he tell his wife.”

“Nope. She has an idea he was down-low  because she found some gay porn tapes in the house he claims were not his. They haven’t had sex in months anyway.”

“Still, he should tell her — he could have infected her,” I said. “Damn, I’ve heard of wives killing their husbands when they get news like that.”

Sylvan has been married twice himself and is a grandfather but now lives with a male lover half his age. He has his finger on the pulse of news and gossip in the local down-low community and I have learned a lot by listening to him.

Sylvan went on to tell me that Mike had fallen in love with a dude, a very handsome promiscuous man who works for the airlines and has a string of lovers in several major cities. Casanova is also HIV positive and not always practicing safer sex.

“I warned him about that dude but he didn’t listen,” Sylvan said.

“Man, HIV is out there,” I said. “All these young dudes are having raw parties. They act like it isn’t going to happen to them.”

In 2006, 1.1 million Americans were infected with HIV but one out of five didn’t even know it, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There were 53,000 new HIV infections that year and over half were among gay and bisexual men.

Among black men and women the new infection rate was a whopping seven times higher, CDC said.

Many younger black men today don’t remember when AIDS was killing thousands. People were wasting away and dying right before our eyes, from the corner heroin addict to celebrities such as newscaster Max robinson and designer Willi Wear.

Another friend of mine said there are even folks who have the attitude, “I’ll end up with HIV any way so why bother to put on a rubber?” And then there are “bug chasers” who deliberately want to get infected. Go figure.

I guess now folks think all it takes is a pill and they will be fine. Sorry, taking  pills every day (other than my Mega Men vitamins) is not something I want to do. I ALWAYS wear a condom when fucking and I know the risk of getting other diseases from unprotected oral sex but I accept that danger.

But while riding on the train to work I couldn’t help but wonder why a grown ass married man with a wife and kids would have unprotected sex. Sylvan told me that Mike was a serious bottom who loved getting his ass pounded but is the added pleasure of raw worth it?

The DL culture might be a reason for Mike’s behavior, at least according to some experts. Hiding one’s sexuality and leading a double life can lead to depression and risky sexual behaviors.

Licensed clinical social worker and author Terrie Williams in “Black Pain,” her book about depression in the black community, wrote about a brilliant classical pianist who was secretly gay.

He would vanish periodically and behaved erratically. Finally he called his friends to say he was in the hospital with full blown AIDS. His friends didn’t even know he was gay. Williams wrote:

“It turns out that he had led a shame-based double life for years, and that denial of his sexuality mirrored his denial of being HIV positive. Ashamed of being gay, he could never come out and find a stable long-term partnership that would nourish the soul; instead he had hundreds of anonymous partners and rarely engaged in safe sex.”

Blog readers, please pray for Mike and his wife and family. As soon as I finish writing this I will. And be safe.

Will the Down-Low Brothers Stand Up!

You know, when you think about it being down-low is so stupid. Shit this is 2010. Gay marriage is legal in several states, Canada and South Africa.

Will all the gay and bisexual brothers in the closet just come out. Stand up and be counted! Be yourself! If they knew how many of us there really are, things would change. There is power in numbers.

Because being down-low wastes sooo much energy. Life is too short. The sneaking around, the setting up hookups and meeting places. All for a half hour or hour so you can pull off your mask and be yourself before running back to the closet and the woman and kids.

And the denial. It’s sickening.

I’ve already written about a married, down-low brother I know named “Branden” (read “The Bond.”)He takes the stupidity of down-low life to new heights, or should I say depths.

He is short and dark-skinned and has masculine swagger that makes up for his short dick. But the antics he goes through to get hookups and hide his true sexuality are comical.

He will call dudes from blocked numbers and carefully measure the timbre of their voices to make sure they are as masculine as possible. He parks as far away as he can from hookups so nobody recognizes his car. And he deliberately named his online sex hookup profile in a way that makes it seem he is a visitor just passing through town.

Because Branden is so paranoid he is convinced effeminate dudes are more likely to get in his business and show up at his front door and tell his wife he likes to fuck ass and suck a little dick on the side.

“You’re too out there,” he once said to me. “You have to be more discrete.”

But Branden is not so down-low as he thinks. He has been fucking with dudes since college and has a long-term thing with an old college buddy. They hook up whenever his buddy visits town.

Branden will tell his wife he is going out drinking with his buddy when in fact they are laid up in some hotel room fucking.

I remember once I threw a small sex party at a buddy’s and one of the guests happened to have gone to college with Branden. Branden eyes got big and he pulled me out of the bedroom, grabbed my arm and leaned close so he could whisper in my ear.

“You didn’t tell me he was going to be here,” he said. “Shit, I went to college with that dude. He could put my business out.”

While we are talking that old college buddy of his was getting the shit fucked out of him doggy style by this beefy brown-skinned dude. Later he would ride my dick like a cowgirl.

“Shit man am I supposed to check the guest list to see who knows you and who doesn’t,” I said.

“Branden, look he is here doing the same shit you are,” I continued, laughing. “If he rats you out just say ‘hell, he was at the same sex party I was so what’s up with that?'”

Branden’s dark face stayed serious and unsmiling. He really didn’t get the absurdness of the situation.

Today I took a break from work and had lunch with “Colin” (See “Snowed in in the Suburbs”). I told him I planned to write a blog about how dumb being down-low is.

“Damn, I separated from my wife and moved out,” I said. “That takes being brave. Why can’t some of these other guys do that?”

I expected Colin to praise my leap into the unknown but he didn’t fall for my lead.

“Immanuel, it’s not that easy,” Colin said. “Society, churches, everything is telling these guys what they are doing is wrong and what they are is wrong.”

What Colin said made me think and get down off my high horse. Was I braver for leaving and breaking up my home or are down-low men braver for staying and keeping up the front and being what society wants?

I guess what was a right decision for me may not be a right decision for everybody.

Twists and Turns

The down-low world has so many twists and turns sometimes it surprises even me. Like I couldn’t make this shit up. It can get just that surreal.

Sunday night I was asked to a gala hosted by “Frank,” a guy I kick it with sometimes but who has now become more of a friend. I even do business with him sometimes. Hey, I’m on a budget so I wasn’t going to miss a chance to attend an event that would have cost more than a $100 to go to on my own dime.

I get there and get seated in the VIP section with my guest. I happen to look across to the other side of the VIP section and see Frank’s wife sitting there. I have seen them in public and I recognize her. I think to myself: “I slept with your husband and here I am sitting looking you dead in the face.”

She is a fine looking woman, tall and dark-skinned with a good body that looks like it stays in the gym. Plain faced but still classy and elegant in a simple black dress. Guilt makes my stomach twist. I take a sip of wine and my stomach settles.

Her head turns and she looks at me. Our eyes lock a moment and then she glances at something else. I know she has found out her husband swings with guys and I know they have separated but still socialize. So I think, “Damn, does she think I got this VIP seat because I’m down with her man?”

But her looks and beautiful dark eyes don’t betray any feelings. I guess to her I’m just another dude in the audience waiting for the show to start.

I get up at intermission and run into “Stanley” near the cash bar. Stanley is down-low and married, too. He is there with his wife. He glances over and I can tell from a certain look it is okay to approach. Stanley is a businessman who knows a lot of people his wife doesn’t so I am just another associate.

“Hey, Catherine I want to introduce you to a buddy of mine, Immanuel,” Stanley said as he pulls me into a handshake and one of those stiff, half hugs black men give each other.

I say hello to Catherine and we make small talk. But in the back of my mind I think about how Stanley and Frank bragged to me just days before about this guy they fucked with each other. The scene was especially freaky — they put their dicks up the guy’s ass at the same time.

“He is still calling us wanting to do that again even though he moved to the Midwest,” I remember Frank saying, laughing.

And here I am standing at a formal event, meeting his wife and knowing shit about her man that would make her bust her glass of wine up against the wall and cut his throat with the jagged edge.

Or, does she know and really not care because he can afford to bring her to galas where most everybody is successful and beautiful, the cocktails flow, and image matters more than substance?

Guest Blogger: Leo’s Take on Immanuel

My buddy “Leo” wanted to be a guest writer on my blog and I gladly accepted. He decided to write about me from an outsider point of view. Here it is:

I don’t usually subscribe to labels, however most would say I am an aggressive top.  It is what I prefer.  Even with women, I would struggle with them riding on top, as I prefer missionary or doggie style. I like to control the thrust.

The thought of receiving penetration used to be far removed from my mind, but I have explored it and frankly like it from time to time. I do have a tight entrance criteria , please excuse the double entendre. I lean towards the standard stereotype of that he must be taller than me, bigger than me (in stature and with his manhood), and more masculine than me.   He should be aggressive, but the alpha dog in me normally doesn’t tolerate much aggression.

It is the thought of this dark, tall, mysterious black man with a python dick, that must seduce me.  That is how I came across “Immanuel.”

There was instant attraction. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was quite the intellectual.  A chatter box, something not so masculine, but nonetheless his voice, his stance, his smell well overpowered the notion that he was nothing but all man.

Oh,the masculine musk between his legs would mark territory like a dog in heat attracts all of the neighborhood canines. It was sexy. His dick, something that I call his best friend, is long — very long and black. The darkest part of his lean, gym sculpted body something that I must admit I like having next to me.

I dare say like steel, but hard like when you want dick, you know it will deliver.  It helps that he has been with women. Most men with big dicks don’t master strokes, rhythm and technique. They don’t have to, since they often spend more time, trying to get them in tight holes. He was the exception.

 The more masculine the man, the more I desire to be inside of a “real man.” Now don’t get me wrong, being a real man is clearly not defined by masculinity or sexual prowess.  The definition comes with responsibility, respect for others and self and possessing qualities that others come to expect in a true man.

But in gay man terms, he is somebody that I would let fuck my brains out and would not be embarrassed to reveal that fact to someone else.  I have come across a lot of DL tops, those not strong enough to admit to themselves or others that they can go there. I know this personally since my online presence attracts mostly “tops.”

Now the dilemma. I like Immanuel however he doesn’t want to be fucked. So in spite of his charm, his wit, his intelligence, his country swagger,  not quite enough to persuade me to his bottom, but occasionally it is worth the effort.  He is not rich,  but moderately successful. I require rich for long term relationships. He know this, but we are still friends.

He spent the night Friday, with me in my bed and in my arms.  Why?  Perhaps because he considers me an equal. Perhaps because he wishes he could be my bottom, perhaps because he is lonely, perhaps because he actually does love me, whatever the reason I am glad he did.

We kissed, we touched, I sucked and we caress4 each other’s manhood. I gently sucked his dark nipples, which he likes. I kissed his flat stomach, I engulfed his manhood in my mouth, licking, kissing and loving the fullness of it in my mouth. I like the musk of his body.

He sends off a bad boy image in bed. Each time I would reach over between his legs, I would touch his dick and no matter how many times I grab it, I would still sigh  and think this damn, big ass, hard ass dick and I want it in.

I reflect how deep it would go inside as I watch his body swing powerful strokes in me. I would resist bitching out and saying how good the damn dick is, but its what I felt. It’s good dick, plain and simple.

But on Friday I resisted the temptation, as he equally fends me off from attacking his black small booty.  Tonight, we will just hold each other, look out at the stars, listen to the new Sade in the background and just talk about our dreams, our friends, our worries and our relationship.  I am glad to have him as a friend. 

Getting Off the Online Merry-Go-Round

On Thursday night I prayed for strength and when I woke up Friday morning I did it. I deleted my Adam4Adam profile.

This mindless marathon sex is getting stupid. The endless parade of asses, chests, lips, thighs, and dicks. They are all beginning to blur into each other. Most of the guys I meet throw mediocre, desperate sex. Wham. Bam. Thank you ma’am.Or they seek instant intimacy as if busting a nutt together is all it takes to jumpstart a relationship.

Very few meet my physical, intellectual or emotional standards or match my intensity.

So why am I doing this? I am so much more. I will tell you why.  I have hooked up because it can be fun and is something to do to pass the time, to beat back the loneliness that is always waiting like a tiger ready to pounce at the borders of my psyche.It’s an addiction and I need to go cold turkey.

Because there has got to be more to being a gay man than hooking up online. And it’s time I discover it.

The text messages and telephone calls come within hours. I get up from my desk at work, go into a conference room, close the door, and take them

“Did you really delete your account,” one guy who is a potential hookup asks. “Wow, we were just chatting yesterday and then you were gone.”

“Good for you,” my buddy “Baron” says. “After you get off work let’s talk about it some more. I’m proud of you.”

“You’ll be back,” my other friend “Rex” says.

Yes, I may evenutally post a new profile. But I want to try being gay a different way. I look back through my saved messages on Adam4Adam and realize I have been going strong since the summer of 2007. That is almost three years. How many guys have I bedded down in three years? I lost count.

So I plan to fill my time in other ways. I took my kids out for pizza last night and then on to the roller rink. Then I went over to a good buddy “Marcel” to watch a gay-themed movie called “Heights” with him and two other guys.Two handsome, middle aged black men that seemed comfortable together.

“Are they a couple?” I ask Marcel.

“No they are exes but they still live together.”

“Oh, I guess neither can afford to move out.”

“You guessed right,” Marcel answers.

Later this weekend I will work out with Marcel at the gym and help him with his abdominals, take an African guy to a museum, take my children on a Black History exhibit or the aquarium, and go to lunch with yet another brother on Monday.

Yeah, I might get a little sex this weekend. But I won’t be doing it online.

Snowed In In the Suburbs

Our metropolitan area has been hit with yet another major blizzard, the second in less than a week.

This time around I had made up my mind to ride out the storm in solitude. I bought groceries, braved the crowds at Target to get a copy of Sade’s newest album, had movie DVDs ready to play, and called my family to make sure they had everything they needed before the snow isolated us.

But a friend of mine, “Colin,” and I started texting each other and I agreed to go spend spend some time with him instead. It’s hard to admit this but I really didn’t want to be alone and I guess he didn’t either. I threw a bag of clothes, groceries, cranberry juice and a bottle of Svedka vodka in the trunk and set off.

The snow had just started and the highways were passable although traffic moved at barely 40 miles an hour. I didn’t get caught in the snow until I got to the parking lot at his place. I didn’t worry about it. I could dig out when the storm abated.

“Wow, you made it faster than I thought,” Colin said.

Colin and I have had an interesting, push-me, pull-me relationship for the past two years. He pursued me online for weeks but I turned him down because he is eight years younger than me and the photo on his online profile just screamed “thug” down to the sweat clothes and head rag. But eventually we hooked up and I found out he was far deeper than I thought.

He is professional, has served in the military, is fiercely intelligent, and we have long talks about everything from politics to fashion to the history of hip hop. We are both opinionated but able to say, “Look, I respect your point of view so let’s agree to disagree.” I can honestly say when I shut my big mouth and listen I learn a lot from him.

Plus when we had sex it is like a nuclear chain reaction. Things just click. A hot ying and yang.

Over time we drifted apart. Then one day he was out drinking with friends, got tipsy and called me.

“I miss you,” he said with a slurry voice . “I haven’t opened up to anyone like I have to you in a long time.”

But after that confession our friendship became cut and dry again. Since I have separated from my wife we have talked and texted but not hung out. “You have a lot going on,” he said, explaining that I need to work through my separation, learn to navigate the gay world, and tone down my sexual escapades.

 But the snowstorm that started Tuesday provided a chance to reconnect and rebuild the friendship. I wanted the chance.

I played it cool but there was still a frisson of sex in the air. He told me to take my clothes up to his room and not the spare room. So I knew we would at least snore together in the same bed.

Colin showered, came out of the bathroom, and sat on a bench to dry. You cannot imagine how beautiful his brown body is. Soft and smooth but toned. His torso is triangular and tapers down to a small waist. I couldn’t resist. I was going to try. If he rejected me I could console myself with just hanging with a good friend.

I knelt down and kissed one nipple and then another. To my relief he responded back, kissing me and embracing me.

“Let me shower too,” I said.

I did and then we sexed with passion. It had been more than year but the chemistry worked again. My penis just feels right in him and he agreed. We started doggy-style, then shifted to missionary before I got  him in my favorite position with him. Standing by the bed pounding him as he lay on his back on the bed. I pumped harder and harder. His ass got wetter and wetter.

“Bust that nutt for me, boy,” I said.

“No, enough, stop,” he finally said.

So I lay beside him. Both of us on our backs. Jacking off. When I came he leaned over and took my penis in his mouth and drank some of my cum as it spurted. I came for what felt like hours — my body kept convulsing and the muscles at the base of my penis kept contracting and contracting. But there was no more cum to push up.

I got dizzy and lay on the floor until I could compose myself.

“I like to watch you cum,” Colin said. “It’s hot.”

Then I looked up and saw he had come too. Cum was splattered all over his chest and stomach like spilt milk.

“I hate to cum. I hate losing control like that.”

Colin just smiled. He rarely smiles but when he does it’s worth the wait.

Today we are just chilling. I made french toast for breakfast and am sitting back reading magazines and writing this blog while he does laundry and putters around the house. Later when when the snow subsides I will go out and help him dig out. I brought my own shovel.

We may have sex again and we may not. I don’t care. I stay busy but I still get lonesome now without the sound of teenagers running around. It’s nice to have a friend to talk to while a storm rages outside.

Snowed In In the City

A record-breaking snowfall has hit our metropolitan area, paralyzing the city. You think that would slow a brother like me down? I don’t think so.

This weekend I’ve played, learned some new things about myself, and seen a shift in my relationships with friends. I got a lot to say. So here we go.

Friday Afternoon, February 5:

“Oliver,” a dude I had been rolling with regularly and I really liked, had invited me to be snowed in at his place. We made tentative plans the night before. But on late Friday morning his text messages abruptly stopped. I assume he found someone else he would rather be snowed-in with — we are men and I understand how fickle men are sexually.

But the he could have been up front and honest and let me know instead of stringing me along for two days. I’ve come to the realization this dude is not worth my friendship or time. He is fun but too self-centered. So adios amigo..
And besides, I had made an alternate plan in case Oliver pulled another flake-out act. My buddy “Andre” invited me to crash at his place. Andre is a good cook, and great host, and is place is close to downtown restaurants and bars. So instead of being stuck in the snow in the suburbs I aimed my car at his place. I arrived just as the snow was getting heavy and found a parking space.

Then I got on the phone and called another buddy, “Baron.” Baron is a dark-skinned, tight-bodied brother, and very sophisticated sexually. He lives in the suburbs too.

“Why don’t you come in the city and hang out with Andre and me?” I asked.

“That sounds good. Hey my roommate has a four-wheel drive and can get me to the subway. Let me ask.”

In two hours Baron was knocking on the door, a blizzard was raging outside, and the weekend was starting. First off the bat Andre and Baron cussed me out for wasting my time with Oliver. Gay men can get brutally honest when they “read you.” It’s hard to take to take criticism but it’s something I needed to hear.

“I never hear anything good about this person,” Baron said.

“I keep hearing this same shit over and over. You must like that drama,” Andre said, throwing up his hands.
“If you let a person treat you like that it won’t get better. They will keep doing the same thing.”

I’m well over 40 years old now and I know they are right. So enough with the lecturing. I was ready to play.

“Let’s go to a sex club,” I suggested. I got on the phone and sure enough, there was one open about a mile and half away. But it was late and the subway was closed, the streets were piled with snow, and the few cabs running were charging exorbitant fares.

So we bundled up ands headed out on foot. Even with all the snow, some bars were open, and tipsy young people were out in the street. Some were even having snowball fights. I love snow and I love being out in it. I was in heaven.

There were only about a dozen guys at the sex club but we made the best of it. Highlights of the night: Baron met this 6 foot 4 black guy in the military with a hardcore body and swinging dick and got busy. I met a Danish white boy whose flight was stranded in our city. I prefer black men but he proved to me white guys could be very nice to lay with and the myth all white men have smaller penises is a myth. He was sporting a thick, eight-inch dick.

“Europeans tend to have bigger dicks,” said Baron, who has traveled abroad and played with all types.

“Man, you’re not kidding.”

Saturday, February 6:

We played around at the club until almost dawn. Then we trudged back through the drifts and blowing snow and made bacon and eggs, sausage and bagels. But I since couldnt’ sleep I got up and shoveled out the driveway and took a long, hot bath.

Since I was in the city I knew several guys within walking distance. One was “Axel,” a 50-something brother who had suggested I join a gay men’s support group. We are both Geminis and talk a mile a minute, changing subjects constantly, going off on tangents, and somehow coming back to where we started in the first place.

I called Axel. “Yeah, come over and hang out.”

Andre and Baron were still lounging around the house, sipping drinks. I hate lounging. I am a bundle of energy and like to move. So I head through the snow to Axel’s place. It was nearer than I thought. I got there in 15 minutes, despite the deep snow.

Axel has been around awhile so he regaled me with stories of our city’s once vibrant gay cruising and club scenes and stories about all the men he had known who had died from AIDS in the ’80s and ’90s when the disease tore through the gay community. We wondered why so many younger gay men now have raw, unprotected sex.

“I went to a sex party recently and was about to fuck this bottom and put on a condom and he looked at me like I was crazy,” Axel said. “Then I realized it was a raw party. My buddy who asked me didn’t tell me that.”

“So I just sat back and watched,” he said, shaking his head.

Axel is a decade older than me but still has a lean, fit body. So we went upstairs and played awhile. Two “tops” playing can be a lot of fun, because you focus more on foreplay since penetration is not the ultimate objective. We ended the session with jacking off together. When Axel cums he really cums. His kneeled beside me and busted his nutt over my dark body. It felt like warm raindrops spattering my body.

I was more tired than I realized. I fell asleep, snoring loudly. When I woke two hours later Axel had fixed batter-fried flounder, rice, broccoli and carrots.

It was a perfect snowy afternoon — good company, good conversation, good food, good sex and a good nap.

When I got back I found Andre and Baron were back in the bedroom, fucking the brains out of some young white guy they met online. All I heard were moans from behind the bedroom door.

“Stay out here,” Andre said, ordering me to park my ass in the living room. I had no problem with that — let them enjoy themselves. I put my snow suit back on and went back outside and started digging out my car.

The air was crisp and cold. Young people were out playing in the snow under the streetlamps. I smiled at them as I worked, remembering when I was a young kid who thought the snow was magical.

Sunday, February 7

Sunday morning I  went online and invited an older guy I know to come over and play with us. “Baxter” owns a holistic health center in the city. Although he is older he is tall and lean and keep himself in great shape.

It took him hours to get there because the subway was running slowly. He came back into the bedroom and we started playing. Andre came back and took off his clothes and lay beside us. But Baxter didn’t engage him so Andre got up and left.

So I kept playing. Then Andre came back and I tried to play with his nipples and get the action going with the three of us.

“That’s okay,” Andre said, and left again. So I kept sexing Baxter until Andre came back in the room and said our time was up and it was time Baxter left.

From then on, things got worse.

Andre called me rude, and a “sad-sack piece of shit.” You see, the rule was that if one of us played with a guest that weekend we were all supposed to play with that guest. Funny, I didn’t know there was a rule. And Andre and I have played countless times before with multiple partners. So what was the big deal if one of them preferred to play with me and not him? Why let one piece of ass come before friends?

“One day that dick of yours is going to get you into trouble you can’t get out of,” he said.

Funny, my dick was not a problem when it was helping Andre score a hookup. But  It was his house and I had to respect him. I apologized and gave him a bear hug and told him I loved him, which I do. But he kept bitching about the issue, like a dog gnawing a bone.

And then I looked at Andre and realized something. The guy had been drinking vodka and juice all weekend. He woke up in the morning and started drinking before breakfast. When Andre is sober he is warm, engaging and gentle. But when he drinks small, things set him off. A meanness clouds his warm, brown eyes.

The previous night he made a pot of delicious beef soup and I drank it out of a big mug while we watched “Unforgiveable Blackness,” a PBS documentary about boxer Jack Johnson.

“Look at him, drinking soup out of a cup instead of a bowl,” Andre said to Baron. I thought to myself, “Why is he trying to put me down? What’s up with that? Who gives a fuck how I drink soup?”

He had criticized me for leaving Baron alone with him while I went visiting Axel. But Andre had a small apartment and I didn’t want to cramp them. I thought by going out and taking a breather I would not wear out my welcome.

Then he had called me a “dumbass” for putting up with Oliver’s antics. I may be a sexual freak but I am far from dumb. When I get enough of a person I know how to cut them out of my life.

It was clearly time to go home. I had already paid an elderly black man $25 to help me finish digging my car out of the snow drifts. The road was still slushy but I was only a quarter mile from the main streets, which were plowed down to the blacktop.

I ordered Baron to pack. Then we started to head out.

“Look, you’re just going to go out there and get caught in the snow. The streets are bad and the city is closed down,” Andre said.

But I wanted to get back to my own apartment, my own bed, my freedom.

My car got caught in the snow one time but a neighbor and Baron gave it a push, and we were off. I didn’t stop until we were back in the suburbs.

Despite the drama it was a good weekend. It has helped me focus on who I need to keep in my life and who needs to go as I make this journey. I am worth more than I give myself credit for. I am stronger and more resilient than I thought. I still love people and life.