Ryan White Voices
I was getting ready to go to prison when I found out that I had it. I sit in my cell and I—hey, I cried because I felt my life was over, you know? Tears. Yeah, I couldn’t stop crying. I still think about it sometimes. How did I get this far to get HIV?
When I first got out of prison in February, I was scared, nervous. I'd been locked up for a long time. I didn't know which way or where or who I was going to turn to for help. I was anxious for getting a job. I was anxious for a lot of things. And it had got so bad one day of me struggling to find a job. I think that's the most important to me, is having my own job.
I remember one day telling my friend, “You know what, that's it. I'm going back to prison. I'm not going to go through this, you know.” I was telling myself, you know, I'd rather go back to prison than to be out here looking for a job or anything like that. It had got that bad because I ain't know who to turn to. And one day my friend just told me, he said, “No, Curtis, you can't give up like that.”
One of my friends that was locked up with me, he told me about Takes a Village. So I called the number and I talked to a lady named Tanya. She said, “Yeah, as soon as you get out, come on down.” If it wasn't for that place when I first got out, man, I don't know what I would have did neither. 'Cause those people down there, they kept me positive. Even when I didn't want to be positive. It don't matter if you've been to prison. It don't matter if you're gay. They don't judge you. And that's why I love that place so much because they don't judge you if you fall. If you go out and drink today, the first thing they say, “We love you, man. We're glad and happy that you made it back, that you are here today.” If you fall today, they still going to open their arms to you. And they ain't going to sit there and down talk you. They're going to try to lift you up. And I hadn't seen that—wow, I hadn't seen that since I left home [laughs], you know. And that's been years and years ago.
I can't tell you nothing about my childhood really because there's really nothing to tell, except I lost my mom when I was at the early age of 10 years old. I remember that, being a child. I remember me and my grandfather and my grandmother were sitting on the porch on a cool day and this guy came up. He just came up and said that my mom was dead. And anyway, come to find out that he had killed her. I guess he stabbed her. And one day, we just had the funeral and they wouldn’t even let me go, you know. They said I was too young, too small.
I just wanted to get away from everybody. I wanted to get away from my family. I wanted to do my own thing because I remember I would say, “When I get old enough to do what I want to do, I'm leaving. I'm drinking. I’m doing whatever I want to do.” And that’s the state of mind I had because of my mom's death. I don't care about nothing no more. And I think that's what got me where I am today, because something was taken away from me. So what was life? That's the way I thought about it, what was life? Life wasn't nothing without, you know, without my mother.
People will help you. They helped me get a good case manager and let them know that you want to live and that you don't want to have anything to do with the life that you used to live and that you wanted to live a better life. This place called CAPS for HIV—those people really care. I'm happy to be a part of CAPS. I'm happy to be a part of any organization that has got a whole lot of love for people with HIV.
Since I've been out in February, that was the happiest day, when I first got my key and the lady said, “Curtis, come and sign your lease.” I couldn't believe it. That day was so unbelievable. I got my own place. That was my happiest day. My second one is gonna be when I find a full-time job [laughs].
The biggest thing is me not drinking and drugging. The HIV played a big part in that. My life is more important than drinking and drugging. It's more important now today. I remember when I used to drink and drug so much, I didn't think about life. I didn’t think about life. I don’t think no one that drink and drug think about life until something like this hit 'em.
How can I put it? It kind of scares me, you know what I'm saying? Because I've never been responsible for anything for a long time. And now that I got all this stuff to do to take care of myself, it's like, wow, I got to do all this to take care of myself? But I know I've got to do it to stay alive and to be there for my son.
I have a 9-year-old son. And he's been with his aunt since he was about 2 months, you know. And he's 9 now. And I thank God from heaven for a wonderful aunt that take care of my son until I get my life together. I don't care what's out of my day, I'm going to make sure that I call him all the way from Denver to Connecticut because that's where he's at. When I hear his voice, it makes me—especially when he said, “Daddy”—it even makes you stronger, knowing that you've got a little kid sitting there waiting on his dad to get his life together. And that's what I'm really living for is my son.
You know, I don't have my son right now, you know. But I'll be getting him back in 2009, you know. And if I don't keep living right or doing the right thing, I'm not going to see him—get him back in 2009. That's the big focus. That's what I got my focus on. And I can just see my son's face, you know, [laughs] smiling, you know.
I never worked hard for anything. I always took the easy way out. But it's something about this time that I want to work hard for what I get. I go out and I look for a job every day. And when I get the door shut in my face, I ask God, “What's going on?” Yeah, it's hard. It's hard. I mean because I want to turn back to my ways sometime, and then I look and I see sometime where others, where I used to be, what I used to do, I say, “Man, no, I can't.”
When I found out that I could go and talk to others and be happy, I think I'm happier than I've ever been. And I don't know why I'm saying that, but I'm living a better life. Because, I know deep down inside, if I go out and put drugs or anything else in my body, my life is going to end just that fast [snaps fingers]. So, yeah, I feel good today [laughs]. I mean, I feel good.
A lot of people is afraid when they get this. The first thing come to their mind: death. And to me, I got to say, I feel good. I feel good.