By Shelby Smoak
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In my room, I unpack my things and then reach for a book to read. I prop my feet on my bed, turn to the first page. But it is not long before Louise comes down to tell me it’s time to eat, so I mark my place and go to join my family at the holiday table. We all look out the window beside the dining room table and watch the snow still being drawn down in a slow drift of white. “Maybe this year we’ll have a white Christmas,” Mom says. “Maybe,” Dad says, pulling his napkin up to wipe his mustache.
One year, we were high school juniors dating, having sex; then we were seniors parting for separate colleges, and ending the relationship seemed the thing to do. ” Ana asks during a pause. “Okay. ” “How about next weekend? ” “Okay. ” And when we hang up, I feel happier than I’ve felt in months. My body is warm. My breath easy. Yet HIV is there to remind me of sadness. I bury it. For now. When Friday comes, I speed along Interstate 40, closing the distance between Wilmington and Greensboro, Ana and me.
While Dr. Trum treats my hemophilia (and now my HIV), the orthopedist repairs the damage internal bleeding enacts upon my body, for factor isn’t enough to heal me. I am a regular here too. The receptionist knows my smile, the nurse my weight and temperature, the doctor my scars and deformed bones. The summer I was eight I had a synovectomy. I spent June in traction, July in water tanks, and August and September on crutches relearning how to walk. By October, I could hobble about the schoolyard, happy, I suppose, to be walking again.