The one single

The One Single Thing That Changed My Life

Yeah, I have profiles on Planet Romeo, Silver Daddies, and Nice Daddies.1These are websites that provide online dating services for men who have sex with men. If guys want to visit Nepal, they can put information about themselves on these sites in a traveler’s section that shows who’s visiting where. I see who’s here right now. I make contact, and I ask if they would like to meet me. But one of my friends introduced me in person to David, a guy from Europe. Three years ago my friend met him in Ratna Park, a cruising2“Cruising” is an English word that refers to the practice whereby men seek and sometimes have sex with other men in various pre-designated public places; in Nepal, often bus parks, public toilets, the tourist areas and large temples. Though this term is new to Nepal, cruising is a practice that pre-dates its arrival. place in Kathmandu where you can find gay people, transgender people, as well as straight female prostitutes. This is one of the few places in Kathmandu where you can find LGBTI people in public.

I feel misunderstood in many ways. In Nepal, if people find out that I’m gay, they will think I don’t have a dick. They will think I have a manly build but a woman’s parts. But I feel completely like a man, and I have a man’s parts. I’m not even the girlish type. Also, people think that if you are gay, you are supposed to be attracted to younger guys, but it’s in my nature—it comes from my heart, my soul, that I am only attracted to older guys. All over the world there are younger guys who are only attracted to older guys, so it shouldn’t be hard to understand. Everyone has their types. Since my childhood, I have only been attracted to guys who are sixty years old or older, but I have been unable to find anyone here. So I asked my friend if he knows any old men who are looking for a relationship. I’m not just looking for sex like many people in their mid-twenties. I don’t like to change my bed every night, and I’m not the kind of boy who’s looking for money—I’m no gold-digger.

I spoke with David on my friend’s cell phone and made plans to meet him the next day. In Thamel, the tourist district, one store might be playing a death metal song right next to the shop that’s playing Nepali traditional folk songs—it’s all mixed up. One place might be playing the Buddhist chant om mani padme hum right over classic rock songs coming from across the street. You can find lots of traditional handicrafts, antique pieces, and foreign food. When I went to Thamel and met David at his hotel, I immediately thought, He is too old. He’s very thin and seventy-eight years old. He took me inside his room and without warning started kissing me so deeply. After he touched me, I felt really good. I’ve never felt like that before. He wanted me to treat him like a slave, and I was so surprised that he wanted such dirty rough sex. I found myself more and more satisfied with this old man. When we set a date, I would be thinking all day about the time to come.

Every day I was enjoying David more and more, and that’s why I told him I loved him. He would convince me that I need to focus on my future. That’s why he won my heart. When someone encourages you to do that, you feel a nearness, an intimacy. That’s really what I want in life—someone who can guide me like a father.

Usually I don’t like anal sex, but David loved it, so he forced me to do it. He handed me a condom, and I knew that it was the proper thing to do, but I made a big mistake. I was emotional. In the middle of everything, he told me to do anal. That’s why I was too emotional and I felt a little bit of hesitation, and that’s maybe the reason why I didn’t use a condom. Then the second time, I used a condom but it broke. After that, the condoms didn’t break anymore because I used them correctly. Many of my friends told me not to fall in love with David because he wants sex with everyone. In fact, a lot of my friends had already had sex with him. In front of me, he would point out other guys he liked, but then I told him, “If you want to be with me, you are with me.” After that, he totally stopped.

Then David went to Pokhara, a tourist town in the East. I wanted him to take me with him, but I never asked because I thought it was up to him. I was hoping that if he really knew me and really felt my love, that he would certainly ask me if I’d like to go to Pokhara. I never heard that question from him. He returned after one week and told me that he had nice sex there as well with two young guys. I was surprised again and felt jealous that someone I love was touching other guys. When David was in Pokhara I called him every day and asked if he was well or not, if he had eaten well, telling him to go to bed early and to take care of himself. I had never cared for anyone like that, not even my family members.

The day before David left for Europe, we went to a very expensive restaurant called the Garden of Dreams in Thamel. I’d heard about the place. We went there at 5 p.m. to walk through the enormous garden and explore in the sun, so we could see how it looks both in the day and at night. At night there are different kinds of blinking lights inside the pond. Lots of young Nepalis go there with their boyfriends and girlfriends. The place is for lovers. After dinner we sat under a tree and cuddled under the moon. It was like a dream for me to enjoy such a royal palace with someone in the moonlight on Nepal’s New Year’s Eve. The moment was special for me because the year was changing at the same time that David was leaving. What a meaningful coincidence. At 10 a.m. the next morning was our last goodbye. I didn’t know what was going on inside my heart. I was totally out of my mind. The main thing is that he had no reaction when I left his hotel. If he just said he would miss me, it would have been good for me because at least I would be getting something from him. He said nothing.

After a week he sent me an email to say that he got a check-up with the doctor because he wasn’t eating very well and he had some digestive system problems. Sometimes, you know, I feared that he would have a problem with HIV. But as I’m sincere and honest with everyone, I believed that he was too. Many times he told me he would go to Kenya, Thailand, and other countries, and that he had a lot of nice sex. I never asked him about his status, but I hoped that he was not positive because actually, you know, he’s a pastor. So he’s also educated. From the beginning, I thought he had such a nice profile: pastor, P.h.D., a wise man. I thought, He has learned a lot in his life so he won’t have unsafe sex.

After two days, the real feeling was here. I reached home at 9 p.m. I didn’t even make myself dinner. I comfortably lay down on my bed and opened my mobile. I clicked on Yahoo mail. I felt so happy when I saw his name. Then my eyes went to the subject line of the email: “Sad News.” I prayed, Please God, don’t let this happen. Please don’t write this. I couldn’t read the whole email—I just scanned it for the word HIV. And suddenly my eyes caught the word—positive. My body was shaking, my mind was not working, and I felt blank. I wasn’t able to breathe as if someone was pressing against my throat with their arms. He wrote there:

You may be angry with me reading this email, bu this is my responsibility to inform all and tell you the truth. Today I went to collect all the results, and I’m really surprised that I’m infected with HIV. It’s my responsibility to tell you because you had unsafe sex with me. Please go get a check up.

I had to call a friend. My mind was not working. Life here felt dim: no job, no responsibilities, no money. I wondered, How could I share this news, live like that, and communicate with people?  I met this friend in Ratna Park a while ago, and I knew he was gay but he’s my age, twenty-six years old, and not my type. That night found out about David’s status, I tried a thousand times to call my friend. It was already 10:30 p.m. I couldn’t sleep, so at 3 a.m., I walked to the Pashupatinath Temple3Pashupati temple is one of the most famous temples dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva; pilgrims from all over the world and South Asia come to visit every year. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. because I had God on my mind. Please, God, do not do this. I already have a lot of pain in my life, I don’t have a nice background, I have such a bad history; I lost my mother to cancer. I do not have good family relations. Pashupati is a Hindu temple for the Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva, you must forgive me because you also have sex with lots of people! You must forgive me because you are like me! I spent all night at Pashupati, where I wasn’t able to look at anybody’s face. Imagine a man in nice clothes with a sad face. I thought of myself like this. People could easily guess that I was not in the right condition. Some people were out and about at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Older people in Nepal often wake up early to walk around in the morning darkness. Whenever I saw a handsome old man that morning, I had no attraction to him. I was behaving like I had already gotten HIV.

Pashupati is also the ghats4A series of steps leading down into a body of water, usually a holy river. of Kathmandu, where dead bodies are cremated and pushed into the holy river Bagmati. We use a special kind of wood that smells good, and it catches fire easily. We don’t have a culture of burying people. If you go there, you can see a different kind of world. You can see life ending there, life starting there. A child is playing right where a dead body is being burned. Monkeys are crawling everywhere. Sometimes I blamed the naughty monkeys, those bastard monkeys, for giving us HIV. But you can feel peace at the temple too because you can think, Life is just this way. We need not put tension on ourselves. You can feel reassured if you have any kind of bad history; the temple can give you strength.

I wished my friend would just pick up the phone and help me calm down. He was living near Thamel. When I reached there, the place reminded me of David. It was already 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. and my friend was still not answering my call, so I went to a cybercafe to reply to David. I thought it’s best to do this work before I meet my friend. I wrote directly to the old man saying,

I am not worried about anything. I am not blaming it on you. It’s my mistake that I had unsafe sex with you. As I told you, I used to love you, I still love you. Now my love is increased more and more because now you are infected and you need care. I’m really  worried that you have positive status at seventy-eight years old. Who makes food for you? Who takes you to the hospital? Don’t think I’m angry with you. I hope I will not get this, but do not think about me because I am still young. This is nothing.

The one thing I wanted to hear from his mouth was “I love you.” I told him this too. After that, I got many emails but he never said it.

Then I called my friend and shouted at him, “Where are you? Why are you not answering my phone calls? I called you a thousand times!”

“Oh, you called me? I put my mobile on silent for a while. Let me check.”

I screamed at him, “You have to meet me right now. I’m in Thamel. Meet me right now.”

He asked, “What happened to you? Why? What happened? Just tell me.”

I said, “You will meet me now. You must meet me right now. If you don’t, I will not talk to you anymore. I have to talk about this face to face.”

“Please tell me,” he begged.

“No, please, come to me,” I said. “I am near your room. I can’t come to your room because your boyfriend lives with you and I cannot share the matter with anyone.

“What happened to you? He’s just like me. He’s my boyfriend.”

Again, I yelled at him, “Do you want to meet me or not? It’s about my life.”

He saw me on the road with a sad face. I told him everything. My friend told me all about HIV/AIDS testing and how it’s not a genuine report until three months after they take your blood. He told me about other friends as well, that a lot of people here in Kathmandu are HIV positive. The medication is free in Nepal, so you can survive. For the most part, you can live as long as normal people, so you need not fear. But there would definitely be challenges. It’s still a hard life no matter where you are from. I told him the fear is inside me because there isn’t a total cure yet.

At the health center, after I told the nurse all about my gay life, the lady said, “I have actually had some cases like this. They come with sad faces like yours, and they had unsafe sex. When foreigners return to their country, they will tell you about their status.” She shouted at me, “They just want sex with you! Why would you do that?”

It would take three months to know what my status is. In between, I had nothing to do. My mind was running: I do not have a job, I am completely depending on my father’s money, how can I ask him for money if I get positive status? At my age, I need to be self-dependent. Sometimes I really thought about suicide. I’ll go to a lake or a big river nearby. I’ll knowingly swim where the water is deeper, and I’ll drown there. So people will think that I couldn’t swim and I died that way—not a suicide. This plan was always in my mind. How could I live? How could I face my friends and family?

Two and a half months later, all night my heart would beat, beat, and beat. The time was coming. I had insomnia. Sometimes in dreams you speak; I didn’t know I was speaking. The words were not clear. This was all due to the depression and tension in my mind. My brother and family members who slept near my room asked, “What were you doing last night?” I decided to go back to the health clinic to check so that I could make peace with myself. I arrived at the clinic ten days before three months were over.

When the same lady saw me, she asked if I had completed three months. I told her, “No, I have ten days left.” Then she shouted at me, “Why have you come here? Your status will be the same! Negative.” I asked to be tested for my sanity. I just wanted to reassure myself, so they took blood from my body.

After fifteen minutes, the first report for minor sexual diseases and the second for HIV were ready. She called me in the room, and said, “Your results came. You don’t have any kind of minor sexual diseases.” But I didn’t want to hear that. “In the next room,” she said, “we’ll bring your HIV status report.” Another five minutes later, an old man called me into the room. The report was unopened. It was confidential. They always open it in front of you.

“If you get positive status, you will not die,” he told me. “You can get medication.” Then he said, “We have not seen your status yet. We will open it in front of you.”

My heart was beating, beating, beating. He opened the file.

He said, “You are not HIV positive. We are really happy for you, but you told me you have not completed three months. So this is not a secure report for you. You may still be infected.” But I had a different kind of feeling, I felt a little bit more comfortable with myself.

Fifteen days later, I had a one-day fast—sometimes in Hinduism we can’t eat. It’s for God or for goodness. I carried photos of Shiva, Vishnu, Durga, Ganesh, and many other Gods in my bag wherever I went. First I went to the temple, Pashupatinath, and prayed. I don’t know why I felt a kind of confidence in my heart that I would not get positive status. In my community, my village in the far west, Durga is considered the most powerful Goddess. Gods have animals that they ride: Ganesh rides a mouse, Shiva rides an ox, and Durga rides a lion. The lion is a symbol of strength. I have heard lots of stories about the Goddess Durga, and many people share stories about her involving good lifestyle, and I prayed, Please God, bring my status to negative. I want to live a healthy lifestyle.

Again, the nurse took blood from my body, and the fear was always inside my heart. I had plans flying in my mind, sometimes about friends, sometimes about family members, what stigmas I would have to face, and so on. My mind was working like a super-computer, its ups and downs rushing. My heart beat once.

Normally the report takes fifteen minutes, but twenty-five minutes had already passed. Then it came out that I had no minor sexual diseases. Again, I wasn’t waiting for that. I yelled at her, “What about my HIV status?” She told me it will be in ten minutes, with the other man, in the other room. I thought, God, what is going on inside my heart? The doctors were talking more and more outside the room in the hallway. I heard them keep on saying, “How will you say it? How will you say it?” They all knew about my story. They had sad faces. I didn’t know why they kept saying, “How will we tell that?” I felt, they were guessing that I would commit suicide. I thought, No matter what, I must listen to my status. When they called my number, the man locked the room after me. Oh my God, my face was out of control. Even though he said he hadn’t not seen my report yet, I was sure that the ladies in the hallway had peeked. Then he said, “So now, we are going to open your report.” When he said that word, my eyes were stuck on his file.

“Oh, good, your report is fine.”

I closed my eyes and breathed very calmly, taking a long, long breath. I thanked God. I did not do any kind of sin. That’s why I got a negative status report. I was thankful to God because I knew I was very good in my heart. The doctor told me, “Now you can be sure 100% that you are negative. But if in between that period you have had unsafe sex or have had any unsafe injections, then we are not sure.” I realized that when a foreigner comes to Nepal we are excited to meet him because he’s from the outside world, but gay Nepali guys need to take care of themselves. Sometimes HIV positive foreigners come here for sex, and they don’t reveal this. Young guys in Nepal must be more aware of this.

Before my mother died many years ago, I hadn’t seen the cremation of dead people. I remember seeing it for the first time when my mom was burning on the scented wood in my village, and I thought, What kind of meaning is left in the world? I will die one day. What will I get from this world? What will I contribute? These questions make me feel responsible for this world. I won’t be rich, but I want to devote myself to helping other people, those who are physically disabled or socially discriminated. You must do something remarkable for people so that they will remember you.

By Ankit Sharma. Ankit is not using his real name for this story and refrained from providing a bio to protect his privacy.

Available in Nepali

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. These are websites that provide online dating services for men who have sex with men.
2. “Cruising” is an English word that refers to the practice whereby men seek and sometimes have sex with other men in various pre-designated public places; in Nepal, often bus parks, public toilets, the tourist areas and large temples. Though this term is new to Nepal, cruising is a practice that pre-dates its arrival.
3. Pashupati temple is one of the most famous temples dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva; pilgrims from all over the world and South Asia come to visit every year. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
4. A series of steps leading down into a body of water, usually a holy river.

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