There’s nothing less fun than having to take an AIDS test. Pregnancy tests aren’t fun either, but if those turn out positive, as a guy, I can take the girl in question on Maury Povich and hope somebody else knocked her up. And if that doesn’t work out, at least I’d get to be on Maury Povich. You’ll never see Maury doing AIDS tests:
“Well, I’m holding the results of the test in my hand,” Maury would say as I sweat bullets up on the stage. “With 99.9% accuracy…you sir…are not the father!”
“What? It was supposed to be an AIDS test.”
“Oh, yeah. About that…you got it.”
It just wouldn’t be good TV. Likewise, a show about my attempts to get a Chinese work visa would make for equally bad television.
“On today’s very special episode,” the voice-over guy would say, “Bill is required to go to a Hong Kong hospital and undergo a full health exam, including an HIV test. Viewer discretion is advised: this episode contains adult themes and isn’t entertaining.”
Really though, the doctors and nurses at the hospital in Hong Kong couldn’t have been nicer. They had me in and out of that place in about an hour, as though they were the Jiffy Lube of health examinations. I was told my results would be back in a week, and I nodded, knowing I’d be spending the next seven days freaking out.
Not that I thought I had HIV. But having the test put the thought in my head. It’s like, you never think about certain things until somebody brings them up. “Don’t you want more in-depth labels on food?” a person might say. “Aren’t you worried about what you’re eating?” Um, why? Should I be worried about what I’m eating? What’s wrong with what I’m eating? Is it going to kill me? Oh my God, it IS going to kill me, isn’t it? I’m such a fool!
So because somebody felt it was necessary that I take an HIV test, all of a sudden I became convinced that I had it. I walked around Hong Kong humming Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” song, imaging myself on the Real World, being harassed by Puck. One night I stood by VictoriaBay and got super dramatic, thinking that when the test came back positive, I would leap into the bay at night and commit suicide. No one would even know why I did it, the test results kept secret thanks to HIPPA laws. Everyone would simply assume it was due to my despair over “Gossip Girl” getting canceled or the Phillies signing of Delmon Young.
My anxiety was at an all-time high when I finally got an email from the hospital, saying I could come pick up my test results. The tone of the email was neutral, which I considered to be a good sign. After arriving, the doctor sat me down in a chair to go over everything.
“We did a blood test,” she said, “and you’re blood type A positive.”
My heart skipped a beat. “Relax,” I told myself. “She said A positive. There was no I or D or S.”
She proceeded to go over the rest of the results. I was HIV negative. I breathed a heavy sigh in relief. Then she told me my lungs had pleural thickening. “It’s not a big deal,” she said, “but it’s something to be aware of.”
“My lungs? Thickening? Is that because I smoke?”
“No,” she said, “pleural thickening is usually caused by exposure to asbestos. Smoking is very bad, though. You need to quit.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Asbestos?”
I was dumbfounded. I thought asbestos poisoning was something that went out after the New Deal. How had this happened? I told myself that if one thing doesn’t kill you, something else surely will.
“Well, thank God you can’t get AIDS from old buildings,” I thought, leaving the hospital with my chest X-ray in hand, so I could show my pleural thickening to all my friends.
“Tune in next week,” my voice over guy said, “for a very special episode, in which the happiness of being HIV negative is somewhat muted by a 30 minute coughing fit.”