You get your Guinness, you sit down and introduce yourself to Ryan on your left and Helen on your right and you you’re not sure how you got talking about doctors’ receptionists, and how they’ve gone from being so fierce that you didn’t dare ask for an appointment to being so dippy that you’re lucky if they know how to book one, but it’s as good a topic as any to bond over so you go with it.
The conversation meanders on as conversations do and then Helen’s saying, “You want my taxes to pay for your sex life.”
That’s when you realise that the conversation’s moved on to an argument, and you’re between them and there’s a table in front of you and you’re stuck there while Ryan says, “It’s not me I’m talking about. I’ve only tried chemsex a couple of times and, well, it was all right but…but the point is that even if you don’t care that people get HIV, it’s a lot less of your taxes to give someone Truvada for ten or, hell, even twenty years than to treat them once they get HIV.”
You want to tell Ryan that you’d prefer to know him for a bit more than fifteen minutes before he shares the details of his sex life, but don’t get the chance because Helen’s leaning across you as if she wants to bash Ryan over the head with her indignation.
“It’s four or five thousand pounds a year. I don’t expect the taxpayer to spring fifty quid for my vibrator.” Way too much information. “Why should gay people get paid thousands of pounds for shagging each other?”
“Fifty quid? You were robbed. I can tell you where to get one for half that.” That’s when Ryan turns to you and asks you the question you’ve been dreading. “What do you think?”
“I…er…I don’t need a vibrator, thanks.”
“They do dildos too. Whatever you like.”
Just when you’re starting to think that at least this is better than being asked to pick a side, Helen attacks from the opposite flank. “But seriously, what do you think?”
The two of them stare at you as if you’re Pontius Pilate about to cast judgement, and your pint glass isn’t big enough to wash your hands in.
You say the first thing you think of that doesn’t commit you to either side. “What’s the downside?”
“There isn’t one,” says Ryan. “Sure there’s a cost. But there’s no downside.”
“Of course there’s a downside.” Helen’s off again, leaning over you so she’s practically shouting in your ear.” Truvada uses the same drugs that are used to treat people who’ve already got HIV. If loads of people start using them, it’ll spread resistance. It stands to reason.”
“No it won’t.”
“Yes it will.”
You stare rigidly ahead, not daring to look to one side in case it’s taken as either support or contradiction. You’re starting to wonder if they’d notice you escaping under the table when you notice they’ve fallen silent. You dart a look in both directions, turning your head as little as possible. Your worst fears are confirmed. They’re both looking at you again.
You gather every scrap of bonhomie you can find and stuff it into your answer. “Maybe?”
It’s enough for Helen. “If it’s that good, why can’t you people pay for it yourselves?”
“I keep telling you, it’s not me. Not anymore, anyway. It’s just a few people who ought to have the right to the sex they want without having their lives destroyed by a virus. They want what you take for granted whenever you put your vibrator in your -”
Inspiration strikes you. “Who’s for another drink?”
Ryan and Helen look at their pints, which they’d been too busy arguing to touch. Pub etiquette dictates that they don’t mention the similarly virgin state of your own. They both shrug and say something about being fine, thank you.
The same etiquette dictated that they both fidget to show they were ready to move out of the way, and you choose the direction that won’t force you to sit in a lap on the way.
When you get to where you can stand straight, you think you’ve made a clean getaway when Ryan calls after you. “Hey, Sam, I hope we didn’t get a bit, you know…”
Yeah, you know. “No, that’s fine, I always enjoy a good session…”
You realise what you just said. You make it worse by leaving it there as you grope for a way out of the hole you just dug.
“Me too,” says Helen. “Can I get your number?”
“Wouldn’t you rather give it to me?” Asks Ryan.
That’s when you make a run for it.
Referring to some of the issues raised in a post a few weeks ago.