We moved from the 2 bedroom house behind my granny in south-central LA, to a 3 bedroom apartment on the west side of LA on the outskirts of Beverly Hills. It was another major change. I went from a place where I didn’t have many friends to a place where everyone smiled and said hello. My school was in walking distance. The first day I thought my mom was going to drive us to school but she didn’t she told us to pay attention to what she did and where she turned because she wasn’t going to come pick us up and she expected us to be home within 30 minutes of school letting out.
My older sister, older brother and I were afraid that we would get lost so we drew maps of the neighborhood as we walked to school with my mom. As the days went on we would take different turns just to see what was where and to add to our maps. We marked streets, the homes of our new friends, the candy stores, and streets with hills that we could ride our bikes down, big trees, parks, libraries, and strange looking buildings. By the time we finished making our maps the first pages were torn or lost.
My days at Shenandoah Elementary were fun. I was still very shy but I had a few friends. No one messed with me and I did well in my class. I was the type of student who wanted to get all the answers right. I raised my hand to answer every question and I cried if I didn’t get the answer correct. I was in the third grade. Only seven years old and I had a secret. Like all kids I wanted to share my secret so I told a girl that I considered my best friend. This was the beginning of the discrimination. I told her I had a big secret and that I would tell her if she promised to keep it between us. I told her and she stepped back and said to me “Your gay and your gonna die. My uncle has that and my mom said hes gay and deserves it.”
“Gay? Whats that mean?”
She just ran off and I never talked to her again. I didn’t want to tell anyone that I told my secret so I kept this conversation to myself. I think that was the day I began to keep everything to myself I didn’t want anyone else rejecting me. I tried hard to fit in. I didn’t have an opinion and anytime any one asked me to make a choice my answer was either I don’t know, I don’t mind, or it don’t matter. I didn’t want to make any wrong choices and give anyone reason not to like me. It became my major goal in life to make others like me. I was always polite I always smiled and I never tried to stand out. I didn’t want anyone to notice me because I thought they would somehow discover that I had a secret.
I was in the 4th grade and I’m not sure why but my mom had to tell my teacher about my illness. Ms. Magana is one of the nicest teachers I ever had. Im not sure if she was so nice to me because I was HIV positive or if she was just that way by nature but I felt like she smiled just a little brighter when she looked at me. She was the first teacher who didn’t question my intelligence. I always felt smarter than the other kids in the class because in New York they teach you at a faster pace than in California. I knew how to multiply and divide in the first grade. Ms. Magana let me do work from the 5th grade books and she also let me help her grade papers. I was helping her make copies one day and I got a paper cut. She asked me if I could clean it and bandage it myself or if I needed her to help me. She didn’t want to send me to the nurse because she understood the stigma and rejection that may have followed. I told her I could do it myself. I washed my hands dried them and tried to put the band-aid on. She saw me trying and came over took the band-aid and put it on my cut. She explained to me the my blood had germs in it just like everyone else’s and any time anyone got a cut we should always make sure to protect ourselves from their blood. She explained to me that she was not afraid to help me clean and cover my cut because she could do it without touching my blood. She put the band-aid on me and said “see all don’t and I have nothing to worry about. She got a bottle of cleaning solution from the cabinet sprayed the table I was sitting at and wiped it down with a paper towel. That made me like her even more because now I felt like I had a friend.