ID: I want to thank you for coming back. After last week, I wasn’t sure you would. But you’ve made me out to be an ass. And a homophobe.
B: You usually do a fine job of doing both on your own, actually.
ID: See, I talked to Dick. And I’d been under the assumption that your AIDS nee HIV came from unprotected sex, quite possibly of the homosexual variety.
B: Which is a pretty homophobic assumption to make, honestly.
ID: But you did nothing to dissuade that notion. At all.
B: Force of habit. It can be useful to have people underestimate, or in your case, misunderstand, you.
ID: Okay. Well enough of that. I want to understand. And frankly, you owe it to our audience to help them understand. Because your illness is not a product of unprotected sex, period.
B: And it’s not from needles, not even venom injections.
ID: Or a transfusion. That ticks the usual boxes. So are we done dancing around the subject?
B: It’s a strange circumstance. But I’ll start at the beginning. Keep the suspense up a little longer- I know how much you love that.
I was on a patrol. This was before the cataclysmic earthquake, so before all of the buildings were seismically retrofitted. And do you know the old Gotham National Bank building?
B: Had a lot of personality, that building. Art deco architecture, some gothic gargoyles. I was perched on top of one of those, when the building buckled underneath me. I’ve been involved in enough building destroying events to recognize when a building’s supports are going beneath me. There was a large fire across town, so most of the emergency services were tied up there.
The only person in the building was a little old lady who cleaned up the offices on the upper floors. She brought her cat into the office with her, and didn’t want to leave it, but the cat wouldn’t come out from behind the cabinets. In retrospect, if we’d made it into the stairwell, the way the building came down, we probably would have died- so in a strange way that cat probably saved my life. But I was still standing in her in this file room when the building started to fall. I grabbed the woman and leapt out the window, and this cat clambers up my leg, claws out, like I’m a pine tree.
I managed to get a line wrapped around one of the gargoyles, which broke our fall, but about half the top floor came down on us. The three of us were basically all right, but cut up all to hell.
And that’s when I saw the boy. A street walker, I knew from the clothes. He hadn’t been so lucky, and the building collapse had seriously messed him up. I managed to get him clear of the rubble, but he wasn’t breathing.
But he was sick. I recognized Kaposi’s sarcoma, and I knew what that meant. But there was no one else there. I was cut up all to hell, and even the usual gloves and breathing barriers I carry with me were perforated. I knew what I would do to myself if I resuscitated him, the consequences that could have for my life, for my mission.
But he was Dick’s age. Under the bruising, the swelling, the blood, he could have looked like Dick. I couldn’t look at him and not see Dick, not see my son dying on the sidewalk at my feet.
There wasn’t even a decision- that made it for me. It took forty five minutes for paramedics to arrive; by then my lungs burned, and I could barely keep up compressions. I mean, I’d had a building fall on me. But before I let them take over for me, I told them, “He’s positive.”
And they were shocked. The paramedics tried to shove me in the back of the ambulance to start disinfecting me. But I wasn’t even thinking clearly any more. I’d been operating beyond my limitations since the building collapsed; keeping that boy alive had become everything in those moments, and I pushed them back, and said, “Him first.” And I think that brought all of us back to our senses. They gave me the antiseptics they had in the ambulance and took him away.
I went straight home after that, and bathed in alcohol. I started antiretrovirals immediately. I had my blood tested, every week, knowing it was only a matter of time before it came back positive. And eventually it did. It was almost… almost a relief. It’s amazing how psychotically the brain will cling to hope. But knowing… it let me get back to my life. Not living in anticipation of its end.
ID: That’s… shit.
B: Don’t look at me like that. I did what I’ve always done, what I’ve always said I was willing to do. And I just happened to be the man who was there, that day, to do it. I have no doubt that in the same circumstances, the Flash, a Green Lantern, most of the people in the League wouldn’t hesitate to do the same. And those who wouldn’t, I don’t fault them. That job already asks a lot. I can’t fault them for drawing that line.
ID: But… shit.
B: You need to be a prick to me. It’s part of your process- part ours. You need to be a prick so you can challenge what I say, challenge me. So quite with the puppy dog eyes.
ID: But… shit.
B: Okay. Maybe I have to keep the ball rolling this time. And in this spirit of openness, I hear you got outed by Lex News yourself.
ID: Yeah, um, as in outed as the reporter concealing his identity to conserve the integrity of this interview, not in the sex with dudes kind of outing. So you can breathe easy, mom.
B: But your name, specifically, has been linked up to your nom de plume. And in this Google age, that means it’s out. Period.
ID: Right. I’m Nic Wilson. Way back when, I wrote for a culture and arts magazine called Dangerous Ink, before it went tits up, and I liked that those initials reversed garnered ID, short for identification, and I thought it was clever, in an interview about Superman’s secret identity, that that would be my handle. That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell.
B: But doesn’t it feel good to get that out in the open?
ID: Not really. I don’t like being the subject. It feels icky.
B: Yep. Pretty much.
ID: Kind of makes me rethink that whole wanting to be notable thing. But how do you like sitting on the other side of the table? Being the bad guy, or at least playing devil’s advocate?
B: It’s kind of fun.
ID: I’ve created a monster, haven’t I?