The TV set was on. Amelia opened her eyes, still heavy and blurry, as she felt cloudy because of the light on the screen, loud-recorded laughter and stink of burnt cigarette butts. Her arms were numb by her position when she felt asleep and her lower back stung. She tried to get up but she stumbled and fell on the couch. When she finally awoke and seated, she felt a flash of pain raising from her neck and trough her scalp.
It was almost five in the morning. In front of her, a middle-aged man announced the salutary benefits of a juice maker so powerful that it could squeeze even whole unpeeled fruits and vegetables. Until today, TV had always been her refuge, a place where she could see other people’s life in brighter colors. Tuesday was RuPaul’s Drag Race day, the day she laughed watching a drag queen contest that transported her into a fantasy land inhabited by funny jokes and harmless sarcasm.
She very much liked RuPaul and she was amused by how the effect of make-up, costumes and attitude could transform the group of contestants fighting to be the next drag super star. They used strategy in order to defeat one another with their wigs, high heels, gowns and gags, but above all with this persona they portrayed for the cameras. Her favorite drag queen was Ongina, a small, sweet, Asian boy who used gigantic headdresses over his bald head.
Each week the challenge was different, this time it was to perform in a Viva Glam TV ad; the company used awareness on the fight against AIDS to increase their sales. Nina Flowers, with her loud and spirited Latino persona, and African voluptuous diva Bibi Sahara Benet were giving Ongina a hard time. But, as always, she succeeded with her happy-go-lucky attitude. When the judges finished discussing her ad and RuPaul flaunted her as the winner, Ongina fell to her knees and broke into whimpers: “Winning this challenge means so much to me… I have been HIV positive for the last three years and I haven’t told my family…”
Amelia felt nauseated and she couldn’t hear anything else. HIV sounded as such a strange tune to her ears, a Diamanda Galas song in a Miley Cirus concert. HIV was one big carousel of stuffed horses in the fair of the town. HIV was the dull series of nights comforting a man who suddenly didn’t knew anymore if he was with her because he wanted so or because he had forced her into becoming his best friend after using her for unprotected sex. HIV, and her old mother in Mexico who didn’t have medical insurance. Amelia had never done the test: what was the use? What would have changed if she knew? Those were only three letters in the wrong time and place. She fried a quesadilla, changed the channel on the TV and reclined on the couch.