Skin to Skin – By Drew Payne

(c) Drew Payne, December 2014.

Harry sat on one of the plastic chairs and waited; something he didn’t easily do. He repeatedly glanced over at the pharmacist, a man in his late thirties, standing behind a white counter, at the back of the pharmacy, as he filled out different prescriptions, but none of them looked like Harry’s.

Just when Harry began to think his prescription had been lost the pharmacist called out his name.

“Harry Wooldridge?” The man said in a heavy Cornish accent.

“That’s me,” Harry called back, crossing to the counter were the pharmacist stood.

He’d quickly confirmed his date of birth and address before the pharmacist handed him his medication, wrapped up in the white, paper bag.

“I haven’t dispensed Travada before,” the pharmacist said. “Of course, we’re one of the few pharmacies that does around here.”

“I know,” Harry replied, starting to feel embarrassed being confronted about the nature of his medication.

“You know what’s it’s for?” The pharmacist asked.

“Yes, thanks,” Harry quickly replied, as he pushed his medication into his backpack.

He threw his backpack onto his shoulder and hurried out of the pharmacy. He didn’t want to get into a conversation about his medication, he just wanted to collect it and go home.

Out on the street, Harry headed for his bus stop. The doctor who’d prescribed him the Travada, Dr Dave, had given him a list of pharmacies that would dispense it for him. From the list Harry had picked this one. It was just a bus ride from his home and yet far enough away that he was unlikely to run into anyone he knew. He didn’t want any awkward meetings as collecting his new medication.

Dr Dave had gone through a long assessment with him before he even considered Harry for Travada. Then came a lecture about how Harry would have to take it every day, at the same time, and not stop for it to work. Harry didn’t consider this hard, the women at work took their contraceptive pills mostly without problem, he could do it too. Finally Dr Dave talked about the drugs side-effects, but this hadn’t worried Harry. Side-effects were rare and he was sure they wouldn’t affect him. At the end of the consultation he was finally given his prescription for Travada.

When his bus arrived Harry climbed onboard, taking a seat on the upper deck.

Steve was the most important person in his life, their relationship was the world to him, but even after five years together there was still one thing that soured what should have been a close and perfect relationship. Steve was HIV positive while and Harry was negative. At first it didn’t matter to Harry, Steve was healthy and their relationship was new.

After five years together and they were still using condoms, Harry found this deeply frustrating. Steve’s health was good as ever and now they were close, they had even started discussing getting married, but there was still that one thing that separated them. When Steve fucked him there was always that barrier of latex between them, and afterwards Steve couldn’t just stay inside of him. It didn’t seem to bother Steve, it did Harry.

He never told Steve, but it deeply bothered him that they couldn’t be physically close when they made love. Then he heard about PrEP. He knew it was out there as an emergency for when a condom broke but when he heard that it was now being used in negative men as a drug to be taken prophylactically to prevent any HIV infection, especially men like him whose partner was positive. It was the answer he always wanted; he and Steve could finally stop using condoms and be really close when they made love.

It had taken him so long to find a clinic that would prescribe Travada and nearly as long to get an appointment there, the wait being the worst. He hadn’t told Steve, it was going to be his surprise. And now he finally had his first course of PrEP and he could start taking it today.

He planned telling Steve over a special meal, but his bus had got stuck in road works and he arrived home late. He’d thrown his box of Travada on the kitchen worktop and had hurriedly started preparing their meal.

He was still busy with the preparations when Steve arrived home from work.

Steve walked into the kitchen and kissed Harry on the back of the head, before stopping and saying:

“What’s this?”

Harry glanced over his shoulder and saw Steve holding the box of Travada tablets.

“They’re Travada, PrEP tablets,” Harry said as he turned to face Steve.

“I know what Travada is, what’s it doing here?”

“It’s mine,” Harry replied. “Once I start taking them properly then we can stop using condoms.”

“No,” Steve snapped back.

“But we can stop using condoms and still be safe. We can finally be really close together when we make love. I’ve always wanted that,” Harry said. It wasn’t how he’d planned to tell Steve but he couldn’t keep it to himself now.

“No!” Steve again snapped.

“What?” Harry said; this wasn’t how he’d imagined Steve’s reaction.

“We’re never stopping using condoms,” Steve replied, anger hard is his voice.

“But I’ve got PrEP now.”

“I’m the positive one and it’s my job to keep you safe, so we’re using condoms.”

Harry stared back at him, his mouth open in surprise, all the arguments in his head forgotten in the face of Steve’s anger.




Drew Payne 

  • I have had stories published in the anthologies, The Monster in My Closet (Sullivan Publishing House), Image Out Write 2012, Eros at Large (Paradise Press), Boys in Bed and Finished by Hand (Both Xcite Books). My essay, More Then Just Making Beds and Emptying Bedpans, was published in the 2010 anthology Nurses on the Run. I have had short stories published in the magazines Chroma, ScotsGay, Creative Week, ‘Indie Scene’andGazebo Magazine; and on the websites Gay Flash Fiction, Velvet Mafia, Thick Jam, 1000 Words and The New Flash. I am also a regular contributor to FS Magazine, a National Men’s Health magazine, NRC, Nursing Times and Nursing Standard, Britain’s leading nursing publications, and for the Nursing Standard I have three times been a guest editor. Sketches I’ve written have been performed in the Treason Show, the Brighton based satirical review show, and the London based Newsrevue, the world’s longest running live comedy show.

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