The H Word

Carlos Kotkin


I once joined a singles dating website. For legal reasons, I am not permitted to mention it by name. It starts with an M and rhymes with "" Upon joining, I was asked to create a screenname for myself. I came up with:  ChickenWhisperer. It was a challenge actually meeting someone through this site. I wrote to about five or six… hundred women. I’d  send messages such as "Hi, SexySoCalGirl26, this is ChickenWhisperer. We seem to have a lot in common. I like to have fun and laugh all the time too! Tell me about that dog in your picture, the dog wearing the sunglasses and baseball cap––he looks like a real character!"  
Most of the women I wrote to ignored me. But at last, a kind response arrived from BeachVixen78.  
She thanked me for writing and said she would love to meet up for a drink sometime. We did, later that week. (I had a lemonade.) Her real name was Trinity.  She was an attractive woman with dark eyes, milky skin, and long brunette hair. She asked how many women I had met through the website. I told her she was my first. She mentioned she met with pretty much every guy who wrote to her. A few nights later, I took her to dinner at a fancy hotel on the beach in Santa Monica. From where we sat, I could see the pier festively lit up. I remarked that the pier looked nice. With a coy smile, Trinity blushed, and responded, "Thank you."  
She thought I had said, "Your hair looks nice." For a moment, I considered clarifying my words,"No, no. The pier.” I kept quiet though, allowing the accidental compliment to make me seem smoother than I actually am.

Three dates later, in her apartment, we had what is commonly referred to as sexual intercourse.
I can’t say I was falling in love with her––nor she with me––but certainly she was charismatic enough to get intimate with. And intimate we got. Not to be too graphic, but I did a little traveling, taking a lengthy trip downtown, if you know what I mean.  Her airport had a narrow, well-maintained landing strip wink wink.  Afterward, as we were laying in her bed, resting, I stared at her ceiling––not a euphemism, I was actually staring at her ceiling––and marveled  at the power of the Internet. That’s when she snuggled closer to me, and whispered, "I have to tell you something…  I have… The H Word."

The H Word. Two H words immediately came to mind: HIV and herpes. And so I suddenly found myself silently praying:  Please, God. Let it be herpes. God, if you give me herpes, I will be the happiest man on Earth. I will be Your servant, I will help fight childhood obesity, I’ll donate my car to someone who has Restless Leg Syndrome, whatever…
I calmly turned to her and asked which H Word she was referring to.
She sighed heavily and stated, "I’m only going to say this once," followed by a dramatic pause. Finally, she blurted out, "Herpes!" Then she squealed and hid under the sheets like a little kid, even though she was thirty-years-old.

As she remained burrowed beneath the sheets, I stared at her ceiling, and marveled at the power of the Internet. For only $39.99 a month, I could catch herpes.  Trinity eventually came out from hiding and explained to me, as calmly as if she was doing my taxes, "I probably didn’t give it to you, but if I did, you’ll find out within the next two weeks." I turned to her and responded, “I probably won’t burn your house down, but if I do, you’ll find out within the next two weeks.”  Sensing I was upset, she quietly told me if I wanted to leave, she would understand. She continued speaking, though I can’t be certain of what she said because I was in my car on my way home. 

The next twenty-four hours I spent online, researching herpes. I learned a lot of things. 

For one, even though, yes, I had used protection, I was not out of the woods––as one of the main ingredients in transmitting herpes is simple skin on skin contact––no visible symptoms of herpes required. As easy as getting into any community college! And here was an added bonus I discovered through my research: it was entirely possible for her genital herpes to break out on my non-genital mouth. What an exciting two weeks I had in store for me!
While I was on the computer, I received an email from Trinity. It occurred to her she should apologize. She said if I was no longer interested in a physical relationship, she hoped at the very least we could remain “good friends.” She wanted to be friends because she really enjoyed my sense of humor, my easygoing personality, and my infectious smile. I can forward you the email.

I politely wrote back, thanking her for the message, and letting her know I would have a difficult time considering her a “good friend.” Because in my book, good friends give each other a ride to the airport.

Also, I recommended she change her screenname from BeachVixen78 to HerpesGirlSimplex2. It wasn’t that she had herpes. People get herpes, that’s life. Heck, maybe even I had it thanks to her! It was how she decided to tell me that rubbed me the wrong way, so to speak.

The following two weeks, I was on Herpes Watch. Every little itch, twitch, shiver, tick, tinge, twinge, tingle, bristle, shudder, flutter, and pinch made me nervous. I would freeze and ask myself, what’s that?! As fate would have it, those two weeks were spent in Washington D.C., visiting my parents. Every so often my mother would turn to me, and quizzically ask, “Carlos, are you all right? You look a little stressed.” I told her nothing.
A week after I got back from Washington D.C., I saw my doctor, a Trekkie named Dr. Kovak, who has a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Mr. Spock in his office.   I told Dr. Kovak and Mr. Spock my story.

At the end of it, Dr. Kovak confessed, “Since people are telling you things after it’s too late, I should probably come clean and let you know I don’t have my medical license. But I’m hoping for next year!” Then he crossed his fingers and laughed uproariously. But seriously, folks, he went on, “I do have a license. I was just joshing you.”  

He gave me a blood test for every STD under the sun––including herpes I, oral herpes.  Herpes I is not even really considered a true STD, most of the world population has it. In fact, if you don’t have it, you’re kind of a loser. And, of course, my testing included herpes II, the bad kind. The results came back and it turns out, I would not write a story about the time I caught genital herpes. I’m happy to report I don’t have any STDs at all. Not only do I not have herpes II, I don’t even have herpes I. Which in all honesty, is a little disappointing. I figured I’ve made out with enough women to have caught that a long time ago.

Clearly, ChickenWhisperer needs to get out there more.