Pretty frequently there will be a club or sorority or some such group doing a blood drive on campus. They bring in those big bright buses, line them up, and get a couple perky girls to nab people as they walk by: "Would you like to save 5 lives today?" The first time this happened, I didn't know what it was and I said, "Sure? How do I do that?" "Your blood donation can save 5 lives!" I muttered something like, "Not today," and kept walking. But now I always say, "You don't want my blood" -- blood banks don't accept blood from men who have sex with men -- and the perky girl's smile freezes and her eyes go all quizzical and she'll say, "Okay."
There's an area on campus, on the main mall, called the "free speech area" (the name cracks me up, as if speech is not free anywhere else), where organizations like the Palestinian Students Organization or Campus Democrats set up tables and hand out literature as kids move between classes. There's a group called Face AIDS which raises money for and awareness of AIDS in Africa. I don't want to disparage their hard work and dedication because AIDS is a big problem in Africa for sure, but it strikes me as bizarre that, when rates of new HIV infections among college-age kids are spiking and most college kids seem to have no clue what the fuss is, the only student organization dedicated to AIDS is focused on Africa. Anyway, when you walk by they say, "Would you like to help fight AIDS today?" I've taken to saying, "I fight AIDS every day." (Meaning that every sexually active homosexual man, no matter his antibody status, lives with the spectre of HIV.) Same falling smile and quizzical eyes.
I wonder what stories these kids are weaving in their brains about me.