Campbell and I met at a mutual friends BBQ, in the middle of a hot summer. I noticed him early in the day, his boisterous laughter and loud voice attracting my attention from across the yard. It became clear that he was noticing me too; I kept catching his eye and by the time he left, very drunk, we were flirting madly.
I was actually surprised when he sent me a message over Facebook asking me out for coffee a few weeks later, thinking he would have forgotten all about me by then.
We hit it off straightaway and I couldn't believe my luck that someone so confident, handsome and charming was interested in me. A broken home and bad self esteem had shaped me considerably and had me convinced for a long time that I wasn't deserving of someone so wonderful, or successful -- Campbell was a musician who was in a band that was quite well known and popular, regularly touring the east coast.
He could have his pick of any girl at any of their gigs, no doubt, but it was me he wanted. I fell hard and fast, barely hesitating to say "I love you too" when he said it to me a few short months later.
Of course, as with every relationship, I soon became friends with the rest of the band, girlfriends of the band, friends of the friends and the hangers-on that comes along with it. We were always drinking and partying after every gig, and often on the weekends as well, just for something to do.
Although I had other friends, I felt like I had really found who I was meant to be with, doing what I was meant to be doing. I actually enjoyed their music and loved going to their gigs, especially as I had the coveted role as lead-guitarists-girlfriend.
What that actually meant was staying back after the gigs to help coil and pack leads, clean and carefully pack his guitar (each even had its own name), stand around aimlessly while they schmoozed with their fans, bring beer as quickly as the last ran out…the usual band girlfriend stuff.
In hindsight it was quite boring but at the time, something to really boast about.
Time has shown me, again and again and a-fucking-gain, that intuition will always tell you everything you need to know and it will guide you to the conclusions you need to reach.
I knew something was wrong. Secretive texts. Frequent lack of contact. Unexplained sightings of him in public places when he said he was at work. I chose to ignore it all.
The elation that came with Campbells' grand love coupled with the feeling of safe, solid friendships with edgy people and the fun camaraderie that came with the gigs was too important to me to sacrifice for the sake of following my gut feeling.
My last relationship had ended with both my ex and I in tatters 2 years prior; this was the restoration that I had waited for and I wasn't prepared to pass it up for a stupid feeling that insisted on popping up.
It was probably my insecurities and bad self-esteem trying to ruin things for me, I told myself. It needed to shut the hell up and let me be happy for goddamn once.
We'd been together for just over a year when at work one morning, I felt an odd and persistent tingle. I didn't think too much of it, nor I didn't think much of the mild sting I felt in the bathroom at morning tea either.
By the time 5.00 pm rolled around, I was in near panic. The tingle had erupted into about a dozen little itching sores and the sting brought tears to my eyes. I went to the late night GP clinic, expecting a UTI -- still in denial, not wanting to think about what the sores could be.
I rang Campbell from the waiting room. He wasn't interested in joining me -- he had plans to drink with his best friend that night -- and my emergency dash was inconvenient. They hadn't caught up in ages, he said, he had been excited to see him all day, he said. I hung up and waited for my turn.
After a painful and humiliating swab test the nurse gently touched my arm and looked at me sadly to inform me that I had Herpes type 1. I asked if she was sure, as I was in a committed relationship, and her face fell even more.
"This isn't uncommon, if it helps. We see a lot of girls who have contracted STIs from their boyfriends."
In a flurry of hot tears, with a prescription in my hand, I tore out of there and called him. "So, I have herpes. Yes. Yeah, I know. So…are you going to come down here? Well then can I come to your house? I need to see you. We have to talk about this. Right. Really? Fine. OK. Maybe tomorrow then. OK. Yeah…love you too".
Campbell's lack of interest in my health (and his own) felt like a punch to my chest. That intuition I chose to ignore? It wasn't really a choice to ignore anymore. My complete ignorance of that niggling feeling had come back to slap me in the face big time.
A few days later he got tested too. He sounded quite downtrodden when he phoned to tell me, as if it was some kind of disappointing surprise…like I would have it and he wouldn't. He told me that the GP hadn't given him any prescription tablets, and had just said to use cold sore cream, which made me doubt he even went. I ended it there.
I told some of my close friends why, and secretly, I was happy when someone leaked it. It spread like wildfire -- I was so pleased that people would know the truth and I barely had to do a thing to make it happen.
As smug as I felt knowing that his reputation would be damaged (hopefully in tatters as far as I could care), time has shown that it was a small victory. This all happened 5 years ago and I haven't had a relationship since. I feel damaged, dirty, tainted, and sick at the thought of telling any future potential partner that I may infect them with an incurable disease.
I'm too ashamed to tell my Mother, and I don't want her to be burdened with the knowledge that the reason I am still single at 31 is because I don't want to do this to another person, and not because I haven't met anyone, which is what I maintain.
She is aging, as we all do, and I feel like a failure as a daughter because I may never give her a beautiful grandchild. My relationship with a disgraceful person has left me feeling like one too, and if I could change anything about my life, I would go back and put my intuition before my ego. Please don't ignore it. Ever.