Joe Burger

2016-04-27 06:00

THEIR story read like a typical Hollywood tear-jerker. They met through a dating site for HIV-positive singles.

Thirty-seven-year-old Joe Burger’s profile read like a sales pitch. It was to the point funny and it had a poetic flair about it. He had a lot of hits, but only one profile made an impression on him - that of 29-year-old LeeAnne.

Her profile was beautifully written, but it was as long as a thesis. There was an innocence about her profile that he liked and identified with. He thought of her as someone who had self-esteem issues because she oversold herself a little. It was a profile he lingered on nevertheless.

All they did was check each other’s profiles regularly. As luck would have it, the dating site had a happy hour every second Thursday. Non-paying members were welcome to use the happy hour to send messages between one another and share contact details to liaise outside of the site. It was in fact LeeAnne who drew first blood with a message that read “Hi, please send me a WhatsApp on 0** *** **** if you wouldn’t mind.”

Joe’s WhatsApp to LeeAnne went through as soon as he got the message. Their WhatsApp texts were long, comical and intellectually stimulating at the same time. They really understood one another too. They liked the same books, same movies and they didn’t text in shorthand, ie lyk dis. How they managed to have a social life outside of their WhatsApp enclave was a mystery.

Whenever one had a chance he or she texted or called the other. They dropped their pseudonyms too. Joe’s real name was Musa and LeeAnne was Linda. Pictures were shared, in keeping with the dos of internet dating, and Facebook and twitter profiles were checked, obviously without the permission the person whose profile was checked. It’s only natural, thanks to Google, to check if a person checks the requisite boxes of acceptable social behaviour and most importantly to check if they are not married. Women tend to check on the marital status.

They went on their first date exactly two weeks after first cellphone conversation. They met at a posh restaurant in the heart of Imbali Unit 3. It served township cuisine with the flair of an upmarket Sandton eatery. It had been Musa who picked the place. It was close enough to his Edendale residence, ironically he was late.

Linda had driven from The Grange to make it on time while Musa had taken a taxi. He did arrive eventually. They had spoken to each other so often over the phone that neither one of them was nervous to meet the other. They both didn’t go overboard with the choice of food. He ordered pap and steak while she ordered pap and stew. Those meals must have taken about an hour and a half to finish. They spoke openly about everything. They covered such topics as their likes and dislikes, personal upbringing, a little bit about their past relationships and living with HIV. Their conversation was so frank and intimate that Musa even forgot to check his beloved Orlando Pirates’ score on the TV screen behind him.

Time flies when you are having fun and time really flew. They might have spent about four hours at the restaurant but who was counting? Eventually they decided to leave the restaurant, failing which they probably would have been asked to. They hugged, kissed and parted, only for the one to get home and check on the other. They had both enjoyed one another’s company and suffice to say that from then on they were a couple.

They were dating indeed because only two weeks after the date he started sleeping over at her house. The power balance in this relationship was tilted in her favour. She had a house and a car, he was nowhere near owning such assets.

He simply couldn’t afford these yet. Ordinarily he would have preferred to have met someone on his intellectual level and his level of earnings. He estimated her earnings to be at least double what he earned, and soon enough it was going to be an issue.

One day he decided it was time to tackle a subject that had been begging to be tackled. He was practically living with her so it made sense to be a man and lay his limited financial cards on the table as it were. He didn’t ask how much she earned, but declared what he earned.

Her facial expression and body language spoke volumes. She was disappointed. She admitted to have wondered about how much he earned. He had told her beforehand he was a cashier with one of the hotel groups. He was shattered. She had fallen hard for him she said, but she had been hoping he was her financial equal at the very least. He appreciated the honesty, but he couldn’t help but feel that the knife had been twisted for maximum impact.

His parting shot was that he was going to make a plan. He was determined to make the relationship work. If she wanted a millionaire boyfriend, he was going to be that millionaire. Exactly how he was going to pull off, he didn’t have the slightest clue. He was not a gambling man either, otherwise he would go on a gambling spree hoping to clean out. A relationship that had started being about two people wanting to be with one another was dying a slow death because of logistical issues. So sad, he thought.

They started about arguing about small things. Things like the number of times one texts in relation to the other. He was always the guilty one.

A relationship that had started out beautifully was dying in its infancy. They gradually went from seldom talking to not talking at all. He missed her terribly, but he accepted that perhaps they were better off as friends. He made a personal vow to live his life with HIV, despite it.

A vow to treat the virus as his positive living buddy, but he would not let it dictate who he loves.

All they did was check each
other’s profiles regularly. As luck would have it, the dating site had a happy hour every second Thursday


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