May 9, 2017

The Positive Muse

On Javier Vázquez and Daniel Estandía’s “Comiéndote a besos” (“Smothering You with Kisses”)

Behind this affectionate title we find the very first interactive tale on HIV; as a matter of fact, you get two for one. For further understanding, keep on reading—

On the one hand we meet María, a singer-songwriter. When she was 24 years-old she moved to Madrid for new opportunities, and she is currently playing her guitar in a little pub almost every week. For her compositions, María usually finds inspiration in her granny, her village in Albacete,[1] and social injustice. However, her Muse is hard to find these days. One evening at the bus stop in Lavapiés[2] she finds a young bearded man with lifeless eyes. Although she is sitting close to him, he does not even realize! María can see teardrops falling from his eyes. When he is about to leave, he suddenly turns his head and finally looks at María. She introduces herself, and then they chat for a long long while until they all in all have to say goodbye. She cannot help singing with her sweetest voice while leaving. What is so appealing in this man?

I bet that you are dying to know who the guy is. OK, here you have a short recap: the name is Juan, and he is a teacher of Spanish for foreigners. He misses his days as an Erasmus Program student[3] in Berlin: his old friends, Claire (a French student he fell for), the parties, the trips, all that laughing—

Juan never liked housework, so he usually purchases convenience food. One day in a restaurant he met Tere, a collaborator of Imagina MÁS.[4] She asked him whether he has ever got tested for HIV, and persuaded him to do it. Unfortunately, the result was positive! Juan had had sex with some girls without protection in his Berlin days. Back then, he was afraid that the women could get pregnant only. All of them were using birth control pills, so. . .Yet, Juan never thought of sexually transmitted diseases.

Tere took Juan to a hospital in order to take the test again to confirm the result. Damn it! He had to wait for a week to know. Tere stated that there was no need to worry, as great achievements in new treatments have been attained: HIV+ individuals can live normally. Juan eventually relaxed, and hugged her.

A week later, Juan got the corroboration. He was not enraged, though sorrowful; he was afraid of social rejection. What would his friends think about him? Probably no girl would accept his condition. . .After a long day at work, Juan usually walk back home. That day he decided to take the bus in Lavapiés instead—and now you know the rest of the story.

Juan wakes up earlier the next morning. He is befuddled: has it all been a dream? Juan opens his backpack, and there he finds the test result and the note with María’s phone number. For the very first time in days, there is a smile on Juan’s face. He is wholly determined to phone her, and consequently they arrange a date in a restaurant.

After the lunch, Juan and María go out for a walk in Parque del Buen Retiro.[5] Juan wants to hold her hand, but he does not. How would María react to his disease? She swiftly kisses him, and tells him that he looks somewhere else. Juan summons all the courage that he has left and tells his truth. María takes some seconds to answer: she holds his hand, confesses that she is falling in love with him and that no disease will stop this. Oh yes! Inspiration finally comes to María, and she just has to write down the lyrics echoing in her mind.

Some time later, María gives a concert in a little café. She looks so beautiful tonight! In her black dress, with a red flower in her hair. . .Juan cannot be prouder! María dedicates to her boyfriend her new song: “Comiéndote a besos.” The reaction of the audience is really enthusiastic. After the concert, when everybody has left the building, Juan and María meet but say nothing: they just hug and smother each other with kisses.


Hey now! This is! Then, where is the LGBT issue in all this? Have not we promised another story? Yes! Please read below.

Pedro came to live in Madrid from Almería.[6] He initially felt so weird as he was used to an easy going way of life, definitely not so busy as the one in Madrid. Pedro wants to become a journalist. To make some money to pay his studies, he works as a waiter in a café in Chueca, the world renowned gay neighborhood in Madrid. It was too hard for Pedro to come out since he supposed that his parents and friends would reject him. His sister Bea meant a big support for him, and helped him tell the others. Pedro luckily found no disapproval, but decided not to mention the issue at home frequently. Now he is an outgoing college boy enjoying his sexual liberation, and everybody likes his gift of gab and sense of humor.

Pedro is not particularly very much experienced in love. He went crazy about a guy that he met when he had just arrived in Madrid. After a long year, Pedro still remembers him. Imagine his surprise when the guy himself phones Pedro! He has something important to say, so they resolve to meet in a park. It is obvious that this guy has been crying. Something is wrong. . .It will not be long before he tells the cause: he has taken the test and he is HIV positive. All of a sudden, a memory from the past calls to Pedro’s mind: in a moment of passion, they had sex without a condom. Pedro can be positive as well!!

. . .And that is what the results finally proved. It took Pedro some time to see things easier. The very moment he knew that he was HIV positive he felt extremely anxious, but he is calmer now. Anyway, Pedro is terrified about falling in love again. How to tell your sweetheart that you are seropositive? He occasionally has sexual encounters—no strings attached.

One evening an attractive stranger comes to the little café where Pedro works. This hot man is glancing at Pedro from time to time. Pedro has blithely noticed this, so he gets close to the stranger’s table and introduces himself. The stranger is so petrified that he cannot hardly speak a word! Probably the company of his friends has meant an obstacle in talking easily. Nevertheless, life is full of unpredictable surprises: it is closing time, and Pedro sees the stranger gazing at him on the other side of the street. He has been waiting for Pedro, and he is alone now. . .

This time the stranger feels comfy and accounted for introducing himself: his name is Rafa and he works as a caring nurse in the emergency department of a hospital. (By the way, Rafa has become a huge fan of María, as he has listened to her songs on the radio and just loves them! Rafa has used the internet to collect some data about María, and he is happy as a lark since she is going to give a concert soon in the little café.)

Cupid shot a couple of his golden arrows and you can take for sure that he did not miss this time! As it could not be otherwise, Rafa and Pedro had sex all night long. Although they have taken precautions, Pedro still feels awkward. That night Pedro dreamed of him and Rafa on the beach of his village—the vision of true happiness! The sexy nurse has totally destroyed the invisible wall that Pedro had put up to prevent others from getting close to him.

After an amazing week together, Rafa is sitting at a table of the café, waiting eagerly for the stellar appearance of his favorite singer-songwriter. Pedro is also there, working as usual. As you may already presume, it is the very night when María sang “Comiéndote a besos” for the first time. When she declares to the audience that her boyfriend is HIV-positive, it makes Pedro’s heart skip a beat; Rafa spots his babe’s odd reaction and realizes what is going on. When the song is over, Pedro starts to cry. Then Rafa comes close and kisses him, whispering that there is no need to hide anything as he loves him.

If you are not touched by this dazzling, kindhearted story, you really are not worthy of being a human! The author Javier Vázquez made an outstanding work in producing a narration that can move anyone, straight or gay, as well as a genuine portrait of the panic that seropositive individuals may feel of the others’ response to the disease. In addition, the publication displays the winsome illustrations by Daniel Estandía conveying the tender, graceful, precious moral of the story: Love is the most effective weapon against any kind of intolerance.

As this is a 2014 interactive tale published online, there are many sound and visual effects throughout its pages. If you click on the pictures you will hear the sound of the sea, the rain falling, a pot boiling, a cat purring, and so on. At the end of the story, there is an extra bonus for your consideration: a video in which Rozalén,[7] the real singer-songwriter of “Comiéndote a besos,” performs the song. Enjoy it!

You can find the original text in Spanish here.

[1] Located in the south-east of Spain, it is one of the five provinces of Castilla-La Mancha, worldwide known as the setting of many adventures in Cervantes’ Don Quixote.
[2] A popular neighborhood in the city of Madrid.
[3] A European Union student exchange program established at the end of the 1980s. Named after the Dutch philosopher Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466 - 1536), this mobility experience has become a cultural phenomenon among European college students.
[4] Imagina MÁS (“Imagine MORE”) is the name of a Spanish non-governmental organization aiming at HIV prevention, as well as sexual education, health care, awareness campaigning, support for HIV positive individuals, etc. “Comiéndote a besos” means one of their educational projects.
[5] Park of the Pleasant Retreat: one of the largest parks in Madrid, and one of its main attractions too (runners love it!). Here you can find, among other charms, a large pond for rowing under the gaze of the statue of King Alfonso XII, the nostalgic Crystal Palace or even a Monument of the Fallen Angel—inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost—, which is the world’s only public statue of Satan; Madrid is definitely the epitome of diversity.
[6] This province represents the ⅛ part of the autonomous community of Andalusia. At the southeast—on the Mediterranean Sea—, it is one of the hottest, driest places in Spain. Its unique desert-like landscape made it the perfect location for Spaghetti Westerns such as Sergio Leone’s.
[7] María Rozalén (Albacete, 1986) has become an audience favorite thanks to her performances published on YouTube. She has released two albums so far, as well as her collaborations with other popular Spanish musicians.

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