I am walking through the corridor and I notice something. Everyone is staring at me, and laughing. I keep my head down and walk on straight. I don’t want to make any eye contact with anyone. The laughs are getting louder. They are even pointing at me now.
Then a voice calls me from behind. I turn and gape. It is Trey Songz.
Trey: Hey Bobby.
He sounds as naughty as a busty blonde in skimpy nurse uniform.
I don’t make a sound. I am still shocked. I am just staring at him with my jaw slackened. He winks at me. He starts taking his shirt off, smiling the whole time. Then he then goes for his belt, he takes it out and holds it like a dominatrix’s whip. He lashes at the air with it twice. TAH! TAH!! And suddenly his pants fall off. He has on black briefs; the left and right sides are made with a net-like material, and the front side covering his big bulge is made of a nylon material. I don’t know where the music is suddenly coming from, but it is nasty.
“My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard… Damn right! It’s better than yours…”
I don’t know where Kelis got the inspiration to write that song, but it’s just nasty. And then, Trey starts twerking and gyrating. He has nice cakes though. A guy can’t ask for anything better. He keeps dancing till he is in front of me, then he bends down, with his ass just in front of my dick. Then he turns his head around to me, and looks at me with the kind of disappointment your parents would look at you with when you fail WAEC. And he speaks.
Trey: What’s wrong, boo-boo? Can’t get it up?
I won’t waste time describing the laughter that followed that, nor the annoying accent he used in his taunt. Even as I’m writing this, remembering the laughter is ticking me off.
The laughter keeps echoing in my ear until I wake up.
My mum opens my door, and peers in, looking a bit frightened.
Mum: Na wetin?
Mum: Why you dey breathe like that?
I keep silent. I lie there, on my back, staring up at the ceiling. Mum stands there, looking at me. I don’t want to look at her face, to read the expression there. I have always had a tough skin. Even mum knows this. She says things to hurt me and my siblings whenever we anger her, and her words have never gotten to me. I am just tough like that.
But now, I know mum is scared and troubled because of me, and in spite of my stoicism, I am scared for her. She is aging, and she is hypertensive. I am more scared for her than for me. That is why I do not want to look at her. It is just too early to break down.
She stands by the door for a while, then gives out a sigh, and walks away. I don’t want to think about her right now. That I can’t get it up, coupled with the fact that I have gone for a confirmatory test, an ELISA test this time, is enough trouble for one day. It’s like waiting to discover that I have HIV all over again. Somehow, all these seem like a dream to me. I still feel like I will wake up and realize I’ve been dreaming all this while.
As troubled as I am, I can’t shut out the tune I am hearing from the street just outside. It is Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. It must be the ice cream van. I feel my mouth begin to water at the thought of tasting something cold and sweet. Then I stop myself. What do I need ice cream? Is it an anti-retroviral ice cream? The van must have passed by my gate, because the tune is beginning to fade away, and I just can’t be seen chasing after an ice cream truck. I’m an adult.
That is when it hits me. Life is short! You can sleep and not wake up. Do you want to live your last day regretting the ice cream you wished you had? Whatever you want to do, do it now!
That is the thought that goes through my head, and at once, I jump up from my bed, and still wearing boxer shorts and a singlet, I put on my slippers on and run outside to the gate, and then to the street. I see the van turning into the next street. I chase after it. Luckily for me, the van stops to sell ice cream to a kid, and I catch up to it. I ask for a N100 worth of ice cream. There is this feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment I get as the ice cream is handed to me. I am smiling really broadly. I start away from the van, already eating my purchase. I haven’t gone far from the van when I decide that N100 ice cream isn’t worth the energy I spent running to catch up to the van. I go back and buy some more. I eat the ice cream on my way home, and the whole time I am saying to myself: “Life is short, whatever you want to do, do now!” Somehow, I find solace in this new mantra of mine.
I take my bath and put some clothes on. It is time to relive the worst day of my life. I get to the lab and request for my result. The lab I visited this time is a fancy one. I give the receptionist my computerized receipt, and she taps her computer keyboard, and my result comes out of the printer. She puts it in an envelope and hands it over to me. She doesn’t even make any eye contact with me. I don’t thank her. I take the envelope and leave. As I close the door behind me, I open the envelope and read the result. Too many smart words I see printed out on the piece of paper. I am just looking for where ‘POSITIVE’ or ‘NEGATIVE’ is, and I don’t find it. I go back inside and speak to the lady at the desk.
Me: Please, where is the main result?
She doesn’t even talk to me. She merely uses her pen to point to a spot on the paper. I look and I see it. Boldly written in block letters. How could I have missed it?
So I’m really positive? This is where I woke up from my dream, only to realise I have not being dreaming at all. Shit just got real. This is when the real fear grips me.
I board a vehicle home. While in the vehicle, I started googling ‘How To Live With HIV.’ I download a PDF document titled ‘Managing Your Health: A Guide For People Living With HIV.’ I began reading, but it doesn’t help with my fear. While reading though, I come across a line that reads: Build a network of friends that can support you. So far, that is the only thing the e-book has said that makes any sense to me. Apart from my family, I have only told Rowland. Some friends have noticed something is going on with me, and have been trying to make me talk. I just can’t tell them, even if I call them “friend”. The e-book is getting boring, so I turn away from it. I have some BBM messages; I reluctantly reply the ones I can. And then, there is a text from Iffy.
I met Iffy almost a year ago. What attracted me to him was his kind of intelligence. Iffy is smart, nice, and he is a poet. We could talk for hours without getting bored. I don’t know how he saw me, but I’d imagined a life with him. If there was ever someone I would like to wake up next to for the rest of my life, it is him. But it didn’t work out. If I hadn’t met Iffy, I don’t think you’ll be reading this story. It is him who inspired me to write. I wrote my first poem when he left. Our friendship suffered for a while, but later on, we found mutual ground, even though we only now talk every once in a while.
And now that he has buzzed me, I find myself telling him that my dad asked me if I am gay.
Iffy: Why would he ask you if you’re gay? It’s not like you’re effeminate.
I don’t reply immediately. I don’t want to share. I don’t even know when I typed it.
Me: Can I trust you?
Me: My life is kinda falling apart right now. Please, don’t freak out.
Me: I have been diagnosed with HIV.
Iffy: OMG! Noooo, not you! I’m so sorry, boo!
Me: So technically, my life is over. I have just been trying to be strong.
Iffy: Your life isn’t over. This is a new chapter. You don’t deserve this, but you’re going to get through this, you hear me? It will only make you stronger. This I assure you.
Me: Iffy, you don’t really know how it feels.
Iffy: You’re right! I don’t know how it feels. But I know someone who has been living with HIV for years, and he’s very successful. Bobby, believe me, you will be fine. Your life goes on. You will find love and have kids just like everyone else. I will talk to a friend for you. His name is Kenny Badmus. He’s been living with HIV for years. I think he can help you.
Me: Okay. Thanks a lot.
Iffy: Just feel free to talk to me anytime. You will beat this.
Me: I don’t know why I told you this, but I’m glad I told you.
Iffy: Thank you for trusting me with this. It’s safe with me.
A part of me feels relieved a bit. At least I have someone to talk to. And it feels really good. At night, I sleep, and it is best sleep I have had in days. The following morning, I wake up to read my messages, just like I do every morning. Iffy had left me some messages.
Iffy: Hey dear. How you doing? I have spoken with Kenny, and he’s interested in speaking with you. He gave me this site to give to you.
Iffy had left the link for site for me. It is www.icantsharethisinfowithyou.com. I click it open. I register on it as the site requested me to. A little time passes by, and someone reaches out to me. It isn’t Kenny Badmus; I’ll just call him Mr. Help, because he was really helpful. I receive a mail from Mr. Help and it reads:
‘I understand you just tested HIV positive. Kenny Badmus gave me your contact and I am really glad you sought for help.
‘First thing I will say to you is “DON’T WORRY”. This is not your fault. Let’s just blame it on our government. If they had spent the time they spent deliberating on the fourteen-year jail sentence on promoting HIV prevention amongst Men Who Have Sex with Men, our world would be a better place. What has happened has happened and I am here to help you deal with it. I will like to know you more. Where do you live? What you do? What is your medical history and sexual orientation, so I can properly offer tailored advice and the care you need. This is my Facebook address and my WhatsApp number. Feel free to talk to me about anything. Once again, HIV is not a death sentence.
I don’t get back to Mr. Help immediately. I can’t trust him with that much info just like that. I go back to reading my e-book instead. Then I stumble upon something. The book mentions three words to me, and in that moment, there is peace.
Just three words, put together, become powerful enough to shackle my fears, and infuse me with hope. Hope for life, hope for tomorrow, hope to aspire, hope that I will love, and hope that I will have sex again.
If you ask me, these words should be every HIV patient’s favourite words. Lol.
Written by Bobby