“Lights would guide you home
And ignite your path
And I will try, to fix you…”
Those are the words of the song I am listening to. It is Fix You by Coldplay, one of my favourite bands. The song is everything at this moment. It isn’t as though I am broken right now, but I feel as though I need to be fixed. My heart is beating, like I’m running from an angry homophobic mob, yet I’m wearing a calm face. I can’t afford to fall apart right now. Besides, my mum thinks she’s Batman, so I can’t give off any emotion to make her suspect something is wrong.
“And I will try… To fix you…” The song’s final words are followed by the soft thrum of a piano. I know it’s a piano because I have listened to the song thirteen times already. Then I look at the time and it is 2: 10 pm. My heartbeat increases. The lab scientist had asked me to come get my result by 2: 00 pm. I’m already dressed in the same clothes I wore to the lab yesterday. I put on my slippers and walk towards the door.
Mum: Bobby, where you dey go?
Me: I wan reach Rowland house, I dey come.
Rowland is my childhood friend. We attended school together, both secondary school and university. He is straight though. He knows I’m queer, and is totally cool with it. He isn’t even in town; I’m too stressed to think of a smart lie. Normally, I’m a very good liar. Lying just comes to me naturally.
I walk to the junction and board a taxi, plug in my earphones and go to my music player. I press play.
“Lights would guide you home
And ignite your path…”
I let myself get serenaded by Coldplay, the track on constant repeat for the twenty minutes it takes the cab driver to get me to the lab. I walk in and smile at the receptionist; she is light skinned and very skinny.
Me: I’m here for my result.
Receptionist: Okay. Just sit down. Give me a minute.
She walks into the back room. In the first minute, I am seated, draped over my seat. And then, it is three minutes past, and I am upright on my seat. I can’t comprehend why I suddenly feel tense with each passing second that shows the receptionist should not be trusted for her time-keeping. I mean, seriously! It’s now four minutes.
Then, the skinny girl walks in.
Receptionist: You can go in now.
Me: Me? I thought you were supposed to give me the result.
Receptionist: The lab scientist wants to talk with you.
This is where I start to die.
I walk into the consulting room, and the laboratory scientist offers me a seat. I sit down.
Scientist: Good afternoon.
He is wearing a smile, a plastic smile.
Me: Good afternoon, sir.
He pauses for a while. I can tell he is a bit uncomfortable. Then, he looks up at me.
Scientist: Uhm… So, your test… There was a reaction.
Those are his exact words. He continues speaking. I keep quiet. I am just staring at him with my palms under my chin, studying his features more than I am paying attention to what he is saying. He is cute – pointed nose, nice cheekbones, kinda reminds me of David Beckham. His eyes are light-brown and he is chocolatey in complexion.
Scientist: It was positive.
Those words jolt me out of my slight reverie. My mind blacks out, like the dimming of lights before a stage performance. I can still see him talking, his lips are moving. But I am suddenly more interested in the fat lady singing at the opera – the one my mind revealed when the lights came back on, blazing on the stage. The fat lady’s vibrato is perfect, she sings like a siren. I have to let her finish her performance. She is really good. She even gets a standing ovation. The song is over.
But the scientist’s lips are still moving.
Me: Can I go now?
Finally, his lips stop moving. He gives me a quizzical look.
He folds the paper that is my HIV result and puts it in an envelope, before handing it over to me. I walk out of the office, towards the exit. The very skinny receptionist waves at me. Her emaciated frame reminds me of someone wasting away – of an AIDS patient. I don’t wave back. I just walk out as composedly as I can manage.
I get in another taxi, and in the next twenty minutes, I am home, in my room, on the bed, with my earphones on. I don’t listen to Fix You this time. It is the tune of If I Die Young by The Band Perry that thrums in my ears.
“If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song…”
Since I am thinking my life is over, it is the perfect song. I have it on repeat. Then, my phone beeps. It is a BBM message from Rowland.
Rowland: Guy, how far?
Me: I’m HIV +
Rowland: lol. You don start o. First of all, nah “u be gay”, now nah HIV.
I don’t know what to reply at that point, so I remain unresponsive. After about seven minutes, he texts me again.
Rowland: Guy, you dey serious?
Me: So amongst everything I could joke with, I chose HIV?
Rowland: How manage nah?
Now that IS the question I don’t want anyone to ask me. Like, seriously! I don’t reply the message. Two minutes pass, and my phone rings. It is Rowland. I don’t answer. I don’t feel like talking to anyone. Then, he texts me again: “DON’T DO ANY THING STUPID! I BEG YOU, IF I MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU!”
I don’t know if Rowland is psychic, because a few minutes ago, I’d thought of jumping in front of a moving vehicle, jumping off a bridge, slitting my wrists. I am actually considering which one will be swift and painless.
Rowland texts me again: “I’M CALLING YOU NOW! PLEASE ANSWER…”
My eyes begin to water. The tears are long overdue. They streaked down my face, flowing silently like a 20 litre jerrycan leaking from beneath. There is no sob, just the tears. I don’t want to make any sound because Batman mum is home. Lots of thoughts are rushing through my head. I just can’t keep it all together.
My tears are still flowing, when my dad zooms in. I dry my eyes as fast as I can, when I hear his voice resonating outside my room. I have always known I have an understanding father, even though I haven’t tested the strength of his compassion. That is why I haven’t told him I’m gay.
I go out to meet him. He is bustling about, rearing to go out again. It is Wednesday, and we have an evening service to attend. I notice mum is in the bathroom, and dad is in the bedroom. I move to the bedroom.
Me: Daddy, welcome.
Dad: Ehen! How are you? Why aren’t you dressed for church?
Me: Daddy, I’m HIV positive.
That is how I said the news out loud for the first time.
Hi, my name is Bobby, and I’m HIV positive. I thought my life was over, but actually, my life just began.