THE PAIN THAT CUTS DEEP

THE PAIN THAT CUTS DEEP

We ran that night in the rain. The streets were mostly deserted, and our panting laughter bubbled with abandon alongside the rumbling thunder that seemed to tear the heavens open anew so that more torrents of rain swept across the street and our bodies as we ran for shelter. We didn’t stop till we almost collapsed at his doorstep. We were drenched and oddly exhilarated. And in that moment, that unexpected second when I was worrying about my paperwork in the plastic envelope getting wet, he stopped fiddling with the keys to the door, leaned forward and kissed me. God must have been as surprised as I was as He photographed us with lips locked with a lightning flash.

“That picture of us will be shown to us on judgment day in an FHD display,” Chima said.

I giggled in response, a shiver – whether from the chill or desire – running through my body. This would be my first time to be at his place since I said yes to his question about us being together over two weeks ago. And it surprised me that he did not care that a neighbour could have walked past us as he stole that kiss.

There was of course no power when we got in, but through the bright flashes of our phone lights, I could see that his apartment was nice and tastefully furnished. He turned on a fluorescent lamp and I was able to appreciate the artistic way he played with the burgundy colours in his living room. There were different shades from the blinds to the throw pillows and table mat. I let him take my wet clothes to the little corridor at the back to hang them.

“They should be dry by morning,” he said as he handed me a loose-fitting T-shirt and shorts. I ran my hands over the cotton fabric; the clothes smelled like him even though they were clean and apparently laundered.

It was a Friday night, so we did not have to worry about work the next day. After a hot bath, we cuddled up in the couch in the living room, downing a can of fruit juice and some suya we had bought just before the rain. He’d turned off the fluorescent lamp and lit a pretty paraffin lamp that reminded me so much of the small kiosk my mother operated in the evenings when I was a child. He said it was to keep us warmer.

I looked at him as he spoke. His eyes had that sparkle in them, the one that came on just before he did a romantic gesture.

As the rain thrummed on the roof like they were celebrating our first night together, we laughed and talked about ourselves. This time, it was better than doing it over dinner or a hurried lunch where we were conscious of the people around or the time. It was by far more intimate than on WhatsApp where there were no attachments to the words we typed across the screen to each other and had to mostly imagine that the intent behind the messages was properly conveyed.

I was enjoying the warmth of his body and the vibration in his chest when he spoke, as he talked to me deep things about himself. In my head, I struggled with my own truth – the truth that was weighing down around my neck like a locket in which the unspoken part of my life was tucked in. I was going to keep it concealed. I was going to let it lie there, unnoticed.

But then, he kissed me, deeply. He moved his lips down the nape of my neck while our bodies began to move in tandem with the flaring passion, silhouetted as they were on the wall from the flames of the paraffin lamp in its glass glove.

When he lifted his head to look at me, his eyes were heavy-lidded with need.

“Shall we?” he husked, like he was seeking my permission.

“Yes,” I said with a swallow. I’d been single for so long, and I was sex-starved and badly needed all of the loving he could give me.

“There’s no condom in this house,” he said. “Do you mind?”

I wanted to say no, to act like barebacking was normal and totally safe for us. Someone had done it to me, so why not let him have at it too, I thought.

But I pushed myself all the way up instead, off from the warmth his body provided, and a chill that seemed to herald what I was going to say ran through my body. I looked at him and felt a tremble on my lip.

“What?” he asked, looking puzzled.

“We cannot have sex without protection, Chima,” I said to him, hoping he wouldn’t push it, needing him to not say what would make me have to impart my truth.

“But we are clean,” he had said.

Immediately he said that, thunder clapped so close to the window as if it disagreed with what he had just said, startling both of us.

I swallowed hard again and finally said the words in a whisper. “I have HIV.”

“What?” he said, craning forward, wanting to hear me. There was still a fierce expression of need on his face, one I suspected may not last very long. “What did you say?”

“I have HIV, Chima,” I said more audibly. “It’s not safe for us to do this without condoms.”

Right before my eyes, that need flickered in his eyes and then began to perish. He’d frozen and a strange light came on in his eyes; whether it was pity, rage or revulsion, I couldn’t tell. He was staring at me as though he could run a confirmatory test on me by merely looking at me. He didn’t react to my news with words. He simply got to his feet and began the mundane task of getting us settled for the night.

The rest of night felt colder than the rainy outside as I lay on the same bed with him. He had his back to me, and I lay silently like a mouse in the darkness, holding my breath intermittently to check his, to know if he was awake, and wondered if he was thinking about what I had said earlier.

The next morning, our good mornings were formal, stiff, lacking the tenderness that we had come into his house with last night. I occasionally looked at him as he ate his breakfast of tea and the bread I toasted, and the conversations we had felt like he was nibbling at them. In those moments, I never felt sorrier about my status like I did then; I never regretted saying the truth like I did at that point.

“Nnamdi, it’s not you that is the problem,” he said to me as I prepared to leave his house. “I have just been thinking, that’s all.”

“Thinking about what?” I said. I was looking into his face now guarded and closed where once it’d been frank and open, and I tamped down on the rise of tears inside me.

“About everything,” he said. “Just thinking.”

I nodded silently. I understood how he felt. It had been the same feeling that made me suicidal when the test came out positive a year ago. I couldn’t blame him for his distance. He needed time to deal with this, just like I did when I first learned about it.

Weeks passed and I gradually settled into that space between dating and single. I stopped sending him messages and calling him. I wished I could cry over him, wet my pillows, will him to come back to me. I wished a cure would come out the next hour so I could run back to him before he slipped forever away.

But none of those happened. Instead I got a WhatsApp message from him.

Hey, sorry I have been incommunicado. I could not bring myself to digest what you told me. I am an only son with too many responsibilities, and I cannot put myself in harm’s way for no reason. I’m sorry I can’t do this. I hope you understand and find someone who will appreciate the good person that you are. God bless.

That night, I dreamt of me. Sitting and staring at myself in the mirror, the silence deafening and the ticking of the clock even louder, each tick-tock hammering away against my heart like nails penning down a coffin.

Written by Peaches

 

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7 Comments

  1. Q-MARA
    March 12, 17:39 Reply

    Wow! I can totally relate… You will be fine, and yea; HIS LOSS.

  2. simba
    March 13, 00:34 Reply

    We all are saying his loss and not proffering solution to this. Most folks dont read, or dont have access to research papers. While some dont trust results from concluded studies. Please let all of us be aware that you can be with, marry, have children with, fall inlove with persons living with HIV without risks of getting infections. Please let us know, and encourage our brothers and sisters who are living with HIV to attain viral suppression and become undetectable. For those who have doubts about it, please read about U=U. Undetectable equals Untransmissable.

    • Oludayo
      March 13, 21:32 Reply

      Thanks Simba, all you shared us true

  3. Francis
    March 18, 09:05 Reply

    An only son with many responsibilities. Meh, you dodged a big bullet. All I can advice you to do is not to get super emotionally invested before revealing your status next time. Hugs.

    P. S: COMMENT NOTIFICATION STILL NOT WORKING OH. PP ????

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