BEING BRUNO (Episode 4)

BEING BRUNO (Episode 4)


At eleven, you wrote the entrance examinations into the Unity schools. You remember the anticipation with which you had chosen the Federal Government College, Enugu and Nise at first and second choices. When you received word that you had indeed passed and was admitted into the college, your joy knew no bounds. Then you went to Enugu with your mom, planning to go and enroll the next morning and that was when it happened.

When you woke up the next morning, you saw a familiar look of determination on your mother’s face. She’d been sitting in the sitting room with your grandfather and aunts. You knew something was wrong before you heard her say, “Bruno, we are going back to Onitsha. I am not ready to give up on you yet. You are my child and I need to be the one to love you and train you. Moreover, it was revealed to me last night that this isn’t the right place for you.”

To say that you were disappointed is an understatement. You cried during the bus ride home.

You’d heard about FGGE, one of the only three schools in Enugu with the model teachers that could shape your future, students from all walks of life who would enrich yours. You’d dreamed of the afternoons you’d walk to the bus stop with your friends. There would be a Troy, with his brown wavy and grey eyes, who would love video games; the tomboyish Zara who would love novels. There would be parties every Friday, a rather colorful affair where students would dance and sing and read poetry. There would be beautiful boys in clean, well-ironed white shirts and red the color of wine.

But in one swift move, your mother had dashed those dreams against the harsh concrete walls of her decision and like light glass, the dreams shattered into ninety-nine pieces that bit into your heart. The wall of her decision was concrete, set in that way that limestone floors come out, no room for cracks. You tried talking, writing and crying. She didn’t budge.

And just like that, the future you yearned for flew through your hands.

One would think that you would have come to learn from these experiences, know better than to dream and wish for things, but you, Bruno, never learn. You forgot their harsh realities as soon as their pain left you, when their unpleasant memories were successfully repressed.



You came back from school two days after you told your aunt about your condition to meet your mom in the sitting room. You stopped short, hand frozen on the door handle. A thousand things went through your mind – the raw groundnut she must have brought, the intensity of her accusing eyes, the sting of her palm against your cheek, the new soup grandma would make this evening, the things she would say – in no particular order. Your mind was like a frying pan with scrambled eggs, badly scrambled eggs.

You love your mother, more than anyone else in the world, but she was not the person you expected or wanted to see at that time. You could greatly reassured by her prescience, but that would mean that she could look into your eyes and see the sadness and fear there; that would mean that she would tilt her head to the left, purse her lips and ask you, “Are you alright?”; that would require you to be in close proximity with her whilst you told her the biggest lie of the year, “I’m fine”.

You worried about these very many things with your foot planted to the ground, time standing still.

And then she smiled. The smile started from her lips, stretched her cheeks and reached her eyes to light up a sparkle of warm light. You saw the smile and everything else melted away. Your scrambled thoughts were forgotten, they didn’t matter. Your worries about the future were suspended, they didn’t matter. In that moment, your world was brightened by that woman that sat across from where you stood. Her smile, like the rays of the sun, sent radiant energy through the room to you.

You closed the door, then half-ran and half-walked over to where she sat and wrapped your hands around her neck. With your eyes closed, you breathed in her scent, that familiar aura. You didn’t understand it, but when she returned the hug, you felt better, you felt like everything was really going to be alright.

Then you drew away and silently received your grandma’s teasing about how you were a ‘mommy’s boy’. Your mother was just here to see her parents. The shit hadn’t hit the ceiling yet.


You were in your room in Onitsha, sitting beside your mom on the bed. It was awfully quiet and when you faced her, she had an expectant look. You know, that look that says, ‘So?’

You held her gaze and said softly, “Mommy, I’m sick. I have HIV.”

The words came out so low that you wondered if she’d heard you. Her smile stayed on, as if they had been carved into her face permanently.

“Did you hear me?”

“Yes,” she said. “I heard you, and I want you to know that it’s all going to be alright, okay?” She paused, watching your perplexed face. “You will be fine. We will get on the drugs, make sure you eat more healthily. You will be fine…”

You couldn’t hold your confusion in. You watched her face closely, looking for signs that this was only the calm before the storm. “Are you angry with me?”

The smile wavered, like its foundation had been shook by those words. Then it regained its strength, returning to form. “I…” You heard her say. Then her voice began to fade.

You could see her lips move, but you couldn’t hear the words they uttered. It was like watching a movie with the audio muted. But after a while, her face started to blur as if it was being zoomed out off.

“Bruno..” someone was calling.

You raised your hand toward where she should be sitting, but your fingers came up with thin air.

“Bruno…” Someone slapped your shoulder and you woke sharply – the only way you have been waking this past week.

You opened your eyes to find her, your mother, there, in your face, peering down at you with eyes that told you that she had been awake for a long time, if she had slept at all. With bleary eyes, you saw what you couldn’t see several hours earlier when you had first looked her – the confusion that shimmered in her eyes, the anger that flared through her nostrils, the disappointment that made her purse her lips, the love that dragged her shoulders up with worry. You saw the things she had kept locked down through the evening and you knew.

“You have HIV,” she said unceremoniously and your heart fell through your backbone to the floor, and from its resting place, you heard it so loud, you could have sworn it was really right next to your right ear.


As you sat in the waiting room at the hospital the next day, you saw your environment in a different light. On your past visits to the clinic, you always sat in the corner, by yourself, finding it oddly comforting to know that you weren’t really alone. You would see men and women of varying ages walk in, read the look on your face and ignore you, but the knowledge that these people were here for the same reason as you both depressed and encouraged you.

You thought: ‘Bruno, you are fucked, but the good news is that these folks also have the same thing. They are still walking.’

But that morning, as you moved into the doctor’s office with your mother, you saw what she saw: people at different stages of death. You imagined that she saw them and was thinking, ‘This bone-thin girl that can barely walk has the same problem as my son’, and this wouldn’t be comforting for her. It would just remind her that that is what the future holds for her son now.

You recalled her state last night as she hissed, “What have you done?” You recalled the way realization washed over you that she had been putting up an act earlier in the sitting room, waiting for the right time to disclose her real reason for coming to Enugu. When she blew her nose in the tail end of her wrapper, you felt what you had known to be bloodshot eyes on you and you knew that you’d hurt this woman, this woman who you had devoted much of your life to pleasing because she’d devoted all of hers to giving you all that she had.

In that way, you had become your father.

Her barely coherent whispers, words spoken low in an effort to not wake her parents who lay in the next room, hit you like jagged glass, one after the other, piercing flesh and bone. “You were my hope, my life. Your father’s ill-treatment was nothing because you were there. On cloudy days, when I had no will to live, you were my drive. When my back ached from all the work I did, my head pounding from sleep deprivation, I would think about the people it’s all for: my children. I would say, ‘Chioma, just a little while longer, a few more steps, you are almost there. They are good children. They don’t want to see you hurt. They are worth it. Bruno will soon graduate. He will lighten your burden. Little did I know that my son whom I had sent to school to learn how to make life better for us all had gone off to add to the load.

“You want our enemies to laugh at us? You want them to mock me? ‘The mother of the boy with HIV’. Do you have any idea of what this means? The anguish and the pain you had brought into our family because you couldn’t keep it in your pants? You weren’t smart enough to use condom?”

She had shook her head several times and breathed heavily. She’d poured out those words in one breath and you heard air rush in and out of her nostrils against the quiet of the room.

You bowed your head because you couldn’t look at her. You weren’t ashamed, no, you were past that. It was the pain. The excruciating ache you felt from looking at her cry and knowing that this one was on you. You felt a stray tear run down your cheek and you bit down on your lower lip to keep the floodgates shut. Crying was a luxury you didn’t allow yourself then.

After what must have been a terribly long time but had felt like no time at all, you said, “I’m sorry.”

And you really were. You were sorry that you had become a disappointment. In your twenty-two years, you hadn’t felt anything like the regret you felt then. You were sorry about the first time you had sex. The pleasure you had derived from the act then felt dirty now. You were sorry that you found those men handsome and appealing and that repulsed you.

“…Your son’s CD4 count is still remarkably high,” the doctor was saying, bringing you back to the present. “It’s a good thing. He got tested soon enough. We will work on stabilizing it now and that entails making his meals healthier, reduce stress and ensure that he avoids sex for now.”

You felt your ears go hot.

“We will not start him on ARVs yet, even though he had indicated interest. Our benefactors have a strict policy about medication being dispensed only after the CD4 falls to a certain number or other health complications arise…” the doctor continued, each word punching you in the gut

It had all been for nothing. Telling your aunt and your mom finding out, it had all led to nothing but pain. There was nothing that could be worse than this.

You were once again reminded that things don’t always go as you hope for.

As you walked out of the clinic with your mother, she said something that was indeed worse, “You are never taking that drug. You are too young to be yoked down like that. You must come to Onitsha and we will see the pastor. You will be healed of this Egyptian illness.”

Written by Uziel

Previous Photo: A Real Top Speaks
Next Waka Pass Diaries

About author

You might also like

Series (Fiction) 11 Comments


“Jiro, I don’t think we should continue seeing each other anymore,” Andrew said. “I think it’s time I let you go.” This is the only way, Andrew thought. Say it

Series (Fiction) 18 Comments

Those Awkward Moments (Episode 17)

Previously on THOSE AWKWARD MOMENTS: So, a week after Jude’s coma situation, Kevin runs into Kuddus (Remember? The guy he met at the bar, whose number he lost in the

Series (Fiction) 3 Comments

BEING BRUNO (Episode 6)

Previously on BEING BRUNO… * PAST If your life is represented on a bar chart, with the years that had gone by lined up on the y-axis, and how happy


  1. beejay
    August 23, 08:29 Reply

    “You will be healed of this Egyptian illness.” Beautiful entry Uziel, had me hanging on every word.

  2. Mandy
    August 23, 08:33 Reply

    Wait, WHAT!

    “You are never taking that drug. You are too young to be yoked down like that. You must come to Onitsha and we will see the pastor. You will be healed of this Egyptian illness.”

    This kind of ignorance is staggering. And unfortunately true of our society.

Leave a Reply