Daberechi and I were destined to be friends. I believed it was beyond serendipity to keep bumping into her on various Social Media platforms. I guess this was because we seemingly played around the same circles and had a handful of mutual friends. While I mostly enjoyed playing Switzerland online when community-related debates and issues sprang up, her opinions and reactions were vocal and unpretentious. I particularly admired her brazen approach and grace against the harsh criticisms and lashing she often faced from trolls and cyber-bullies.
So I decided to friend her on Facebook and although our chats were seldom, I managed to stay in touch with her over the last year or thereabout. I had promised her countless times that I would visit and bring over some material for the Human Rights Initiative she managed, especially since she always seemed to have answers for me when I reached out to her.
“Hey girlfriend,” she said after a loud yawn.
I chuckled. She often called me Girlfriend, Fairy, Fruitcake, and I in turn had the choicest derogatory titles for her.
And so, I hollered back at her, “Okunrin meta ati abo!” (Three men and a half)
She giggled, and we exchanged a few pleasantries and bickering for a few seconds.
“Dabz, I need to run something by you…” I said immediately, diving into the issue at hand.
“Okay, chill let me step out of bed. I hope no problem sha.”
Yeah. I hope so too, I silently thought to myself as I waited for her to speak again.
“Ok, shoot, home girl!”
I chuckled again. Then I took a deep breath and began speaking. I reeled out all that had occurred over the last 15 – 20 minutes. The tests. The wait. The results I could not seemingly interpret on my own. The more I spoke, the more unreal it seemed to me.
Then there was the silence again before she spoke. “Can I ask you why you decided to take a test?”
“Err… nothing really. I just felt like I should. I haven’t taken one in a while, and I feel I have slipped once or twice,” I said honestly, trying to think of any other reason why I had decided to take a HIV Test.
“Hmmm, so it is just a routine…. Well okay. Mostly I don’t recommend people to take Home Tests because of the delicacy of the nature of the test and the whole subject matter.”
“Yeah, I feel you. But I just wanted to do this on my own terms. I tend to deal with things better alone than when I have prying eyes around me. So what do you think it is – don’t worry, I am not going to slash my wrist or roll on the floor wailing. Drama isn’t really my forte,” I said, trying to sound unruffled.
Dey there dey deceive yourself, you hear? Drama is your forte. In fact, I am about to become a total nuisance right now. Help! Help!! The one I would demonstrate here would be worse than that self, I wanted to scream out, but held back.
Daberechi laughed. “That’s comforting to know. Even if you choose to do those things, they are okay. You are a human being too and you are allowed to have emotions. Anyways, I’m sure you know having the virus is not the end of the world, at least you have read several stories, even amongst our community of people waxing strong regardless…”
Ah. A sermon. This can’t be good, I thought to myself as she went on.
“I don’t want to say much over the phone or bring closure, but what I am going to recommend is that you come to the Foundation soon. Our Lab guy doesn’t come on Saturdays, but I will ask him to come in to run the tests again for you…”
“I can come next weekend,” I said quickly.
“Okay great! I will make arrangements and send you a confirmation mail during the course of the week.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled.
“You’re always welcome, Baby!” Daberechi said, sounding cheerful on the other end of the phone.
I wanted to hang up and crawl back to bed and stay there till I woke up from this dream.
After a few more awkward sentences, we said our goodbyes and I hung up the phone. I reached for another cigarette and lit it.
Today should have been an ordinary day. I should have stumbled out of bed and carried on with my tasks for the day – get a haircut, visit the drycleaners, go swimming with the boys. Or maybe I would have ordered a large box of pizza, some chicken wings and caught up on all my favourite shows I had missed during the course of the week. Perhaps I would have attempted to finish Tomb Raider for the umpteenth time. Perhaps I would have cruised Grindr, hoping to find a little something-something for the weekend.
It would have been a perfect Saturday. The usual ones I had grown accustomed to and seemingly deserved after a long week at work.
But everything had gone south in the last fifteen minute. I could not think past the present moment and the little white box a few metres away from me. I went from positive thoughts about being positive to indifference to vehement denial. In less than an hour, the life I thought I had secretly craved for, that so-called long hard road to new and better beginnings, was something I wanted no part of. And I learned once again that flirting with the idea of something is always way, way more alluring in your mind’s eye. Reality, most often times than not and very much in my case, was eons away from what I wanted.
I walked to the mirror and stared hard at my reflection.
Temidire, who send you work this afternoon, ehn?!
I cursed myself for ever picking up the kit, for being alone this morning, for pricking my finger. For sitting there like a dodoyo, waiting for the test result to come out. I cursed myself for every decision I had made that led me to this point. Life would have been much easier if I had just let it be. Let life go on like it was supposed to be. And maybe one day, I would just drop and die. After all, na something go kuku kill man before, abi?
Then after the resentment, came the self-denial with its very seductive baritone (The cursing voice sounds like a very angry Yoruba woman, clapping, hooting while dropping her Hs and Is carelessly). This voice of self denial was soothing, deceitful, that one that always pushes you to do all those bad, bad things… Maybe it was wrong, I thought as I kept staring into the mirror. I couldn’t be positive. There were no signs. No weight loss, in fact I had gained a couple of pounds around the belly region over the past months. I was still as healthy as an ox. No malaria. No fever. Not even a common cold since last year. The results were probably just an error, I told myself feebly as I stepped away from the mirror.
I fell back into bed and into a restless slumber. I hoped I would wake up and it would be Saturday morning once again, so I could get a second chance to relive this day.
Written by Temi-D