Mon. Sep 16th, 2019

The words can’t be read and the pages are blank, but the realities are seen in drops of salty water, oozing succinctly from my eyes.
I’ve lost it all. My life collapsed right before me. With the letter from the laboratory test result and the sorry countenance and reassuring voice of the doctor saying “it’s not over, you can still live a longer while if you comply with the prescriptions”.
I read the Positive words of the test – The HIV test…
*****
I’ve led a promiscuous life in the past years. I’m the city’s famous stripper, the senators’ most wanted bedmate and the church’s Sunday sermon.

I come from a very good Christian home. Mum and dad were pastors of a popular church in Enugu. During my teenage days I’ve led the choir, conducted house -to-house evangelism and led so many to Christ. I did this because of the environment in which I grew up but things took a drastic turn when I lost my parents to a motor accident. They traveled for a conference in Ghana and didn’t return. Their bodies weren’t even recovered. They left me alone in this world with my kid brother and no property because everything we owned belonged to the church. This was the time I needed them most. I mean, I’m just in my first year in the University and I need them badly. I’m so naive with the scary world, I’m only a pro in scriptures and studies relating to my field. Nothing more and nothing less.

I knew how to speak in tongues but knew nothing about boys, I knew the scriptures well but have no knowledge about sex -mum considered it a taboo teaching us about sex. I knew my periodic table and redox reactions to my fingertips but never knew how to stop masturbation and my sexual urge with fastings and prayer. To be frank, I knew nothing about being a girl and a woman except the cultural norms of feminine morality and loyalty that doesn’t answer to the challenges of the 21st century.

The church promised me paradise after my parents burial only to give me hell in my second year in school. I know you might ask why I didn’t go to relatives for help but how would I get to know them when we never visited the village? We spent all Xmas and New Years hosting Cross over nights and new year services; my grand mum (my dad’s mother)who lived with us died and I never knew my mum’s parent because her dad died before she even got married to my dad and her mum few months after I was born.

My younger brother that went to live with one of the rich deacons ran out from their home after three months and I haven’t set my eyes on him till this day. News got to me later that he was treated like a slave. The deacon’s hot temper nearly burned him alive and the deacon’s wife turned him into a laundry bay that washed even her pants. He was burned with the iron when he mistakenly burned the deacon’s blazer on a Sunday morning. This made him run away and never returned. I was in school when all these happened and he couldn’t have contacted me because he had no phone and my school was in Benin, Edo state.
*****
I started my struggle for survival with having a boyfriend whom I first had sex with – not loosing my virginity to him because I already lost my virginity in my Christian days to masturbation – then we broke up after some months, then another boyfriend and many other boyfriends until Stephanie my friend and bunk mate in the hostel introduced me to the “runs girl game”. I got wild in the game and met men of different caliber , different sizes of penis, different characters. All these I did to see myself through school and become a successful Industrial Chemist that I’ve always dreamed to be.

Just during my NYSC in Abuja, when I thought I was close to my dreams and will finally drop the prostitution work , I got this slight headache and feverish condition that never disappeared with Panadol and other pharmaceutical products from the patent chemist; which led me to do series of tests and ended up with the result in my hand.
*****
I walked out of the doctor’s office feeling faint, fighting depression and thoughts of suicide. I wrote so many suicide notes and canceled them. I mixed an antiseptic in my coke but the pungent smell prevented me from drinking it. I tried jumping from the top floor of my three storey lodge but I was so scared of the height and thought it rather too painful. So, I decided to chat while I reason out a better suicide strategy.

I turned on my data, got to my WhatsApp and tried viewing friends’ status. The first status I viewed struck me. The picture shows a woman tying her child to her back with a wrapper, holding an Umbrella firm to her shoulders with her neck in the rain and selling oranges to a man in his car on traffic , with the writeup “when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Don’t give up when breathe hasn’t left you”. The whole thing inspired me. Immediately I consulted my browser on how to live with HIV and I got answers.

I attended health seminars, met my doctor often and luckily for me, I got a well paying job in a reputable company with a fake health record though. I tried my best to live normal and enjoy my life while it lasts, cutting ties with people in my past and making new friends. I took my anti retroviral drugs in secret and lied about having interest to support HIV patients whenever someone I know bumped into me at the HIV center in Abuja.

During one of my office assignments in Kadunna, I met Tayo. A Muslim guy. He’s Six foot tall, dark , handsome and very intelligent aside the fact that he schooled abroad. I ignored all the guys that came to me – stayed celibate since I got that terrifying test result and helped my libido with a dildo – but Tayo was a different species of man. Once he got my number from my staff profile, he kept calling with different numbers even when I blocked him and visited me countless times in Abuja, surprisingly though. I won’t deny loving him but he’s too good for me. I arranged a rendezvous for a discussion with him one rainy Sunday evening and there I told him my life’s story in deep tears. After which I left him there -crying also and speechless – and ran home.

I continued my normal life and didn’t hear from him again. On a Friday afternoon, just some minutes after break time at work; I heard noises and strange sounds outside. Everyone in my office ran out to see what is happening including myself. Everywhere was crowded, surrounding a scene. I peeped to see Tayo lying still on the floor with what looked like blood surrounding him and knife stuck in a paper in his left hand, his right hand in his pocket and body lifeless. The management knew him well enough. In fact, he is the business consultant of our company’s closest associate in Kaduna. I got to the scene and cried uncontrollably. I really loved Tayo. I read the note and it says “this will be real if you don’t say yes”. I looked at him and he opened his eyes, sat down on the floor,pulled out a ring from his pocket and proposed.

I wanted to say something but he sealed my mouth with a deep kiss and said “say nothing but yes, I know you and I’m cool with you”. Then I realized that my co- workers had planned that with him without my knowing because everyone was gesturing to me to accept him. I said yes to him and everyone collectively shouted “Happy birthday and happy Engagement”. I’ve been so occupied that I even forgot it was my birthday too.

I married Tayo. He made love to me wearing condoms and got advice from the doctor on how to live with me which included taking his PrEp seriously. I conceived through In vitro Fertilization and gave birth through CS. I had two pretty girls with Tayo, (who were HIV free). With Tayo’s aid, I started an NGO that emancipates the girl child and carter for HIV patients. I published books, invited to lecture on seminars and travelled the world giving speeches and encouraging people. I won awards and lived fulfilled. I never knew my life would still be this meaningful.
*****
Tayo didn’t remarry after her death at 48. He lived with the kids and trained them until he became a grandfather. He always looked through her notes everyday and adopted the pet name he gave her as his nickname. Tayo is fondly known as Crunchy Cracks by his friends and well wishers .
*************************************
Dedicated to HIV/AIDS victims. Seize every moment and live. Good memories make life worth the struggle.

©Achi Gp Nuel

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