There are those days, between bright sunny skies, and dark rain clouds; days which if they were water would be lukewarm, without character, without beady sweat or the promise of rain. Days that drive you into that dim contemplative space, where everything is heightened: tragedies and the probabilities of tragedies.
It rains in April. Somehow you always lose your umbrella in April. The umbrella that balances like a dandy against the door frame is your first in many years, not just because, somehow you always lose umbrellas one week after buying them but because that perennial loss has made you question the usefulness of umbrellas altogether. There is nothing so important that would make you walk in the rain you imagine, and if there is, it will be an emergency enough that will make being drenched the least of your problems. You look out through the window at the dull sky, then at the umbrella, before leaving without it.
In April you cry. For your dead brother whose nondescript grave you imagine as being overgrown with weeds in April. In April you conjure your brother’s face and play it all, from his laughter to his drowning. And now 11 years after you thought his was the largest coffin you’d ever seen – he was over 6ft tall- you feel his memory blurring in your head.
You are looking for a place to do a HIV test. Your partner had gently nudged you to do that which you had promised to do and now, having gone through the evolution of thoughts that precede an HIV test- I can’t have it to I don’t want to know if I have it to What if I have it to It is not impossible to have it to Where can I get drugs and treatment if I have it? – you have prepared yourself by calling up a friend who works in HIV research to ask for the best HIV treatment centres in Abuja, as well as Googled all there is to know about living with HIV.
There are thoughts you are struggling to suppress. Like, how will you deal with the stigma. Like, what if April is not just the month your brother died, but the day you will find out that you have begun the slow but sure descent to death. You convince yourself that being HIV positive is not the end, that life can still be lived to the full- you think of O, your friend who has lived with the virus in relatively good health since you knew him many years ago. Life itself is a slow, sure descent to death, and in Nigeria, that life is for many people short and brutish. Like the dozens who died in the FCT after the recent bomb blast. Nigeria itself is for many, a terminal disease.
April. You never want children, but suddenly you feel if fate ever tricked you into having a daughter, you would call her April. This is the new name of your if-ever daughter, taking over after Q and Nefertiti. It starts to drizzle as you wait to enter the building where your skin will be pricked to draw blood which may or may not be infected with a life altering virus. The rain drops are the least of your worries.
Everything happens so quickly in April. At least in your head. The pre-test, done by a doctor who realised from your name that he knew your writing online, included assurances of the ease of HIV care which you were still trying to swallow by the time the test kit arrived. You are watching everything happen like a time lapse video, struggling to sustain interest in the excited doctor’s conversation. The time lapse video ends when he walks over to check the test results. In the seconds it takes him to speak, you think of every partner you have had, every time you have wondered if a condom was used properly, every indiscretion and all the people who will use you as a morality lesson for their children and relatives. The seconds are high on barbiturates, crawling into minutes.
Your partner asks if you feel relieved finally finding out what your status is. “I am just tired,” you say. You sleep for many hours, longer than you have slept in a long while and deeper. The feeling in your heart and head refuses to be slept away. It lingers, clearing a space in your being, unrolling a mat, settling down.
You think of the families of the more than 70 persons bombed out of existence. And of the families of over 200 girls who were kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in Chibok. April will never be the same for them.
Staring at the umbrella still leaning against the door frame, you wonder about his feet- you cannot remember what your brother’s feet looked like. The years are eating him up in your head.
You will look for a picture of him and stare at it for a long while, rebuild his face in your head. You will tell him that you are only sure of one thing this April: that when you die, it will not be from AIDS. At least, not yet.