She was lying on the bed, so very still. She was so tiny, so fragile, fast asleep with that very tiny nose and that pretty mouth. She looked so helpless, and I was too afraid to hold her. I took her little hand in mine. I wondered if she was cold. How warm do babies want to be? I have no idea. What if she’s cold, or what if she’s too hot? The nurse had told me not to panic, that I would get the hang of it, but I couldn’t help it.
I put another blanket on her. Everybody said I should have bought her a pink one, but I thought purple was just perfect, even her hair band is purple. I have turned into a fashionista these past few days. When she’s awake she looks at me thoughtfully, very carefully, so innocent and curious. She’s got her mother’s eyes, her temper too. Those tiny hands sure can throw things.
I work as an HIV counsellor at a government hospital. I see tears and tempers all the time. I come back home feeling tainted, with my emotions all tangled up. Mothers with children as young as her, having just received their test results. The lives these little souls will have to live, the hell they will have to go through feeling lost, and me having to reassure them over and over again that it’s going to be fine, and then coming back home knowing that it’s not going to be fine. Somehow I feel like I’ll transfer this misfortune onto her.
I look at her and I can’t help but see all those babies. What will happen to my daughter? Young girls almost always contract HIV, and one by one I have to tell them they will be okay. All those tears. I take condoms and put them closer to the door so nobody will miss them. They are so young, so poor, do they deserve this?
I have not been to church for two weeks. I don’t have the strength to pray when people are dying all around me while I keep telling them they will be okay. I can’t lie and go to church. I’m so angry. Plus, what I need right now is a solution, not prayer.
I let go of her tiny hand and fuss over her hair band. She’s three months old. I first saw her two weeks ago at a hospital, sleeping the same way she’s sleeping right now. She was thinner, paler, and had a sadness in the features of her face. She had not eaten for a whole day when they found her.
Her mother was the love of my life, and we were going to get married. Who does not plan to get married these days? Anyway, she had the most beautiful smile. She loved her hair short, and I also preferred it that way, very kinky. She was tall and very thin. I would sometimes watch her and wonder what I had done to be so lucky. Her temper was really bad, though. I have a scar right below my eye from a glass she threw at me, and burns from trying to save some clothes she had set on fire inside the house. She could kill with both her smile and her hands.
I left her about a year ago and refused to talk to her after. She sent me a text about two weeks ago, and when I saw her name, I didn’t want to read it. It was only after a day that curiosity finally got the better of me and I finally checked it.
I found out I have HIV. I am leaving your daughter. You should probably come get her or don’t, I don’t care. You are going to have to get her tested.
I called the police. They arrived there before me. Doesn’t this beauty ever get tired of torturing me?
I had to meet my daughter at a hospital with fluids being pumped in her body. I stood next to her like I’m standing right now. Her perfect face, I never want to leave her side. I have my results, I am negative. I get tested from time to time anyway. I’ve put her test in a drawer. I leave her hair and walk to the drawer, take a deep breath, and think about the first time I saw her: joy mingled with the worst fear. Her mother hadn’t accused me of infecting her, so she must know where she got it.
I look at the test and have to take a seat. I wish someone would lie to me right now, tell me it’s all going to be okay.
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