This will take time, I know. Mama’s memory is not good these days – even with simple things.
I should go and do my homework. I am behind with my Maths, nearly failing in Biology. But school is a bad place for me. How am I supposed to concentrate? I don’t do well. Except in English writing; that is my only good subject.
“Kesha, your essays are remarkable,” says my English teacher. “You have such talent. Use it or lose it!” But my Maths teacher just shakes his head at me. My Biology teacher gets angry and tells me I am lazy.
At school I sit alone, far from the others, with my desk in the corner. At breaks I walk alone along the boundary fence. It is better this way. When I see Kedia Ndwape walk towards me, I quickly turn away. I don’t want to talk to her.
Mama is still staring at the photo, frowning deeply. “I remember her eyes, this Dineo. But she wasn’t smiling when I saw her. No, her eyes were sad.”
I scan down the newspaper columns for information. One paragraph says that Mrs Dineo Maphakwane was diagnosed HIV-positive in February of 2007 at the Naledi Outreach Clinic.
February 2007! Naledi Outreach Clinic! Those words look so calm, printed there. But they stab like knives into my eyes. I feel sick to my stomach. That is when, that is where, my mother was first told her status too. February the nineteenth, 2007. The date is burned in my memory like a cattle brand.
Maybe I should tell Mama what it says? She is struggling so much, holding the photo just centimetres from her face now. Tapping at her head harder and harder. As if her brain is a machine and she is trying to switch it on.
Mama gets upset when she can’t remember things, when she can’t think clearly. Sometimes she cries. And that is hard to witness.
But then, suddenly: “Oh Kesha! I remember now! Yes, it’s all here. All inside my mind!” She smiles in delight and I am glad I kept silent.
“Yes, Kesha, she was sitting next to me, this lady. There at the Clinic that day. Just before me in the queue. And she was trembling and worried. Even more worried than me. She whispered, over and over: ‘I must be negative, please! If I am not negative, what will I do? If I am positive, I think I will kill myself.’ Yes, I can still hear her voice. And then the nurse called her in and I didn’t see her again.”
Mama lies back on her pillows now. She is worn out from her struggle. But she is pleased that her memory worked. She says, “Kesha, I must sleep a little. Until the alarm goes for my pills. And then you can read some more. You can tell me why this lady is smiling. And why the judge says she must get R150 000.”
What do you think? Why was Kedia Ndwape walking towards Kesha at the school fence?