Nineteenth of February 2007! I can remember that Monday like it was yesterday. But I was only twelve then. So I didn’t really understand.
My father shouted in the kitchen, “What do you mean, I must go to the Clinic? What are you saying? That I have maybe got this thing too? That I am the one who gave it to you? Are you accusing me?”
I was sitting on my bed, trying to do my homework. But how could I concentrate?
I heard my mother’s soft voice. “The Sister said so. This is important. You need to test then they can help you too.”
“Don’t talk to me about tests! I am fine, I am telling you! Do I ever stay home sick from work? Even one day? No! So don’t tell me I must go to that Outreach place!”
“Yes. But the Sister said, even if you are well, it is necessary. It is important for you to know for sure.”
There was a loud crash. I knew the sound: my father’s fist smashing down on the kitchen table.
“If you have this thing, it is not from me. You understand? If you have this thing it is because you were with some other man. Cheating! Catching diseases from outside and bringing them into our home!”
I could feel my hands tightening up into fists. But I was only twelve. And he was my father. So what could I do?
“And how long have there been other men? Since before our son was born? Then how do I know he is my son?”
There was another crash. I knew that sound too: the kitchen door was slamming shut. I made my mother sweet tea that night also. Six spoons of sugar. I gave it to her while she wept at the kitchen table. Five years ago.
I never saw my father again. Except once at a taxi rank, but he was with another woman. He pretended he didn’t recognise me.
And here I sit tonight on my bed. Still trying to do homework. Still struggling to concentrate. Until the clock alarm goes off: a shrieking sound.
So I bring my mother a glass of water. She struggles to swallow down the pills. They are so big.
“So now read some more to me, Kesha, my diamond son.”
I still haven’t finished my homework. What does it matter? I sit and read to Mama from the next column.
“The nurses informed Mrs Dineo Maphakwane that she was HIV-positive. She was given medication that made her feel dizzy and caused nausea. She was advised to encourage her husband, Mr Waza Maphakwane, to submit to the test. He did so and the test proved him HIV-negative. The husband subsequently accused his wife of being unfaithful, hence her status. On occasion he beat her up and subjected her to verbal abuse.”
“Poor, poor Dineo,” says Mama as if this lady is her close friend. “And her neighbours, Kesha? Does it say anything about her friends and her neighbours? How did they treat her?”
What do you think? How do you think Dineo’s neighbours treated her?