[the story of Benedict F. Fanon becoming HIV negative]
Then I had to wait one weekend, which is an amazingly short time it seems to me, to find out if whether a person is death-bound or no. Except that we all are, I reflected, and if somebody were to tell me on Monday, that I was probably going to be dead 20 years from now [age 50] what could that mean to me? Because it’s about meaning, it’s not just about the virological facts of my body. And that’s not the only thing I speculated about because, though 2 days is biomedically short it can be a very long interval mentally. My main thought was that it was extremely unlikely that I would be positive and even in that unlikely scenario, I wouldn’t be very spirit-broken at all because there would be more than enough living left to do.
Not just that. Perhaps it would work the way tuberculosis worked way back in the days: it would emaciate and rarify me, make my spirits more mobile so that I would be a better artist, even if at the price of my good health. With the specter of death brought to my doorstep, it could help me write more blue lightning, more easily. This was one of the outlandish speculations I entertained. The other was not any form of hypothesis but a promise to myself: that I would not tell anybody except my partner. Why? Because there was simply no point: I would burden them with something that I would find a way to live with, certainly, something they couldn’t do anything about and a knowledge that would burden our relationship. To tell them would have had nothing to do with saying the truth but everything with selfishness, so even before I knew, I decided against it.
Then came Monday and I had almost already forgotten about the affair and even to call that other place, where surely they would accord me a brief reproductive health 101. When I called in they told me they didn’t have the results yet and asked if it was an urgent matter to which I said no. I was befuddled because I couldn’t figure out how one or two days more could play a vital role, which, think about it now, just goes to show I know nothing about blood donation emergencies. At any rate, the guy unexpectedly called me back, telling me I could even stop by this very morning.
When I stepped outside the sun was shining and I was looking at dazzling Tiger Plaza. People and tourists milling about, cars whizzing to and fro, even swallows all the way up there, chasing after insects. ‘Twas lovely. And here I was, embarking on one of the more momentous little jaunts of my life, another bike ride of 5 minutes. This time it was ironic indeed, as it traced the exact route of my favorite running circuit, up the hill towards the town’s battlements but not all the way, just running in parallel.
The building was at the exact apex of the second ascent, spacious, generous, richly ornamented, light flooded. One of those venerable old houses of the city. There is a name for this architectural style and there is a name for the epoch and it is one of my great sorrows that I can never remember such things. Never mind, given the cheerful day, the august building, the perfect working order of all things around me, it was impossible to imagine that something as dastardly as HIV/AIDS should have insinuated itself into my body, that it should be able to co-exist with this sky and this house. Yes, suddenly I was ceased by the retrograde imaginary that the retroviral infection is purely an affair for poverty, the wretched of the earth living on the planet of slums, surely not this elevated existence in the heart of brightness. Not quite, after all I had to step through the wrought-iron gate and anxiously make my way inside to be told the results.