By Tashinga Wazara, Zimbabwe:
Max looked at Cynthia, visibly agitated, and said, 'Cynthia, you came to me and told me that my father raped you and that he is the one that gave you HIV but look, the slip shows clearly that he's HIV negative. What aren't you telling me Cynthia?' He then walked towards Cynthia and handed her the pink slip with his dad's HIV result and said again, 'Cynthia! What aren't you telling me?' Cynthia simply looked at the slip, dazed. She kept looking at it, almost as if she thought that if she looked at it for long enough, then the results on the slip would change from negative to positive and her story would make sense. She couldn't believe this was happening.
Max was standing in front of her expecting an answer but she couldn't say anything, not because she was hiding anything or because what she had to say was too difficult to utter, but simply because she didn't know what to say. As far as she was concerned, she had been raped by Max's father who, in the process, had given her HIV and she had inadvertently infected her husband. But now this new evidence in her hand alleged that she had contracted the HIV from somewhere else. This wasn't how it was meant to go. They were meant to get to Max's parents' house, Max was supposed to storm into his father's house in a fit of rage and confront him about raping his wife and giving her HIV; he would then tell his father that he didn't want him in his life anymore and that he was going to pay for what he did. After that, they would then drive out and go home, saturated with feelings of pain, anger and a sense of loss. When they got home, Max was then meant to look Cynthia in the eye and tell her that everything was going to be ok and that they would work through this. He would promise her that he would not rest until his father had paid for what he did. They would then hold each other, with Max's arms expressing comfort and protection while Cynthia's arms expressed eternal gratitude to a man who was willing to protect her even in the most difficult of circumstances. Their love was meant to have been renewed, their bond made stronger. It needed to be for the battle that lay ahead for them.
Instead, the script had been flipped and Max's father's offense of rape appeared to take a back seat to the seemingly graver crime that Cynthia was now being accused of; that of promiscuity. Cynthia began to wish she had a story. She wished she had actually slept with someone else so that she could have an explanation, not only for Max, but also for herself. As Max repeated his question for a third time, her heart began to beat fast and her mind started racing, trying to think of something, anything that could explain how she had contracted the virus but she hit a dead end. Internally she started going crazy. Had she lost her mind? Maybe she was schizophrenic and her other self was really a prostitute that would slip out in the middle of the night and sell her body for some extra change?! No. That was too
far-fetched. As all of this was going through her mind, she fell into a state of panic and broke down crying, screaming, 'I don't know Max, I don't know!' then Max shouted back and said, 'Then who knows Cynthia, who knows?!' and this just made Cynthia cry even more.
At this point, Max's mother, attempting to be the voice of calm then said, 'Okay everyone just calm down. Cynthia is claiming that she got HIV from Dad but Dad isn't HIV positive, so let's all go to the hospital and get tested again. Maybe there's been some mistake.' Max's father then spoke up, still slightly nervous, and said, 'Uhm, yes I agree. Uhm, let's just go and get tested. If I'm HIV negative and Cynthia didn't sleep with any other man then maybe you guys got given the wrong results. But let's not go to the hospital; let's go to the clinic in the township. I know the people there and it will be faster.' All of them knew how futile their plan to go and get tested again was because HIV test results are almost never wrong but it seemed like the best way to neutralize the tension and confusion that had been caused.
When they got to the clinic, there was a long queue of people waiting to get tested but Max's father spoke to one of the nurses there and they got taken to a back room where they had their blood taken and they waited for their results.
Max's father looked very nervous.
Cynthia saw this and it gave her hope. His test would come out positive. It had to. They sat quietly for what seemed like an age but it was actually about half an hour and then the nurse came back with the results in three different envelopes. Cynthia opened hers first: HIV positive. Then Max opened his: HIV positive. Then they all looked at Max's Dad as he opened his: HIV negative. All life seemed to come out of Cynthia when she saw Max's father's results and she began crying uncontrollably. Max got up and said to Cynthia, 'I'm giving you one last chance, who else did you sleep with?' but Cynthia looked at him through her tears and said, 'Nobody Max, I promise.' This made Max angry and he said, 'Cynthia that's it! If you don't want to be honest with me then I can't be with you anymore. It's over! I want you out of my house by tonight! We're gonna go home now and you're going to pack your bags and I'm taking you to your sister's. You're pathetic!' He then stormed out of the clinic, with Cynthia following behind reluctantly and they left the clinic. Max's parents then also left. They didn't say anything to each other but one thing was for sure, if they had been having problems in their marriage before, then now their relationship had reached an all-time low.
About two hours later, Max's father told his wife that he was going out to go buy a few things for the house then he left. But he didn't go to the shopping mall; he drove back to the clinic. When he got there, he went to the nurse who had helped them and handed her brown envelope with US$100 and said, 'Thanks Cindy. I just couldn't let my family find out about my status. Please let me know when I can come and get my pills.' She replied and said, 'You're welcome Pastor Malcom, I will let you know when they are ready,' then they shook hands and he left.
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