Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Bad Positive by Feyisayo Anjorin

Banjo Johnson decides to end his promiscuity in favour of his dream woman Bukky Modele, but a former fling throws a spanner in the works; by Feyisayo Anjorin.

You loved your reputation as a ladies' man. Your lovers loved it too. They loved it for as long as your lies lasted. About a dozen girls had thought you were the only one for them, and they for you; until they came face to face with the shocking truth. Many hearts have been broken. But these things happen. These issues of the heart separate the women from the girls. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger; so they say.

They also say that change is the only permanent thing. So, you got tired of your reputation and decided to change. You had it in mind before you met Bukky Modele. She helped with the determination, no doubt about that. You have been seeing yourself in a different light after meeting her. Getting the pretty girls had been easy for you; loving only one and ignoring the countless others could be difficult.

The difficult became the appealing; you were sure it was time for change, and the girl you thought was the one in a million, worth growing old with, was Bukky Modele.

When you took a sample of your wedding card to your friends they stared at it, and then at you, as if they had just been told of your exploits on a record-breaking quest. They were cautious when they said congratulations; some of them shook your hand and offered to buy you drinks to celebrate. A few called you aside to somewhere quiet and private, to ask you: 'Banjo, is this really what you want?'

They didn't know you were the marrying type. They were surprised; but they were happy. There were so many girls in the past that you were eager to walk away from. You were bothered by their response to the news.

You thought about so many of your former girlfriends; but you were not worried about Yomi, and you wouldn't have remembered that you once dated her if she had not seen you by the poolside at the state recreation centre. You greeted her civilly but with no sign of affection. That girl would never be a temptation. Not again. You were sure of that.

'Banjo, you are getting married and you didn't tell me,' she said.

You smiled wryly; you were not ready for this kind of thing. She was one of the easy ones, and you thought she was only good for one thing. You met her for the first time at Galaxy Nite Club on a Friday night; you were with your friend and she was with a friend, and you shared a table. After a few drinks you took her to the toilet and she did not keep anything from you. She was the kind you were determined to avoid. You were done with her.

You wondered why she thought herself so important in your life. You could not think of any polite response to the words. The thought of calling her never crossed your mind. But she was not patient for your answer or comment. So she asked you: 'When exactly is the wedding?'

'In six weeks.'

'Six weeks? Then you still have time.' She said the time slowly; and she had a coquettish smile on her face that annoyed you.

'Time for what?' you asked with calm disgust. You remembered the things you had done to her and it was not difficult to say no to whatever you thought she was offering then. You particularly hated the beautiful ones who sold themselves too cheap.

'Time for what Yomi?' you asked again, wide-eyed; you wondered how long you could keep the irritation under check. 'I'm preparing for the wedding. There is no time for pranks and shady stuff.'

'No pranks, no shady stuff. I just think you still have enough time to cancel the wedding.'

'To cancel the wedding? Why would I do that?' you glanced at your watch and decided it was too early for her to be drunk. 'You are crazy.'

There was a self-satisfied smirk on her face. 'No I'm not. You can't get married Banjo. You have to think of your girlfriend.'

You thought she was joking. Why is she now interested in your thoughts on your girlfriend?

You did not love Yomi, you did not trust her, and you had no reason to respect her. You were sure that whatever she was doing would not work; but you decided to be nice, and to keep things civil. You would soon talk some sense into her, you were sure.

She was the one who talked some sense into you. Her words were like cords that tied you slowly until their fullness kept you well bound and gagged; her words worked like hypnosis and got you a rude awakening to a new reality.

After the words you felt a weight on the lower part of your stomach and you thought you needed the toilet. She watched you closely to see how you would take it.

'Are you serious?' you asked her, almost breathless.

'Yes. Why would I be joking? Banjo, all I want to say is, get tested. I'm not saying that you are infected; I just think you should be sure. She's a pretty girl; you don't want to infect her with stuff. Or have you guys been doing things together already?'

You stared at her until everything around you became blurry. Your heart pounded hard and your palms became sweaty. You felt like sitting down and crying as if you were alone. She did not look like someone bothered by anything; she was like a judge that had just sentenced you to death.

To make matters worse, she walked away when you stood too long in silence; even though you were glad that she left before your eyes filled with tears.

You could not believe it! Yomi, with the silky smooth skin and the curvy body, was HIV positive? She was always clean and beautiful. She was one of those with the kind of look and features that made men look and look again, the ones your eyes would follow as your mind worked on possibilities.

She was easy on the eyes, she dressed with an intriguing casual elegance; she was just not one of your favourites because you got her too easily.

She was gone; but you stood still like a statue, pursed your lips and stared into space as if the solution to your new-born problem was somewhere in the wind ahead. Indeed, you were right about the easy girls.



That evening there was a church programme at ACLC where your fiancée's father was the presiding pastor. You sat beside Bukky and smiled a lot so that your worries would not be noticed. You said praise the lord to all the hallelujahs; and Amen to all the prayers. You nodded and grunted approval for the numerous sound bites like most of the other members.

Pastor Modele wiped his face again and again with a white handkerchief as he preached a sermon on Nebuchadnezzar and the three Hebrew youths; but your mind was on your possible end.

You imagined yourself in a future; you on the bed in a hospital, your bones almost sticking out of your pale skin and flies buzzing around you. Alive but looking like the dead. The print and electronic media could come once in a while with their cameras for a few pictures: the lover-boy who was felled by the virus, a good warning to other adventurous men. A model of the misery of disease.

You thought about the shame and the ridicule. Your enemies would laugh and drink to the humiliation. A few people would swear they had predicted it. And how could you be so foolish not to give it a thought? You were a hunter that was envied by hunters. Yours was a deadly combination of arrogance and recklessness.

The ACLC service helped your hope. You made up your mind to see Yomi once again. Maybe she just needed some attention. You were not convinced that she now lived on doses of ARVs. She had told you about it as if it was a joke that could be true but was so amusing to tell. You decided to call her and set up a meeting. At a restaurant, or maybe at the park. You would speak kindly and give her a special treat. A responsible special treat.

You were determined to be hopeful, and it was not too hard. The word of God is powerful. Only believe and you would see the glory of God. After the church service Bukky said: 'You look stressed.' You said: 'I'm just tired. I need to sleep.'

You knew, without a doubt, that your attempt to look good was not perfectly convincing. If the troubles persisted, the gloomy looks would be noticed; it would be hard to deny. Such would not be easy to explain. And questions are difficult when answers are painful. You thought about your future with Bukky, and your future without her.

Soon Bukky was talking about the wedding cake. The baker wanted more money and Bukky wanted a bigger cake. You said a quick prayer and told Bukky that enough had been offered for the cake and the baker could be replaced if she would not take it. You continued with prayers when you were alone at home.

You were still praying when Yomi's phone rang and you waited, as your heart pounded, for her voice. She could be far from the phone; or, she could be holding the phone and sneering at the sight of your name on its screen. She could be making you sweat for treating her like trash. Why could she be doing this to you at this time? It wasn't as if you professed undying love for her; it wasn't as if you ever promised to marry her; you did not give her any hint that she was special. She has never said or implied that she was.

'Hello Banjo,' she said casually, as if you were a regular caller. 'How are you?'

'I'm fine,' you lied. 'How are you?'

She said she was fine. You were respectfully straight to the point. She agreed to lunch at noon the following day.



You were at Captain Cook a few minutes before her. You chose a seat in the corner; far from the flat screen TV. She was there right on time. She was dressed in a blue jeans miniskirt, white body-fitted blouse and matching tennis shoes. Hoop earrings, vermilion lipstick. You did not notice anything unusual about her. That was her typical dressing, and she was always on time.

She was as energetic as you've known her to be. There was nothing to show regret or sadness because of future possibilities.

Then you thought about the time you told her it was over. That morning you were near the door inside her room, and she was putting on her jacket, ready to see you off. When you told her, she threw a glass cup at you and asked you to fuck off. Luckily the cup missed your head and crashed against the wall. You were not in any way hurt by the broken glass. But you knew that with this girl there would always be surprises. It was better to put an end to these kinds of surprises when it was still safe.

So there you were, meeting her because you really wanted to be sure about this HIV thing; and you would be as honest and humble as possible to make her see that it is nothing but wickedness to joke about something like that. Hopefully, you thought, she would snort and chuckle and tell you she had been joking.

She listened for a few minutes as you told her about your past, and what you have learnt from it; your mistakes and how you were not perfect despite your sincere efforts, and how you were now planning to live a different kind of life. You wanted her to forgive you and remain hopeful because there are so many eligible bachelors out there and she is very beautiful.

She was attentive; she even nodded twice or three times, as you presented your valid case for responsible living. And you were sure that the words were touching and thought provoking.

You leaned on the table and looked her in the eye. 'Yomi, you are not really HIV positive, are you?'

She smiled and you held your breath. 'Do you think this would be my idea of a joke?'

It struck you how so little you knew about her. You were not familiar with her sense of humour. You really had no clue about who she truly was.

You did not even remember her name after the first night together. That night she wanted to know where you lived. You told her as casually as she had asked and you did not think she would commit it to her memory. You were amazed when she showed up at your door the following evening. She was angry when you asked her to remind you of her name. She told you her name with a frown. You said you were sorry.



'It's just so unbelievable Yomi, you don't look like someone with HIV.'

'And what is the look of someone with HIV? See, I've known for eight months now. I've accepted it, which is why I'm not depressed or hopeless.'

You pondered on this unbelievable thing that was slowly becoming believable. Would you ever accept this like she has done?

She snorted, smiled, and looked away. 'You actually thought I was joking.'

You shrugged; you kept your eyes on the empty table.

'Well -' was all you were able to say.

You were both silent for a while.

'Were there so many other guys?' You mumbled.

'So many other guys?' she snorted incredulously. 'Do you think I'm a whore?'

You thought she was; but how could you be sure? Maybe you got her at her moment of weakness. Maybe you were not in the right position to judge her.

But how could this beautiful girl be so cheap? It wasn't as if you were a celebrity and she could make a career of writing a book on the juicy details of your sex life. It wasn't as if you dated her for long. It was just a week; and she was the one who came to your house six consecutive days after your first time in the toilet.

She was always on time. Even on that evening when a truck overturned on the road leading to your house and the road was like a parking lot for more than a hundred cars, she was at your door at a quarter to six, smiling like a naughty teenager; just like the other days.

She was beginning to feel at home in your house as if she had lived there for years.

Then the morning after the sixth night you moved to stop a likely seventh visit. You visited her for the first time on a morning, lied that you were in a hurry on your way to a photo shoot and would be busy for a while; and you made her throw a glass cup at you.

She had kept away for ten months, and this was her comeback!

There you were, seated in a restaurant with her; you've not even taken Bukky to Captain Cook, and you were about to pay for Yomi's meal. It is amazing how much one can pay when hope is at risk.

'Banjo,' she said, touching your hand. 'Why don't you get tested first? Then you can be sure of where you stand. You don't want to get all stressed out for nothing. I came to tell you of my status and the importance of knowing yours.'

The waiter was taking too long and you wished he would just ignore the table. When the waiter came she ordered rice, green peas and chicken. And bottled water. You ordered the same, and you requested a small bowl of coleslaw and salad cream. You didn't touch the rice but you ate the peas and coleslaw; and you took a bite of the chicken before you tossed it.

You hoped that she would laugh out loud at some point and savour her success at scaring you; and tell you she was joking. She should wish you well; she should be happy for you. You waited and waited and waited. After about an hour you left the meeting, now sure that you may be HIV positive.

After then things turned out as you had expected. Didn't the Bible say there is no peace for the wicked? You never gave that much thought; but now you were sure it is the truth.

You were depressed by the thought of death and the way sickness may soon slowly ravage your body.

Bukky's frequent questions, concern and curiosity made her seem like an intruder. What is wrong with you Banjo, what are you hiding? You have this look and I know something is not right. You are not as excited about the wedding as you were.

You even forgot your first counselling appointment with Pastor Uche, assistant to the ACLC presiding pastor. Bukky was furious when she called you at noon that day and you said you were still in bed. Just a little sick, you lied when you saw that she had the right to be furious. She promised to visit later in the day and you told her not to worry, you would be busy then. There was a meeting with some NGOs working on tree planting or some other save the earth campaign. You lied; and she knew, because when she asked you the venue of the meeting you mentioned Radatar, a popular conference hall that had been closed to the public for over three months.

Pastor Uche called you; you did not take the call.

Pastor Modele also called you; you left your phone ringing. Unlike his assistant, he called twice. Her daughter must have told her something. Daddy, Banjo has been acting weird lately.

When their calls did not work they sent text messages. When you read them you knew how hard things would become; so you acted as though there were no text messages.

There was a time when Bukky came to your house after a heated conversation on the phone. She was at the door for about thirty minutes. She knocked more than a dozen times and waited. You were inside, but you did not open because you had lied to her that you were in a photo shoot. You said you were in a photo shoot, but when she asked you where exactly you were, you started talking as if an address is so hard to give. Your phone was on silent mode, you had anticipated that she would try to call; to see if your phone would be heard ringing inside the house.

Your plans were always well thought out. The more you thought of a visit to the clinic for a test, the more you thought about several other ways of avoiding some people and evading their questions so that they would become frustrated, stop caring, and leave you alone. You avoided the main roads; the short-cuts and backstreets became your route.

Your siblings called you too; and your parents. They wanted to know what was wrong. Why had you been avoiding calls from Pastor Modele and others? Did you have any misunderstanding with them? Was there any problem that had not been well handled? You cancelled a photo shoot for a fashion show; you missed a midweek service and two Sunday services. Your mother thought you should not give room for the devil. You were thirty-five; your mates now had children.



Bukky saw you as you walked from the shopping mall in the evening with plastic bags of canned fish, noodles, flour and wheat. She did not tell you she would be in the area; you were surprised to see her, but you allowed her when she offered to help you with one of the plastic bags.

You had never seen her the way you saw her that night. You sat facing each other at the dining table. She was sober, even when her eyes were not wet with tears.

She was not perfect. She had also made mistakes in the past; there had been a few boyfriends; her heart had been broken. She was not a virgin and she had told you that a long time ago. She was not afraid of the future; and she had nothing to hide. So she asked you to tell her if she had done anything to hurt you. Had she done anything so appalling that you could't even bear to tell her?

She went on like that, talking, asking questions, muttering, breaking down into sobs. That night, in the recesses of your mind, you decided to go for a test.

You had to wait for the next day for the test; Bukky wanted immediate answers or explanations that you did not provide.

She was almost sure that you were no longer interested in her; she was the one who removed her engagement ring, placed it on the table and walked out on you. Even if you had little respect for her, she said, you should have more respect for her father.

You stared at the diamond-encrusted ring, and pondered on her exit. She was not reluctant to leave; she seemed sure and decided. She was not ashamed to be who she really was. That is what you loved about her. Maybe Yomi was also one of a kind; not ashamed to be who she really was.

The ring was American Swiss; you had paid for it, just as you had paid for the one for the wedding day. They were a pair. If not for the promo deal the rings would have cost about the price of a new car.



The waiting room was empty when you took the seat nearest to the consultant's door early in the morning; but all the seats in the twenty-seat room had been taken at nine when they called in their first client: you. Your name: Banjo Johnson; Age: 35; Address: Number five, Alagbaka Quarters, Akure. Occupation: Photographer. You filled the form quickly like someone doing a speed test; even though you exhaled deeply and hesitated when you saw the line that says Marital Status.

Single, you wrote.

Your heart thumped like a jungle drum as you listened to the bespectacled woman in white overalls telling you of prevention of HIV infection and the management of infection; the diet, the water, the ARVs and the exercise. Many people have been living positively with HIV. Smoking is very bad. It burdens your immune system.

Your heart pounded as she spoke of HIV as if it was not a big deal. But you would rather manage good deals with celebrities and multinationals; you would rather manage a home with Bukky Modele. She does not deserve this. You would rather manage something good; not HIV!

You signed the consent forms and your blood was taken. The needle was painful, but for now you could do with such a short, biting pain. Once and for all; or not. Pain may hand over to pain like sprinters in a relay team.



You were sixteen years old the first time you had sex. You remembered how, in preparation, you went to the supermarket opposite the central post office, intending to buy a condom. The store was crowded with so many other customers buying this or that thing. You wanted to wait for a better opportunity, so you walked around, staring at the shelves in a way that was almost suspicious. Someone wanted to be helpful and asked what you wanted to buy. 'Tom Tom,' you said. You bought sweets because you were too self-conscious to buy a condom.

So when you met Biola, the first girl that gave herself to you, in an uncompleted building not far from your father's house, you did not have a condom. And she was not bothered. Then you were so ignorant she had to help you to put your thing in.

She was three years older than you and had just returned from Lagos. You were very fast. It lasted less than a minute, and you did not understand what she meant when she asked you with a smirk if you were really through.



You watched the woman closely as she added drops of the reagent into your blood. Your heart pounded harder, you sweated as if the room was not air conditioned. She must have seen all sorts in the line of duty. You expected her expression to give something away; you would not be the first one to be told something good, neither would you be the first to be told something that was not so good.



At noon you were at Pastor Modele's office. Things would be hard to explain; but it would have been harder to explain something else. There were four other people who had been sitting in the waiting room before you, also waiting for the presiding pastor of ACLC. Yet you were the prodigal son, or son-in-law to be. Prayers had been offered for your return. You were with him for almost three hours of questions, explanations, prayers and stern warnings, based on the scriptures. In fact, Pastor Modele told you that he had once had it in mind to ask you to go for an HIV test, but the Holy Spirit said no.

Later that evening you called Yomi to tell her that you had tested and it was negative. She laughed as you had once hoped she would, and told you that she had been joking, and that she just wanted to make you stress and sweat. You were angry.

That evening you deleted her number from your phone; that evening you visited Bukky Modele, you told her about Yomi, and begged her to allow a new beginning in this relationship.

8 comments:

  1. Not what I expected at all, and pleasantly so. The second person POV works well here, another unexpected pleasure. Nicely done!

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  2. A morality tale - without being preachy or relying on hackneyed formulas. Characters emerged from the page with their human strengths and flaws, making a dynamic tapestry: misfortune laced with a humour that made the emergent story even more poignant. A pleasure to read, thank you,

    Ceinwen Haydon

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  3. A powerful use of the second person as if a friend was speaking to him or perhaps as if Banjo is talking to himself in mirror. I feel Banjo is trying to convince himself of something which often is a reason one talks to him/herself. And in the end, he does even in the face of uncertainty doubting where the truth lies, yet having to act nevertheless. A very convincing and worthwhile portrait.

    James Shaffer

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  4. A very good story keeping the reader guessing until the very last. It also contained an important message; and gave hope to those infected with HIV that it wasn't necessarily the end of their lives. Well-written and convincing.
    Beryl

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  5. Good plot, psychological conflict, and an unexpected resolution, so all boxes well and truly ticked, but as for the outcome, utterly unconvincing!...Banjy-wangy - bless his little cotton socks - is a pathological Moma's Little Chauvinist, and a 'phewey' over an HIV test isn't going to make him change his ways!
    As for writing; a great use of second person gives it a timeless feel.

    Brooke

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  6. The alliteration of the 'L' sound in the opening got me hooked straight away. Brilliantly used 2nd person. I think this point of view helped the reader identify with this awful character, e.g. 'You particularly hated the beautiful ones who sold themselves too cheap' - Well done! Enjoyed this!

    Charlotte Hayden

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  7. Simple story, not a simplistic one though.

    Nadine Botha

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  8. Being HIV positive is definitely a bad positive. This guy eventually faces his fears and finds out his status. Beyond the story I wonder if this character can indeed carry out the change he has in mind. Well done.

    James Wenthworth

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