the situation is clinical

somewhere in 2008 i sent friends and family a short account of a visit to hillbrows’ HIV testing site. to cut it short it was a nightmare, surreal. the counsellor sat me down, asked my age, the number of sexual partners blah blah. he then broke down HIV for me, this is what it is, blah. to tie a bow on it, dude then asked where my family was and if i had any younger siblings who would take care of me when i get too sick to do so. he hadn’t even drawn blood then. what followed was a small confrontation, he shut me up by stating, ‘i wouldn’t be so cocky before my ‘positive’ comes back.’

i took the test and walked down to the johannesburg art gallery. kay hassan eased my anger, his fathers’ music room reminded me of home, the people there who would have to take care of me if the clairvoyant counsellor had had a clearer crystal ball. i’d seen other counsellors before mr doom and gloom, they had been informative and quick to ease my nerves. he was a bad apple, i filed a complaint.prick

today i tried my local clinic on for size. with ‘kick start’ clinics closed i’ve struggled to find a testing site that’s free and near and last year i missed my december first test. woodstock community health centre sits just on the other side of mountain road. when electricians arrived too early for my husband to open for them, i ran home to open up and leave them with a short ‘to do’ before zipping back up the road to join the freebie queue. after my folder was called i waited a short 45 minutes (govt health care people, catch up) before i was asked to see a counsellor. as i stepped in another gentleman was called.

‘no, we’re not together,’ i offered.

‘yes, that’s fine. just both of you come in.’

‘oh, ok’

i’m in this weird room with a counsellor, a dude i met on the bench outside and i’m about to disclose my sexual history. i’m about to know how many people mr bench has been with. this is all too heady. i sit and giggle awkwardly. i’m thinking of my one night stands, i realize i don’t know as much about any of them as i’m about to find out about this stranger. i giggle some more then ask, ‘but how?’ at which i burst out laughing. the counsellor raises an eye brow, i cross and uncross my legs then clench my butt cheeks, got to stop laffing.

‘how old are you?’

the counsellor is barking at mr bench, who looks at me and i shrug my shoulders. a quiet knock introduces mr bench’s friend, his translator. the man is french. there’s four of us in the room and the translator is hot and about to find out i’m pretty easy and live around the corner. i need a smart phone. for ten minutes i sit listening as questions bounce from the counsellor to the translator and then finally to mr bench. it’s amusing, it’s someone else’s nightmare.

‘have you ever had anal sex?’

‘i’m sorry, i’m going to have to wait outside.’

my shoulders are shaking, my chest is tight. i am clenching an unclenching my fists. i’m biting at my lower lip and i want to punch the daylights out of our counsellor. my knees buckle a bit as i sit at the bench outside the office. i didn’t get mr bench’s name but i know a few things about him that should remain in the safety of ‘doctor patient privilege.’ i sat through it, i laughed about it. yes, i shouldn’t have been put in that position but it’s one thing to need a translator to buy milk and bread and quite another to have a second person know your status before you do. mr bench is just one dude, a home affairs glitch. shame. i’m just a sweet little asshole, who should have used better judgement. when they leave i can’t look either one in the eye, i’m ashamed and can’t wait to half die.

my turn comes and i ask the counsellor why they asked us both to come in.

‘it’s a faster turn around.’

if they prick us, do we not bleed?

the room you made

lolly

how daring,
that you would make a room
so wide,
place my seat in it
and ask that i make up my mind
whether i leave or stay.

the cheek,
to make a room
so wonder-filled
and ask that i be tenant
live on month to month
courtesies
and occasionally flirt
with the idea of making it
a home for this…

bless you always,
for conjuring mirages,
walls too short to hold
all that kicks within me.
may you never
meet your equal
in this treachery.

love – long distance

pam's brotherMy brother started running in my mother’s womb. This is the first lie. There will be more as the story progresses, I will only own up to this one. My brother never stopped running, he was born too early, a month, a week and 3 days before the doctor’s original prophesied dates – he came tumbling out and disturbed my grandfathers’ prayer.

This would be my brother, the rest of his life. He started crawling at nine and a half months and by 13 months was being chased down the street. My parents had to hire young nannies – the one who had nursed and cared for my two sisters and I, was old and suffered from arthritis – she could never catch up with him. My brother climbed, he curled his feet on curtains and grabbed and groped his way to the top of the rail, then slinked back down again, belly first, taunting gravity. My mother screamed and cried a lot between ages 9 months and 12 – she wore a crazed nervous expression and drank sugared water every other hour.

At age two, my brother packed a plastic bag – a white one with a red ‘OK’ on it and bid us farewell. We’d just sat down for dinner, he would have closed the door behind him and maybe even pulled open the gate but he was too short to reach either handle. I watched him climb up concrete wall, scratch his knee and elbow as he fought his way up. My mother screamed at him from inside the house, my father poured himself a stiff one – my sisters and i laughed ourselves hoarse. We loved our brother, his little antics brought us much mirth.

At age 12 after many attempts to ‘run away from home’ my brother woke up screaming from a nightmare and asked ‘If I went to Lesotho, would that be such a bad thing?’

We’d never seen Lesotho, we started crying that we’d miss him – our father called a friend and my mother checked the calendar. The following year, my brother left the family for good – he moved to a place we’d only ever seen in dramas – my father was relieved, my mother made new friends and every holiday my brother had some other family to visit for the two weeks or the month.

I think he’s in Havana now, met a girl when he was in Martinique, fell in love and followed her there. He claims he makes a living climbing things – I don’t know what to believe – I’ve only ever known my brother’s back and the bottom of his foot – I’ve never met the man he is.

‘look, it’s a [ ]!!’

‘look, it’s a [ ]!!’

[ ] are to be eaten, to be chewed with molars as if one does not have incisors. [ ] should be popped into the mouth, to bounce off the palate and land between ready mincers. [ ] ought to be chewed like cashews, until all there is, is a messy mushy pulp that’s easy to swallow. [ ] are not a fruit. there are no [ ] trees or shrubs. [ ] do not grow like creepers, scaling walls and throttling other species in a race for the sun.

one can cook [ ] although it has not been established whether or not [ ] are raw or ready. [ ] might not even be plant life for this too has not been established. [ ] might after-all be a hibernating species of some animal too timid to uncurl in our hands. wait, do [ ] fit into ones palm? are [ ] not bigger in size?

[ ] might be better for building things like cars and homes and scooters. [ ] might even be better suited to pulling boogers from hairy nostrils. [ ] are to be examined by a highly skilled childless task force made up, in equal parts, of scientists, soldiers, sunday school teachers and salmon farmers. [ ] might after all be bombs and it would make better sense to have them detonate in the hands of these lunatics. no?

but [ ] are to be eaten i am sure.

——- ———- ———-

what [ ] are you talking about?

[ ] are orange/blue, this is the first clue. in a quite suburb, north of carmarthenshire, [ ] have been reported to be quite the nuisance. residents are in disagreement as to how it is that [ ] are causing the reported nuisance. some home owners claim to hear [ ] wailing clear and true into the night, others claim [ ] run amok in the streets, up turning bins and smashing in store fronts, some seniors have even reported [ ] claims of sexual harassment from [ ], especially when they try to cross the road close to busy intersections.

the mayoral spokesperson for the district of bin has issued a statement that all allegations made against [ ] will be treated with the highest priority. The municipality remains confused however by how it is that [ ] could execute half the crimes laid against [ ].

‘it is known that [ ] have not the legs, mouths or arms to throw things, scream or grope the elderly. that littler still is understood of [ ] makes these cases harder to prosecute. are [ ] not a single body? are [ ] more like us the more we know them or less so?’

[ ] are to be left in the bogs, of this i am sure.

mowgli and raksha

are the stories told by grandma on a moonless night less true than those told in the moonlight?
are stories spun with hunger-sour spit less sweet than those spat by a fat belly grandma?
how much does spittle matter in the natter of friends?
and like that we were sent to bed, to cuddle our empty tums to suck on our thinning thumbs.