Our friend died this morning. We found this out from dad, after we’d landed in Brazzaville. He is the friend who we had gone to visit a week before, and had spent time with. Mom and I kept cheerful memories of his ravaged, skeletal body, and his excitement at talking about the FC Barcelona’s upcoming season, though he often had to stop to catch his breath.
Mom and I sat silent after we heard, crying a little in the cafe. We’d literally talked to him and laughed with him four days ago, and now he was dead. We’d joked about rotisserie chicken, and I’d gone straight from visiting him to buying him a chicken to make him smile, and sending it to him with a friend of ours whom he’d complained had not come to visit him either during his stay at the hospital or since his discharge. He had been adamant that we send the friend to visit him.
Mom remembered that afternoon and turned to me asking “do you think he was saying his goodbyes?”
I’m pretty sure he was. He had lists, and was receiving visits from all his friends for the last two weeks. A few months ago, when he started having the tell-tale AIDS signs, dad had pleaded with him to get tested and he had refused. He also refused to get tested in the hospital, and so it can’t be said that he died of AIDS, which is how he wanted it, since there was never a conclusive test. He had a wife.
Ignorance about AIDS, and the taboo surrounding it are so hard to deal with. Death like this is unheard of in the US. When is the last time your twenty-something friend wasted away and died in front of you? Here that is common. Common and heartbreaking. Death is an everyday possibility.