“Are you a relative of Bruno’s?” Except for the weary look in his eyes the young man didn’t appear old enough to be a doctor.
“I’m his sister.”
“I’m Doctor Harper.” He opened a folder and leafed through some papers. “Why don’t we sit over here?” He lead her to a waiting area, a cluster of utilitarian chairs against a drab wall fronted by a coffee table strewn with cardboard cups and newspapers, one a discarded Raincoast Record with thephoto of hers on the front page.
Her teeth ground with resentment. She didn’t want to be here. Her baby brother, an emotional black hole, had swallowed up any love, any compassion she’d ever felt for him long ago. She’d gladly wish him dead if it wouldn’t break Momma’s heart.
“Your brother’s got PCP, pneumocystis carinii pneumonia.” Dr. Harper pinched the bridge of his nose. “It’s one of the most common AIDS-related illnesses. It develops in up to eighty-five percent of people with HIV if they don’t receive preventative treatment.”
“BB’s got AIDS?” Freyja shuddered.
“There are a few more tests to come in, but I’m confident in the diagnosis.”
“How did he get it?”
“Likely sharing infected needles. You are aware he’s an intravenous drug user?”
“I hugged him at my birthday just a couple of days ago.”
“Don’t worry. You can’t get infected through casual contact, such as hugging, shaking hands, sneezing or touching a doorknob or toilet seat.”
Freyja felt relieved but not reassured. She wanted to be disinfected, at least wash her hands. “Is he going to die?”
The doctor shrugged. “We don’t know yet. PCP is a serious infection and Bruno’s immune system is very weak. In the early days of AIDS we’d lose one in three, but now with better medicines the survival rate has doubled.”
“That’s still not very good.” Freyja’s parents always taught they had to accept the consequences of their actions. There’d been no consequences for BB. Until now.
“You should take your mother home,” Dr. Harper said. “She’s exhausted and very emotional.”
“We’ll call if your brother’s condition deteriorates.” The doctor stood indicating their conference had ended. “He’s on a ventilator, but conscious. You can see him if you want.”
“No thanks.” Seeing her brother might trigger some sentimental reaction, like how Freyja used the chubby little cherub for her doll when he was a baby. Better to stay pissed off.
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