"Sit up, Davante, stop slouching!"
Davante awkwardly shifted his tall frame in the plastic chair. He leaned over, clapped his hands on his knees, and nervously tapped his feet.
A Black woman stood authoritatively in the center of the waiting room. She was middle aged and heavy set. Her white nurse uniform gleamed especially bright against her dark skin tone. She cradled a silver clipboard in her arms. Busily, she wrote on it while she called out Davante's mother's name again.
Davante looked at his mother. She did not return his gaze but kept her face fixed on the nurse. Davante's mother closed her eyes briefly, letting out a long sigh.
"Ms. Williams? Is there a Ms. Williams here?" the nurse asked again.
"Yes, yes. I'm coming," said Ms. Williams.
She stood up and turned to Davante. "Here, hold my purse," she said.
She thrust her purse on Davante's lap. He clutched it obediently and quietly watched his mother follow the nurse behind the double doors.
Davante despised these days. His mother would pull him out of school just so he could accompany her to these doctor visits. At first, he did not mind. Years ago, when his mother announced she was HIV positive, he admittedly felt ignorant of the disease.
Although he had learned about it in school and from his friends, he did not think it was that bad. After all, in the beginning, his mother had retained her youthful weight. Her buoyant soft skin did not immediately sag. For the first year, she seemed upbeat in spirits and vowed to beat the disease.
But as the years went on, Davante began to see the worst of his mother. She gradually lost weight and her hair thinned horribly. Her skin folded and sagged on her face, producing ugly blotches and scars. The worst was her mood that swung from happiness to depression from day to day. She lost her strength and relied on Davante more and more to complete basic household duties.
Davante grew to hate even the discussion of HIV or AIDS. He would slam his bedroom door when he heard his mother relate her discomforts to some poor soul on the phone. At family gatherings, he would purposely zone out when relatives brought up the topic. Davante did not want to join in on their analysis of why his mother's lifestyle was so bad and why her disease was just payment for her sins.
He wished it would all just go away and his mother would be healed. But he knew better. Lately, Davante had been having recurring dreams of homelessness. He would never express it to anyone, but he sensed his mother was fighting a losing battle.
To shake the dark thoughts from his mind, Davante slowly scanned the waiting room. It was a small room with plastic white chairs lined against a dismal gray colored wall. A black and white round clock ticked loudly. On either side of the clock hung crooked frames of faded pictures of sunsets and strange flower bouquets. The carpet was old and unraveled. Even the air smell old and sickly.
Davante recognized the old man sitting alone in the corner. He had seen him at prior visits. The man's frame was grossly skeletal. His clothes hung on him loosely. He was bald with ugly legions covering his entire head.
Periodically, he would emit a loud heavily mucous cough that seemed to vibrate throughout his whole body. Sensing Davante's gaze, the man looked up from his magazine and smiled at Davante, revealing a toothless grin. Davante shuddered. He quickly shifted his attention to the smartphone buzzing in his pocket.
"Where have you been? You missed the Geography test!"
It was Vanessa, his on and off girlfriend.
"Oh, I had something to do with my mother," explained Davante.
"How come you didn't tell me? We were supposed to eat lunch together," said Vanessa.
"Um, I guess I forgot. Sorry. We could do lunch tomorrow," said Davante.
"Can't. My mother's taking me to the dentist," Vanessa said.
"Well, then we'll do it another time, Vanessa. It's not a big deal," said Davante.
"It's just like you to say that. I don't mean anything to you, do I?" asked Vanessa.
Davante rolled his eyes. Vanessa was a drama queen and he knew it. Her dramatic personality was the main reason why he liked her but also the same reason why he could never make a commitment.
"Vanessa, really? Come on. It's lunch. We're just teens. We're not married. We'll eat on Monday," said Davante.
"Hm. Okay. I guess. Where are you anyway?" asked Vanessa.
"Oh, I'm just helping my mom out with something," said Davante.
"With what?" asked Vanessa.
"It's nothing. It'll be over soon. How was the test? Was it hard?" asked Davante.
"Somewhat. I think I did well," said Vanessa.
"That's good, that's good," said Davante.
"Davante, where are you really?" she asked.
"What do you mean?" said Davante.
"I mean, I heard that you like Tamara and she's out today. So where are you?" she asked angrily.
"Vanessa, not now. I don't like Tamara. I don't know Tamara and I'm not with Tamara. I'm with my mom. Why can't you believe that?" said Davante.
"Okay, we'll see. Anyway, I gotta go. Lunch will be over soon," said Vanessa.
"Okay. Well, I'll call you later tonight," said Davante.
"Whatever," said Vanessa.
Vanessa hung up the line without saying goodbye. Davante did not think anything of it. That was just Vanessa. She was not really jealous, Davante thought, she just needed something to fuss about.
Davante was about to check his email on his smartphone when he saw his mother suddenly emerge from behind the double doors. Ms. Williams looked exceedingly sad. Her hair was mussed over. Her cheeks sported recent tear stains. She was repeatedly wringing her hands. Ms. Williams stood with her back to Davante while talking with the same nurse from before. The nurse put her arm around Ms. Williams and patted her on the back. Ms. Williams leaned forward and placed her head on the nurse's shoulder.
Davante could not take it anymore. He stuffed his phone in his pocket, grabbed his mother's purse, and stood up. He did not want to interrupt for he feared to learn the truth behind his mother's obvious distress. However, he could not bear to see her crying. Davante walked towards his mother and stood by her side.
"Ms. Williams, it's going to be okay. We have drugs, now. We have treatment. We have it all. You can have a good life, trust me," whispered the nurse.
When the nurse saw Davante, she motioned for Ms. Williams to straighten up. Davante's mother turned to her son and looked in his eyes. She attempted to speak, but her lips only trembled. Davante quickly embraced his mother, then handed her her purse.
He did not know what else to do. The nurse gave Ms. Williams a new appointment card and waved her off. By the time Ms. Williams and Davante reached the door, the nurse was busy calling out another name.
"What is it mom?" asked Davante when they were alone in the elevator.
Ms. Williams said nothing. They exited the elevator and walked the short distance in the parking lot to her car.
As Ms. Williams fished for her keys, Davante asked her again, "Mom, what's going on?"
Ms. Williams found the keys and opened the passenger door for Davante. She walked around the driver's side and opened the door. She sat in the driver's seat with the key in the ignition, but she did not turn the engine on.
Slowly, she flipped down the vanity mirror and checked her face. She wiped her cheeks with her hands. Then Ms. Williams took a deep breath and turned to her son.
"I am not just HIV positive anymore," she whispered.
"What?" asked Davante.
"I have AIDS now," said his mother.
Davante momentarily paused to think about what she just said.
"What does that mean? I mean, what's the difference?" asked Davante.
"Well, the difference is that I'm really sick. I'm going to need a lot more medical care than before. The difference is that I-I could die," said Ms. Williams.
Davante quietly turned to look out the window.
"Davante, it's going to be okay. Everything will always turn out right, okay?" she said reassuringly.
"Davante, don't worry. We're going to fight this. You and me. Together, we can do anything, right?" said Ms. Williams.
Without a response from her son, Ms. Williams turned on the ignition. She put the car in reverse and pulled out of the doctor's parking lot and onto the main street.
She could barely drive. Her hands were still trembling from shock and fear of this new development. Never did she think she would be in this position. Ms. Williams did not see this coming. She had not prepared for this at all.
"Davante, honey?" she said to her son.
Davante kept his face fixed on the passenger side window. Ms. Williams figured that he was crying.
"Let's go to that new burger place on fifth street. Huh? I'm hungry," said Ms. Williams.
Davante did not respond. Ms. Williams drove to the burger restaurant and parked the car. She turned to Davante.
"Speak to me, son. Tell me, talk to me," she said.
Davante turned to his mother. He had not been crying. Instead, a sad and troubled expression had taken over his face.
"Mom, I don't want to lose you. This is too much. Why can't they just heal it?" he asked her.
"Oh, I don't know," she said.
"But didn't the nurse say that they have new drugs now?" said Davante.
"Yes, she did. But I'm on a waiting list to get approved for the health insurance. If I don't have the health insurance, I can't get the drugs. They're just too expensive," explained Ms. Williams.
"How long until you get approved?" asked Davante.
"Maybe a month or two," said Ms. Williams.
"That's not long. You're not going to die in a month or two," said Davante.
"Of course not. We just gotta keep on prayin'. Its going to be okay. When I said I might die, I think I was just scared. That's all," said Ms. Williams.
Satisfied, Davante reached over and hugged his mother. She returned it with a tight embrace. Davante could smell the faint scent of the Jean Nate' body splash that his mother frequently wore. He closed his eyes savoring the lemony scent. Silently, he prayed that he would remain by his mother's side forever.
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