The storm of the century knocked on my door in 1989 while living in Gisborne; I had AIDS. In an instant I became an out-cast to society. The darkest and scariest journey began with me being sent to Sydney, Australia. I left my two little children with their father. My heart was breaking and my soul was scared.
Lonely and alone, I was met by a man at Sydney airport who took me to the clinic where I was to be treated.
At the end of the day he came back to pick me up. Unable to walk and in pain, he wheeled me to his car where another man was waiting. The other man hugged me, planting a kiss on my face. Together they helped me into the car.
As they drove, I noticed how these men looked at each other. It was a look of love. The car was embraced with gentle happiness and love.
Not long after I had migrated to New Zealand from Zimbabwe, I had heard talk about ‘gay’ people, but I had not knowingly met any. “I am in this car with gay men; with a gay couple. Wow.” I thought.
At their apartment, I was treated like a princess. That night I almost forgot why I was in Sydney. I forgot my pain.
Before my flight the next afternoon my host suggested we go shopping for my kids. At the airport we shared a coffee as he waited to see me off.
Home in Gisborne, I never spoke of those men or contacted them. My world grew darker; I grew lost, unsure where to go. For 14 years lacking a place or person to lean on, the memories of that couple gave me comfort, strength and faith.
Faced with prejudice and isolation, I drew comfort from my experience, my time with those men.
One day I woke up stronger. “I am not going to live like someone else ever again.” I had had enough of what I was hearing, people commenting on gay men having AIDS and that gay men are different from everyone. “I saw their strength and the freedom in it. They don’t live like someone else. I too was going to fight my way out of the closet that AIDS has me in. I will live on for so many years,” and I did.
Those men – that loving couple – did not just give me their place to rest; they shared their hearts. Wrapped in my thoughts, in my pain and fear, I never contacted them. Yet I think about them all the time and I wish one day I will be able to meet them and thank them. I take a little of their love and give it away wherever I see the need, as they did with me.
| Sophie Mubvumbi Jayawardene
Author of “Sophie’s World; Journeys Of The Lost Soul”, Sophie was born in Rhodesia, what is now Zimbabwe, migrated to New Zealand with her husband and two children in 1988 and is now a grandmother residing in Auckland where she dedicates her time to writing books and articles on well-being. As a woman who lives with the virus and survived the darkest days, Sophie now works to brings enlightenment to today’s issues through her writing and community work. Find more about Sophie at sophiesworldthejourneys.com.