You are certainly not the average face of HIV. The first time I saw you, you stood out in the crowd so starkly, with your white skin and your "mlongo"/ "ngamla" (spelling?) ways. Being Afrikaans amongst mostly zulu/sotho women, could surely not have been easy. And for someone with such a strong personality, it must have been even more difficult. You had your fair share of drama. Not overrun by anyone. Not outtalked by any language. And despite dodging your duties, you never meant any harm.
Certainly not the average face of HIV. Not the victim, although you had your pains. Broke, but never without a plan for how to afford more cigarettes. You wore a death sentence, yet still had the hope of going to England to visit your sister.
It saddens me greatly to know you are gone, Lisa. Even tho you were different, you shed light. You had things to say, things to do, stories to tell. You were funny, oh so funny. And when you’d laugh –there was such an innocence to it.
Oh the times when you’ve escaped the matrons… Running between Berea and the Village. Because of this, you were probably the one to know everyone best.
Lisa, I always considered you an ally. A friend. You always treated me as a friend, and I hope you felt the same about me. And I hope you know that I care about you.
Your time came. You have exited this world and entered the world of statistics. You have become a figure (but not to me and not to those who knew you). Perhaps your death was a mercy; to spare you more pain (I know how ill the ARVs made you). You will certainly be missed. And if I ever wander from 34 Vereeniging Service Road up the hill to Calvary Christian College to pick up the kids again, I will think of the last time we went that way together. I’ll think about how much you hoped to be able to go visit your sister. And how I’d somehow always feel in a good mood when I was with you. About how you’d wave me over to share some plot with me, some secret. And about that time you took some extra food in the kitchen and just managed to hide it before getting caught (and how you almost gave yourself away). And the next time I gaze upon the big tree on the lawn right outside the gates of the Village, I’ll think about the times when I’ve stood here with you, keeping you company when you went outside for a smoke.
Wherever you are Lisa, I wish you all the best. And I wish you rest. Not the average face of HIV. Not the average face of anything. I will remember you in my heart.