The rumours spread far and wide. Ola’s mom had died of HIV and AIDs, her father was living with it and, according to the words of mouth, Ola probably had it too.
I remember her coming into class two days after her mom’s burial, and children running away from her like she was a plague. I didn’t intend to run, but mom told me to stop being friends with her, that I’ll die too.
Ola stopped coming to school after two weeks of total isolation from both the teachers who were supposed to know better, and the students. I think I hurt her the most, I was her best friend.
She was strong until I did what I did that day, that must have been what broke her, because by the next day, she stopped coming to school.
She had walked up to me to ask for food, things had been rough for her family since the sickness. Her father had no money for ARVs, so his health was deteriorating. He was dying. He was not working anymore, there was no money or food, so Ola was hungry.
She met me and called me by the pet name she gave me.
“Omafish, I’m hungry, please give me buns.”
I looked at her, I swear I felt compassion, I reached into the bun nylon to get out some for her, oh! I just wanted to hold her, hug her and tell her that it was okay.
But I didn’t.
Someone called my name, and then I got scared, scared of being seen with her, scared of being infected, scared of dying. I took my buns and I ran away.
I got to a distance and watched at my friend stared at me in sheer horror and pain.
I had broken her… I had broken my Olafish.
She never came to school again after that day. Her father would later die and be buried by her uncles who took her away afterwards.
Today, I parked at the market to buy fish, and I saw her, it had to have been her. I screamed Olafish, she turned and looked at me, tears welled up in her eyes.
I made to hug her, she pushed my hands, adjusted her wrapper, and sat down on a small stool beside the tray of fishes and she asked
“How much own you wan buy ma?”