gave me a toy helicopter made of oil containers and bottle caps and a book entitled God Is No Stranger. The text contained spiritual expressions from the people of Haiti. The photos were beautiful—candid, but capturing the souls of their subjects. To my surprise, on the twenty-fourth page was the same woman I had seen in a photo in Régis’s book 13 years before—the one sitting in the chair having her tooth extracted.
This was your mission, wasn’t it Régis ? It had to be. It was the first, and the only one here long enough for you to grow up in and to return as a dentist. Is this where you returned to die? Are you here in one of the tombs I saw as we ascended the mountain? Or did you feel too stigmatized to return home? Did you die in the hospital in Port-au-Prince? Are you buried in that huge cemetery I could see from the hillside in Pétionville? Is it a comfort that I still think of you? It has been 12 years and not a week goes by that I don’t think of you. You and all the others. But especially you, my blood brother. You were infected by the blood of one of your patients. The first occupational fatality. The first to die as a consequence of your professional duties. Am I the only one who knows the truth? You should have been hailed as a hero. Instead, they insisted you were gay, so they could blame you for your fate, wash their hands of your blood. If you were an innocent victim, there might be other innocents as well, and God would have no justice or mercy. But you were all innocent. We have no one to blame but ourselves—our own ignorance and willingness to tolerate intolerable conditions. You were just the most irrefutable case, and it took me 13 years to understand. It’s bad enough that you all had to die, but how much did we add to your suffering through stereotype and blame? You had a curse on you, didn’t you? But, then, so did I. Cursed by naivete and enslaved by conventional thinking. I’ve been sleepwalking through the biggest medical event in my lifetime, enslaved by the constraints of my world and ignorant of the reality of yours. It took this visit to your home to wake me up. Once you see it, it all makes sense—the poverty and the things some people have to do to survive in places like Cité Soleil. So even if we can’t cure AIDS, we ought to be able to do something about its cause. The problem is, most of my