Such talk both scandalized and titillated her. She was intrigued that an American would even think about such matters. My conversion from skepticism became one of her priorities.
She was fascinated by the closeness of some of the gay couples. “They always come in pairs,” she remarked to Fanny.
“Just like Noah’s ark,” I commented, overhearing her whispers. She claimed there was no homosexuality in her country. “Not even among the Muslims?” I countered. She wavered at this and almost took the bait, since she despised the Muslims, but would not concede the possibility of homosexuality among her countrymen. To Amal, AIDS was a punishment visited on the gays for their sins. Better they should suffer here on Earth than suffer the pains of eternal damnation. The Haitians were more problematic, but she was unshakable in her belief that their suffering somehow manifested God’s glory.
I did not tell her about Régis, but she discovered him in the waiting room, probably noticing him reading his Bible. She would frequently talk quietly to him and touch his hands until I called him to the examining room. She often asked me about his progress as we started for home. I could not resist asking her what sin God could be punishing him for. “He is strong in his faith. God will not abandon him,” was her reply. Then she paraphrased the story of Job, as if preaching a Sunday sermon.
It was no longer possible to hide the fact that we were caring for AIDS patients. Some of the established private patients started making offhanded remarks to our secretaries, and the clinic administration also began making discreet inquiries into what we were doing. The number of gays was increasing faster than the number of Haitians. Margaret faced rising criticism from private patients, administrators, and unfortunately her peers.
Régis continued to be unsuspected by the casual observer, thanks to his handsome features, conservative dress, healthy appearance, and perfect English. He began complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath, but his physical exam, chest x-ray, and stress test were