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Guinen

DURING THE FOLLOWING WEEK I examined my own ambivalence toward Régis. I weighed the possibility that he was gay and had lied to us over and over again. There was strong evidence on both sides of the argument. Jeanette was a good psychiatrist, and his homosexuality would explain much of his mystery. It played to my personal first principle of psychiatry: Things are never what they seem. On the other hand, I usually know when someone’s lying to me. I was willing to grant that he was proud and striving to achieve more than he was born into. This just made him more inherently noble. He could be forgiven the sin of aloofness, but there had never been anything but honesty in his relationship with me. When I had doubted his assessment of what would happen if he went to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, I had been wrong. When I had doubted his blindness, I had been wrong. If I doubted him now, I was at least as likely to be wrong again.

Either way really made no difference. Operationally things were the same. He did not deserve persecution. The death sentence had already been passed. There was no way I was ever going to know for sure. And why did he need to have gotten AIDS from being a dentist and not from being gay for me to like him so much? This last



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OCR for page 54
The Zombie Curse: A Doctor’s 25-Year Journey into the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic in Haiti Guinen DURING THE FOLLOWING WEEK I examined my own ambivalence toward Régis. I weighed the possibility that he was gay and had lied to us over and over again. There was strong evidence on both sides of the argument. Jeanette was a good psychiatrist, and his homosexuality would explain much of his mystery. It played to my personal first principle of psychiatry: Things are never what they seem. On the other hand, I usually know when someone’s lying to me. I was willing to grant that he was proud and striving to achieve more than he was born into. This just made him more inherently noble. He could be forgiven the sin of aloofness, but there had never been anything but honesty in his relationship with me. When I had doubted his assessment of what would happen if he went to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, I had been wrong. When I had doubted his blindness, I had been wrong. If I doubted him now, I was at least as likely to be wrong again. Either way really made no difference. Operationally things were the same. He did not deserve persecution. The death sentence had already been passed. There was no way I was ever going to know for sure. And why did he need to have gotten AIDS from being a dentist and not from being gay for me to like him so much? This last

OCR for page 54
The Zombie Curse: A Doctor’s 25-Year Journey into the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic in Haiti thought, too unsettling for me to dwell on at length on any single occasion, haunted me for several years. Perhaps I was not as free of fears, phobias, or prejudices as I wanted to think I was. For the most part I was depressed that Régis’s last hospital admission had been such a failure. He left with even worse vision than he came in with. His long-term prospects for staying in the United States or surviving until we had some sort of treatment were as remote as ever. And a seed of doubt about his honesty had been planted in the minds of the only people in this country who cared about him. Alina also had resolved her ambivalence. Although we never discussed it, I’m sure her thought process was similar to mine. She became worried when we did not hear from Régis. It was possible that he was living on the streets again. The friend he went home with might not have existed. We were both concerned that the breach of trust from the last admission might keep him from coming back. Why did we ever question his honesty? A week passed. He came to the office only one more time. I was not there, but he spoke with Alina. He told her he had decided to return to Haiti. Alina made arrangements with the Catholic Charities to pay for his airfare back to Haiti and put him up in a hotel for a few nights. He would be leaving in a few days. As she told me of the plans for his departure her eyes welled up with tears, and I had a terrible lump in my throat. “He told me that he wanted to thank you for all that you did for him. He said that perhaps if he gets better he will return and complete his education.” I told her that I had no delusions. Once he got on the airplane neither of us would ever see him again. She said she was meeting him at the airport and asked if I would like to come. I looked at my appointment book. Since I was on the hospital wards in the morning and had private patients scheduled in the afternoon, it really wasn’t possible. Yet I couldn’t help feeling relieved telling her I could not go. It was a precedent I did not want to establish. I cared about Régis. I felt a loss in his leaving and a failure

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The Zombie Curse: A Doctor’s 25-Year Journey into the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic in Haiti in not being able to do more for him, but I had to keep my distance. It was the only thing protecting me from the pain I saw Margaret experience with each death. Still, I regretted that I did not have one more chance to see him. Alina met Régis at the airport as she had promised. She sat with him and waited until the time of departure. He was wearing his three-piece suit again. Her description of his departure sounded like one of those newspaper accounts of a prisoner going to the electric chair. I was even more relieved that I hadn’t gone with her. Evidently somewhere during the days since his discharge Régis had regained his composure. She told me he was calm and seemed resigned. Once again, he thanked her for all she had done for him and asked her to thank me one more time. He pressed her hand, smiled, and then boarded the airplane alone. I knew it would be only a brief stop in Haiti before La Sirène escorted him to Guinen. As I later learned, in Voodoo cosmology the souls of the dead are guided by a mermaid, La Sirène, under the sea back to Guinen, their ancestral homeland, the Haitian equivalent of paradise.