Someone Holding a Dark Secret
By Orla O' Connor
I entered the courthouse with my head bowed. My blood ran cold when I saw the press assembled by the front entrance. I tried to disguise the look of terror on my face as I passed. I was no one important to them but for me, my purpose in being at the courthouse, was life altering. Even the slightest chance of being recognised or photographed would start a tidal wave of repercussions. I slipped unnoticed down a short corridor and into an office I had visited twice before.
The secretary knew who I was and she was aware of my purpose. While I waited I fiddled wit the cuffs of my shirt. My nervous sweaty hands caused the crisp white shirt cuffs to turn an ugly dirty grey. I caught my reflection in the mirror opposite my seat. I saw a tall, handsome, successful young man in a neat, expensive suit, who had a look of complete panic his face. I tried for the millionth time that day to swallow the chocking lump in my throat. Eventually I was allowed enter the inner sanctity which was the office of the persecution's legal team. The small stout man and his assistants did not acknowledge me as I entered and sat down. They bombarded me with the same questions as always - name, address, occupation, medical records. I answered each question in turn, without emotion as I had every other time. Finally the lawyer turned to me. " I understand you want to keep your anonymity today is that correct?". I mumbled a reply. "Fine", he said abruptly. "Then for today's proceedings and from now on you shall be referred to only as John, is that perfectly clear?" I nodded numbly.
I managed to find the courtroom and sat at the back out of the sight of prying eyes of the media. Then the realisation of what I was doing finally caught up with me. If anyone discovered my real identity as I gave my evidence I'd loose my job, my friends, my life. For a few terrifying minutes my life came crashing down around me. I wanted to leave the courtroom, leave the city and hide. I stood up to leave and noticed a pretty young girl near the front weeping pitifully, her widowed mother sat beside her and in spite of her own tears she tried to compose the young girl. I then realised that there was no going back.
At exactly 4.38 p.m. I was called to the stand. I sat behind a large screen and visualised what went on in front of it. "Please state your name for the record", a weary voice ordered. I hesitated an could not remember what to say. I heard an annoyed sigh and managed to stutter 'John'. A curt 'than you' was all I received. The familiar voice of the prosecution lawyer then boomed "What condition were you born with John?", he asked. Again I hesitated, "Haemophilia", I eventually exclaimed. The voice continued. "Which is caused by a deficiency of some of the plasma protein factors required for blood clotting isn't that correct?" For a few minutes the prosecution continued on talking about the inherited generic disorder, how it usually affects males and the condition itself. I left my mind wander to the question I knew was coming.
No one, not even my siblings, knew of my secret. Everyone has a skeleton in their closet but mine was more fierce. I had been told four years before but I originally had not believed it. I couldn't believe it. All twenty year olds assume they are invincible. Why should I be any different? After I had left the hospital that day I entered the nearest bar and got very drunk. For those few hours and terrible truth was forgotten but that was the only time - ever since then it had gnawed at my soul. So that day, after so much hiding, so much anger and anguish. I was about to tell the truth, say the words I had never uttered out loud. Even if no one knew who I was it was still a huge step. That day in the courtroom of the Lindsey Tribunal was the closest I had come to telling anyone.
The booming voice interrupted my thoughts. "What medication were you given, Jon?". "Factor-I blood clotting agent through intravenous drip". I replied getting more and more nervous. Suddenly the booming voice became quieter, gentler. "But, some of it was contaminated, won't it, John?" "Yes", I whispered tears welling up in my eyes. With tears running freely down my face I looked up at the blank screen and for the first time ever exposed my dark secret. I took a deep breath and eventually spoke "I have H.I.V."