by Ayumi Hayashi
Mari was a junior high school student. She was funny and talkative, so everyone around her loved her. She was always with her friends, and could not leave someone alone. Of course that day, too...
On a sunny summer day, her class suddenly welcomed a transfer student. When she came into the class room, everyone could not take their eyes off of her because she was so lovely. "Her name is Ayano. She changed to this school because of her father's job. So, please introduce yourself, Ayano." Following the teacher's short invitation, the transfer student started to talk slowly. "Hi, my name is Ayano. I came here from Gifu prefecture due to my father's job as the teacher said. Well, in here, I want to make a lot of friends! ...no, just a few is enough for me. I need friends, who can really understand me. Anyway, please be friendly to me. Thank you." She made a bow to her class mate. Though her speech sounded weird to everyone, they clapped their hands a lot and welcomed her. Of course so did Mari.
Soon after Ayano came this class, she became a popular person. It was not only inside the class, but also outside. Everyone seemed to want to talk to her, and all the time there were people around her. They asked her about many things. She looked embarrassed a little, but happy anyway.
One month later, this day also everyone talked about her like they always did. But something was completely different. When Mari came in the class room, she realized that there were no people around Ayano, really no people at all. Mari wondered why, but she came close to her to say "good morning" like she always did. The moment she was about to touch her shoulder, one of her class mate suddenly said, "Mari, no!" Mari was very surprised and stopped. Then she asked, "What did you say?" "Because, you know what..." That girl looked perplexed, but seemed to laugh. Everyone looked the same. Mari asked Ayano, "What the hell happened? I cannot get it..." Ayano just looked down at the desk and had no words to speak. Then one boy said to Mari, "Do not touch her, or you will be contracted! I mean, she has the HIV virus." Everyone started to talk in whispers. Mari could not comprehend at all. All she could understand in that moment was Ayano was crying as quiet as nobody could notice.
"Good morning everyone. Please sit down so that I can start the morning meeting." the teacher came in and everyone sat down as if nothing had happened. Mari did not know anything about HIV, so she could not say anything back to the others. But she strongly felt confident that even if she touched Ayano, she would not get the HIV virus, and that everyone was wrong! She wanted to stop such foolish things. Therefore after the morning meeting, she tried to tell everyone what she thought. They seemed to understand that, but still did not try to touch or even talk to Ayano. That day, Ayano went home early because she was feeling bad...
The next day, a worse thing happened. When Mari arrived at school, she heard strange rumors. "Oh Mari, have you heard this? I had heard this a little time ago. Guess what, Ayano once made love with so many guys who did not mean to be a boyfriend. That is why she got HIV. So dirty and I don't want to be like her!" "Are you sure? Is that really true?" Mari asked with anger a little bit. "Not so sure...but everyone talks like this." That girl answered without confidence. "There she comes." One of the class mates shouted, watching Ayano coming up to the class room. When Ayano came into, everyone suddenly stopped chatting like they promised to do so. Ayano looked around and could get the mood right away. Though it seemed Ayano was used to this. Or she totally gave up saying something back to them.
Mari could not ignore her and talked to her. "Hi, it's so hot today, isn't it? How are you?" Ayano watched Mari strangely and just replied "good." Mari tried to keep talking, but Ayano ignored her. Day after day, they did the same thing. Mari tried to talk many topics such as class, TV program, family and more. Everyone had started to think that Mari was strange, so they avoided talking to her. Actually Ayano hated the way they did it.
One morning, Mari talked to Ayano like she always did.
- Hi Ayano. Today we have a P.E class, don't we? I'm really looking forward to playing volleyball! But actually I'm not good at...
- Stop it!
- What? Oh, did I say something strange?
- Yeah, you are always strange. Why do you talk to me? Are you feeling sorry for me? I really hate that, so please leave me alone!
Ayano looked angry, but also sad.
"See? Mari should have not talked to her. She had it coming." Everyone chatted like this. However, the feeling that Mari felt in that moment was totally incredible. It was amazingly... glad.
"Thank you, Ayano. You finally said something back to me! I'm so glad!" Mari said with smile. Everyone was surprised at her reaction and could not close their mouths. Of course so was Ayano.
"You are really strange, the strangest I have ever seen before..." Ayano wept for happiness although she did not know why.
Since that day, Ayano talked to Mari often. Sometimes they talked about HIV deeply. Ayano opened her mind to Mari little by little, and she could talk about her HIV story honestly. Through that, Mari understood that the source of infection of HIV was her mother. That meant Ayano's mother also had HIV virus.
"Sometimes I hated my mom. I did not know why she gave birth to me and blamed her for it. All the time I thought about it and so sick of it. But now I realize that I have to live. My mom also suffered from some prejudice and the relationship between friends or class mates. But she finally overcame these things and could find friends who really understood her, and a man who she really loved, I mean my dad. I think it's my turn. I have to overcome like my mom did. I want to make friends and want everyone understands HIV more. I need to try, but I do not think I have a power to do it." Ayano felt relaxed with Mari and said this honestly. Mari found herself crying. She strongly felt that she had to do something for Ayano and suddenly something hit her. "Thank you for telling that to me and what is more, thank you for trusting me. Well, I found what to do. Please trust me a little bit more." Ayano wondered what she meant but said "Of course."
Summer had passed and everyone had spent a good summer holiday with their family and friends.
"Good morning, everyone. How was your summer holiday? I hope you guys had good summer days and studied hard your project. Do you know what I mean? I want you to introduce your summer study in 1st and 2nd period!" All of a sudden, everyone's mood changed and they just said "Oh, no!"
- Ayano, what is your topic?
- Oh, I did it on flowers. In my garden, there are a lot of beautiful flowers, and I really love them. I picked up many kinds of them, and examined their name by using an encyclopedia.
- Oh, it sounds so nice! I want to see it soon!
- Yeah, it became my treasure. How about you? What did you do about?
- Well. I did about HIV.
- HIV? Oh, really...
- It is fine, don't worry. I just want everyone to realize that what they once said is totally wrong.
- Well, I just trust you anyway.
- Thank you, Ayano.
The time of class had come. Everyone showed what they did in order. Ayano presented earlier than Mari. Everyone especially girls seemed to be interested in her presentation of beautiful flowers, but they pretended that they were not. Finally it was Mari's order.
"Then, next presenter is Mari. Please come here." The teacher said.
Mari had eye contact to Ayano. Ayano smiled a little at her. Mari took a deep breath and went in front.
"Hello everyone. In my presentation, I would like to tell you about HIV"
Everyone became silent in an instant and glanced at Ayano. She just looked at Mari straightly and seemed to feel confident. She really trusted Mari. Then Mari started to tell carefully about what is HIV, its feature, and the source and the route of infection. Mari could feel that everyone concentrated on her story very well. "There are three main transmission routes for HIV; Sexual, blood or blood product, and mother-to-child." Then Mari explained how to prevent from getting HIV virus. Her presentation was so good, and easy to understand to everyone, even to the teacher. In the end, she emphasized and said, "Even if you touch people who have HIV virus, you would never get it, and it is just a bias."
When she finished her talking, everyone clapped their hands long time. Mari saw Ayano smiled much more than the starting of this. "Well, that was so fabulous. Do you have any comments or questions?" When the teacher asked, most of students raised their hands one after another.
"I was wrong. I feel shame that I ever said such prejudice words..."
"I want to say sorry to... Ayano. Although I did not know so many things about HIV, I said bad things to you..."
Everyone seemed to want to say something to Ayano. Some students cried to blame themselves.
"Can I talk a little?" Suddenly Ayano raised her hand and stood up. "Of course, Ayano." The teacher said softly.
"To tell you the truth, I got HIV virus from my mother. As Mari explained, in my case it was mother-to-child. I sometimes blame my mom, and also me myself. Why was I born? Was I born to be hated? Each time everyone realized that I have HIV and ignored me, I changed the school. My parents said that dose not matter, but I hated that. Like this, I changed three times so far. I do not remember when, but I got used to be said something bad. Perhaps I myself gave up saying something back to them. But here, I met trustworthy person... Mari. Thank you so much, I finally could say what I think to everyone. You gave me courage. You really made me overcome my problem!" From her eyes, the beautiful tears fell down to her face. Also Mari cried.
In a rest time after the class, there were many people around Mari and Ayano. They firstly apologize to Mari and Ayano, and heard their story.
"I am so glad. This is the first time that I could meet a trustable friend and everyone could understand me. And what is more, I could explain my feeling to everyone! Amazing! Thank you so much." Everyone smiled at Ayano.
Since that day, the sound of laughter always had came from Mari's class room. It filled with lots of joy and happiness. Ayano could enjoy herself there.
Mari was always with her friends, and could not leave someone alone. ...Alone? Who the hell was alone? There was nobody who feels alone in Mari's class at all anymore!