By: Carolyn Núr Wistrand
*Multiple roles for 3 men and 6 women/Diverse Casting
ANODIWA DIKO — South African student
BIG BERTHA — American corrections officer
CHILD BRIDES — Funani, Ifu, Icici, Botswanian teenagers
GAMBUSHE — Botswanian peasant farmer
OLD MAN — Botswanian village man
JUDGE TALISON — Immigration judge
MS. HOPKINS — US Attorney
UN AIDS WORKER — Health official
T-KNICK — American informant/pimp
NATASHA — American escort
NURSE — American nurse at 4th Street Clinic
DESTINY — American escort
VICKY HILL — American television journalist
CAMERAMAN — American camera journalist
TENDI — South African truck driver
JACOB — South African truck driver
DOCTOR — Doctor at Botswanian border clinic
NURSE — Nurse at Botswanian border clinic
TIME AND PLACE
Place: The action occurs in an urban American city and the memories of four African women.
US Prison Cell
(ANODIWA stands with hands on bar cells. CHILD BRIDES [FUNANI, IFU, and ICICI] sit, stand, and lie in adjacent cell.)
ANODIWA. I used to think if I could just get to America. That was my dream. I would lie on my bed and walk up the walls in my mind. When I got to the ceiling, I opened the roof. Each star was a city in America I wanted to know. The music, the fashion, the place that was better than heaven.
BIG BERTHA. All right, Diko, let’s go.
BIG BERTHA. Step out here.
BIG BERTHA. Immigration judge wants to see you.
ANODIWA. I wasn’t given a court date.
BIG BERTHA. You don’t decide when. Get your ass out here. You got anything in your pockets?
BIG BERTHA. Put your hands on those bars.
ANODIWA. I need to shower.
BIG BERTHA. Judge said to bring you over now.
ANODIWA. They didn’t give me legal counsel.
BIG BERTHA. America doesn’t owe you a damn thing.
ANODIWA. But they are required to give me legal counsel.
BIG BERTHA. Why don’t you go back to Africa and get one?
ANODIWA. I am not prepared to see a judge!
BIG BERTHA. You don’t make the rules, bitch. Shut up and move.
CHILD BRIDES. Anodiwa holds her head with dignity. But she forgot to wrap Africa in palm leaves and oil before she swam the ocean. Mother held a chamber in Anodiwa’s heart—American streets hurled her tender soil into shattered cracks of concrete. Drunken whispers ate at her breast—we were left on the shore.
ICICI. Do you remember the night we left?
FUNANI. I was sixteen. You were fifteen, Ifu.
ICICI. I was twelve.
CHILD BRIDES. The old man was rich. He had fifteen rams and a herd of Nguni cattle.
ICICI. But he was unclean.
FUNANI. He needed a virgin.
IFU. He came to see our father.
OLD MAN. Gambushe these are not good days. I have buried my wives, children, and grandchildren. And now the oldest son of my first wife has gone to work in the mines. Who will be left to bury me?
GAMBUSHE. I will bury you, Chief. With my bare hands I will tear the dirt and honor you.
OLD MAN. (Coughing.) You will not bury me, Gambushe!
GAMBUSHE. No, Chief. You will outlive us all.
OLD MAN. The medicine the doctors give me is not strong.
GAMBUSHE. How can you be sure?
OLD MAN. (Coughing.) I am still sick!
GAMBUSHE. What can be done?
OLD MAN. I need a virgin. You have three in this house. Is it not so?
GAMBUSHE. The oldest one, Funani, is sixteen.
OLD MAN. Why have you not married her?
GAMBUSHE. She has her heart set on Fareke, but he can’t pay the bride price.
OLD MAN. And the middle one?
GAMBUSHE. Ifu is fifteen.
OLD MAN. I will pay you the bride price for all three.
GAMBUSHE. My youngest, Icici, is only twelve.
OLD MAN. She is ripe. You are poor. The bride price for all three will make you a rich man. With a ram, two goats, and four cattle your belly will be full.
GAMBUSHE. Funani! (FUNANI steps out of jail cell.) Ifu! (IFU steps out of jail cell.) Icici! (ICICI steps out of jail cell.) This is a blessed day. You will marry into the same house and be wives and mothers. Come and bow before your husband.
OLD MAN. Bring them to me on Thursday so we can prepare a wedding feast.
ICICI. Do you see them standing there?
FUNANI. The memory is bitter.
ICICI. I was the youngest.
IFU. And the most stubborn.
ICICI. But it was you who ran away, Funani!
FUNANI. Did I cut off your feet and drag you with me?
IFU. In the village or the city every demon has its own bite.
CHILD BRIDES. America must decide if all children belong to the same sky.
(JUDGE TALISON enters in robes and sits at table followed by MS. HOPKINS, US Attorney, who stands to one side of the table. BIG BERTHA brings in ANODIWA, who stands at the opposite end of the table.)
JUDGE TALISON. Am I to assume there is no defense counsel for the alien?
MS. HOPKINS. She has not secured one, Your Honor.
JUDGE TALISON. Are you ready for the preliminary hearing?
MS. HOPKINS. We are, Your Honor.
JUDGE TALISON. Then let’s begin. Where is the interpreter? And where are we shipping this alien?
MS. HOPKINS. I am not in possession of her full file yet, Your Honor. The United States is requesting that she be detained in the Maximum Security Women’s Detention Facility until we can process all of her papers.
JUDGE TALISON. You know every day the United States makes that request we have to pay to house and feed her?
MS. HOPKINS. We are aware of that, Your Honor.
JUDGE TALISON. My thought is that you should have prepared your case for deportation.
ANODIWA. I don’t know why I am being subject to deportation.
JUDGE TALISON. Did you just say that?
ANODIWA. It is true. No one has explained why I was arrested and sent to this prison.
JUDGE TALISON. This is a detention facility. . .not a prison.
ANODIWA. Then why am I in a maximum-security cell with bars?
JUDGE TALISON. All right, that’s enough. Another outburst and I will send you right back there. It seems we don’t need an interpreter. (Rummaging through files.) Here it is: Anodiwa Diko; born December twenty-four, nineteen eighty-nine, South Africa. Student visa issued November 2013. So, you have been in the United States two years?
JUDGE TALISON. Attending college?
ANODIWA. Until they brought me here.
MS. HOPKINS. We have reason to believe she entered the country HIV positive and has been transmitting the virus sexually.
JUDGE TALISON. Are you prepared to bring criminal charges against her?
MS. HOPKINS. We are, Your Honor, once we have our case in order.
ANODIWA. She is lying!
JUDGE TALISON. Stop your outburst! Listen to me—the United States is just like any other country in the world—it has laws! You don’t apply for a visa knowing you have a contagious disease that could kill other people through sexual transmission.
ANODIWA. I am not HIV positive.
MS. HOPKINS. The United States is requesting that her F-1 visa be revoked.
ANODIWA. You have made a mistake.
MS. HOPKINS. Your Honor, I would like to submit these papers to the court. The 4th Street Clinic administers swab and blood tests. She is HIV positive and came to the United States knowing she was sick.
ANODIWA. I took a wellness test at the clinic.
JUDGE TALISON. Why?
ANODIWA. As a measure of prevention.
JUDGE TALISON. So, you admit you are HIV positive?
ANODIWA. No. . .
MS. HOPKINS. Here is my report based on information from the clinic.
JUDGE TALISON. (Reading.) “Weight loss, profuse night sweats, swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, diarrhea, sores in the mouth or genitals, pneumonia, red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids, memory loss, depression, other neurologic disorders.” How are you even standing here?
ANODIWA. She is misleading you, Judge! Those are the symptoms of someone who has not taken HIV medication and suffers from a weakening of the body’s immune system. People infected with HIV may have some or all of those symptoms. She copied that straight from the pamphlet at the clinic.
MS. HOPKINS. May I remind the court that the United States government is not on trial here?
JUDGE TALISON. But the burden of proof is on you, counselor.
MS. HOPKINS. As we are aware, Your Honor.
JUDGE TALISON. How do you know so much about AIDS, Ms. Diko?
ANODIWA. I am a nursing student. I work at the clinic as an intern.
MS. HOPKINS. She has been stealing medication from the clinic and administering it illegally to prostitutes throughout the city.
ANODIWA. That is another lie!
JUDGE TALISON. Enough! Do you have substantial proof for this allegation?
MS. HOPKINS. The clinic has been under investigation for over six months. We will prove that Anodiwa Diko is an infected alien employed by C&S, an escort service, which covers for prostitution, to illegally administer medication to sex workers in this city. Because of the public health risks involved we are requesting that her F-1 visa be revoked and papers issued for her deportation.
JUDGE TALISON. I have heard enough. I am setting the court date for three weeks from today. Will that give the government enough time to prepare the case?
MS. HOPKINS. Absolutely, Your Honor.
JUDGE TALISON. In the meantime, I want her in isolation.
ANODIWA. Am I not entitled to legal defense?
JUDGE TALISON. Are you mentally ill?
JUDGE TALISON. Then it is up to you to secure legal defense. Remove the defendant.
Rural village in Republic of Botswana
Sound of trucks comes up. CROWD enters as a UN WORKER on loudspeaker calls out.
UN WORKER. We invite you, we encourage you to come and get tested. We have come a long way, so you can protect your family. It is time. We invite you, we encourage you to come and get tested. We have come a long way, so you can protect your family. It is time.
FUNANI. Does it hurt?
UN WORKER. Less than a scratch. It takes ten minutes. Who is ready?
FUNANI. My sisters.
UN WORKER. And you?
FUNANI. You can test me first.
ANODIWA enters with portable HIV testing materials.
UN WORKER. (To CROWD.) Please step back! Testing will be done inside our mobile unit. Take out your identification cards.
FUNANI. These are my sisters. We would like to be tested together.
ANODIWA. Are you married?
FUNANI. An old man paid for all of us.
IFU. We need to know our status.
ICICI. If we have the virus or not.
ANODIWA. Everything that takes place at this testing unit is confidential. Does your husband know you came here?
CHILD BRIDES. No.
ANODIWA. What will he do if one of you is positive?
IFU. We don’t know but, we will stay together.
ANODIWA. I can only test you one at a time.
FUNANI. I am ready.
ANODIWA. Your sisters must wait outside. It won’t take long. I am just going to prick your finger. We will collect a few drops and place it on this testing strip.
ANODIWA draws blood from FUNANI’S finger and places drops on strip inside testing pan, then covers the lid.
ANODIWA. Now we wait.
FUNANI. There are many sick women in our village.
ANODIWA. This is why we came.
FUNANI. How many hours did you travel to reach us?
ANODIWA. Four. Our clinic is on the border. Have you had other partners?
FUNANI. No. I was promised to someone who couldn’t pay the bride price.
ANODIWA. Is it so bad to be with one who provides for all of you?
FUNANI. That old man smells like goat piss. He takes turns with us—six days a week. Thursday is the only day of peace.
ANODIWA. Are you his youngest wife?
FUNANI. No, my sister, Icici, is twelve—she is the youngest.
ANODIWA. Is your husband in good health?
FUNANI. No. There is blood in his cough and black sores in his mouth.
ANODIWA. Go ahead. Open the lid.
FUNANI. (Lifting the lid and staring at the strip.) Positive. (She covers her face.)
ANODIWA. It is not a death sentence. But you must start antiretroviral therapy. One pill a day will allow you to live.
FUNANI. How do I get these pills?
ANODIWA. You must come to the clinic. We need to do additional tests to supply you with a monthly prescription.
FUNANI. It is impossible.
ANODIWA. There is a man with a cart and a donkey. It’s nineteen hours but he can get you to the border. Your sisters could go with you.
FUNANI. Will you be there, at the clinic?
ANODIWA. This is my last trip with the mobile unit. I am leaving for America.
ANODIWA. To study medicine.
FUNANI. Please—I want to see my sisters.
ANODIWA rises and motions for IFU and ICICI to enter.
IFU. Is it positive?
FUNANI shakes her head.
ICICI. Test me.
IFU. No. I am going next. She should test us in the order he made us sick.
ANODIWA. This goes quickly.
ANODIWA pricks IFU’S finger, draws blood, then places it on strip inside testing pan and covers the lid.
US Attorney’s Office
T-KNICK. (Entering on his cell.) I’ve got something.
MS. HOPKINS. (Taking out her cell.) All right.
T-KNICK. There is an African girl over at 4th Street Clinic asking a lot of questions.
MS. HOPKINS. What kind of questions?
T-KNICK. How many sexual partners patients have, if girls are using female condoms, what kind of symptoms they have . . . a bunch of shit.
MS. HOPKINS. Who is she?
T-KNICK. I don’t know—some African girl.
MS. HOPKINS. Does she work there?
T-KNICK. Something like that.
MS. HOPKINS. I am preparing a brief. Don’t use this phone unless you have something legitimate.
T-KNICK. She shook up two of my girls.
MS. HOPKINS. That is not my problem. Where are we with the Romanian girls?
T-KNICK. On track.
MS. HOPKINS. Has Meder contacted you again?
T-KNICK. He’s still in London.
MS. HOPKINS. Then you’re wasting my time.
T-KNICK. Hold on, you are the Immigration lawyer. I’m giving you a solid tip. This African girl is a prostitute infecting our city with AIDS.
MS. HOPKINS. You just said she worked at the clinic!
T-KNICK. That’s her day job. A cover-up. I think she is stealing medication out of that clinic and giving it to the street prostitutes she is working with.
MS. HOPKINS. How did you come up with that?
T-KNICK. She gave herself a swab test with one of my girls sitting in the room. What kind of a nurse does that? She was way too friendly. These whores have their own language when they are looking for action.
MS. HOPKINS. What does this have to do with our case? You better remember why the government gave you informant status. Your job is to hand over Meder when he brings those Romanian girls into this country.
T-KNICK. I just told you we were on track. But this could mess up my operation.
MS. HOPKINS. How so?
T-KNICK. That African knows every whore in this city. Thinks she’s a black Mother Teresa.
MS. HOPKINS. You are paranoid.
T-KNICK. She gave the name of one of my girls to that bitch reporter from Nightwatch working her stupid story on prostitution and AIDS over at 4th Street Clinic.
MS. HOPKINS. You were supposed to have that under control.
T-KNICK. This bitch don’t work for me. I don’t know who she is talking to.
MS. HOPKINS. As soon as we have Meder in custody, your job is done.
T-KNICK. In the meantime, you need to lock her up.
MS. HOPKINS. Just make up a charge? Is that what you’re saying?
T-KNICK. I am telling you to get her loose lips off the streets before we have a domino effect.
MS. HOPKINS. Dealing with you is nothing but trouble.
T-KNICK. The government needs T-Knick to do its dirty work—so don’t disrespect me.
MS. HOPKINS. I’m hanging up.
T-KNICK. You figure out a way to lock that African bitch up or I will blow this whole operation.
4th Street Clinic, USA
ANODIWA. (Drawing blood from Natasha.) You remind me of someone.
NATASHA. Someone in this clinic?
ANODIWA. No—a beautiful girl from my country.
NATASHA. I hope she didn’t have AIDS.
ANODIWA. There has been progress in prevention and treatment all over Africa.
NATASHA. I did something kind of messed up.
ANODIWA. Anything you say is confidential.
NATASHA. I had sex with this guy I didn’t know.
ANODIWA. Did he use a condom?
NATASHA. Yeah, it was latex. I mean, I saw him take it off and it was fine, but there was a small discharge stain on my bed when he left. . .a small brown spot. Now I have got bad sinus problems.
ANODIWA. Protected sex means risk-free if you are sure the latex condom did not break.
NATASHA. No, I am sure it didn’t break. But that brown spot on my bed.
ANODIWA. I can’t speak to that, but HIV cannot permeate intact latex.
NATASHA. I should have mentioned it last week when I was in here.
ANODIWA. When was this encounter?
NATASHA. About a month ago.
ANODIWA. Do you have frequent sinus problems?
NATASHA. About a month ago.
ANODIWA. I doubt there is a correlation, but you were smart to come back to the clinic.
NATASHA. It was my first time doing something stupid like that. I feel like I can’t wash him off me.
ANODIWA. Have you tried a female condom?
NATASHA. I tried once but, couldn’t figure it out.
ANODIWA. Well, a female condom would give you added control. We have a video here you could watch.
NATASHA. It is not like I am having sex with different men all the time.
ANODIWA. I didn’t say you were.
NATASHA. But you were thinking that, right? I only see a select group of men. It’s not like I work for C&S. Those girls are on their backs more than their legs.
ANODIWA. We should have the results in two days.
NATASHA. I thought I would know in 30 minutes!
ANODIWA. Not with the standard test. The laboratory will have the results in two days.
NATASHA. I can’t handle waiting another two days.
ANODIWA. I am sorry.
NATASHA. I have been a nervous wreck since I took that swab test last week.
ANODIWA. That is why we asked you to come back—to be sure. Do you want to see a counselor?
NATASHA. What is she going to ask me? No. I don’t want to see anybody.
ANODIWA. It might help you.
NATASHA. What did you mean, I remind you of some African girl?
ANODIWA. She was beautiful.
NATASHA. Was? That’s a shitty thing to say when you know my other test was positive.
NURSE. (Entering with pan.) We will have your results in two days, Natasha.
NATASHA. She told me.
NURSE. Get the results before you see any clients.
NATASHA. I thought everything I said in here was confidential.
NURSE. There are serious risks involved.
NATASHA. (Walking out.) You think I don’t know that?
ANODIWA. She is angry.
NURSE. Do you need a break or are you ready for the next patient?
ANODIWA. Send them in.
NURSE. Destiny you can come in.
DESTINY. I just puked my guts out over at the diner.
ANODIWA. Do you need to vomit again?
NURSE. I brought a pan—just in case.
ANODIWA. Thank you.
NURSE. (Taking vial of blood.) I will send this over to the lab.
DESTINY. (Coughing.) I need some antibiotics. Feels like I have walking pneumonia.
ANODIWA. I need to ask you a few questions first.
DESTINY. Like what?
ANODIWA. Have you had any recent weight loss?
DESTINY. I haven’t weighed myself in ages.
ANODIWA. Night sweats?
DESTINY. Yeah, my pillow has been drenched.
DESTINY. It has been coming out both ends for three days.
ANODIWA. Let me check a few things. (She feels the lymph glands under Destiny’s armpits.) Open your mouth. (Checks gums, nose, eyes, and throat.) How long have you had these sores in your mouth?
DESTINY. They are just canker sores. I get them all the time.
ANODIWA. Your lymph glands are swollen, and I am concerned about two of the sores in your mouth. We should do a swab test.
DESTINY. A swab test? Isn’t that for AIDS?
ANODIWA. No, we are testing for HIV. We can’t give you the proper medicine if we don’t know what is wrong with your immune system. Do you want the test?
DESTINY. I want to shoot myself in the head.
ANODIWA. It is your choice.
DESTINY. You are just going to stick that in my mouth?
ANODIWA. It is not painful. Do you want me to show you?
DESTINY. That would help.
ANODIWA. (Rubs swab in the inside of mouth.) You see? There is nothing to be afraid of.
DESTINY. That’s all there is to it?
ANODIWA. That’s it.
DESTINY. All right, go ahead.
ANODIWA rubs swab inside DESTINY’S mouth.
ANODIWA. You can have a seat out in the waiting room. Take this pan with you. We will have your results in thirty minutes.
Truck Stop on border between Republic of Botswana and South Africa
TENDAI and JACOB stand with BORDER OFFICIAL reviewing their papers. WOMAN sits on ground stirring meat in pot.
CHILD BRIDES. (In short skirts, tank tops, and spiked heels, putting on makeup with broken mirrors.) Three ghosts in the back of a donkey cart fled the goat that bled their heart. Medicine is cheap on the border if your purse has American dollars. One hundred and twenty cash can buy you a year. But we were three. Do you open your coffin or bury your sister? Last week we laid with fifty men at the truck stop between Botswana and South Africa.
CHILD BRIDES. HIV positive.
TENDAI and JACOB hand money to BORDER OFFICIAL, who stuffs it in his pocket and walks away.
JACOB. Six days I have been waiting for him to process my papers. Now he adds this new expense to park my truck. Holes will be the only thing left in my pocket.
TENDAI. It is true. There are more officials with rooster feathers on this border than sex workers laying eggs.
JACOB. My ears are crammed full of dung from the sound of their crooked tongues.
TENDAI. Those who have our money join hands with the guards.
JACOB. And charge us for their bullets and guns.
TENDAI. Let’s eat something.
JACOB and TENDAI approach WOMAN cooking food.
JACOB. Two plates.
JACOB and TENDAI hand WOMAN cash. WOMAN places stewed meat and rice on plates. WOMAN hands them plates.
TENDAI. (Shoving plate back at woman.) Put some meat on this.
JACOB. (Taking out a knife.) We are not paying for sauce, you old whore!
WOMAN slaps meat on both plates. JACOB and TENDAI walk around eating.
TENDAI. How many girlfriends have you found here?
JACOB. Three since Tuesday. Last month I brought my wife. She saw all these girls moving around. She doesn’t mind if I use a condom.
TENDAI. I won’t cap it for anyone.
JACOB. They always break.
TENDAI. That is why I don’t bother.
JACOB. What can we do but drink and find girlfriends in this congested place?
FUNANI. We want to do business with you.
TENDAI. All three of you?
IFU. Whatever you like.
TENDAI. (To FUNANI and IFU.) You two.
IFU. Pay my sister.
TENDAI. (Handing money to FUNANI.) My truck is over there.
IFU. Do you have a condom?
TENDAI. I only do business with flesh!
FUNANI. What if we have the virus?
TENDAI. Do you?
IFU. It is possible.
TENDAI. (Shoving plate at ICICI.) Finish this. (Grabbing and fondling FUNANI and IFU.) Bittersweet. I don’t give a damn about the virus. Come on. (Walks to truck with FUNANI and IFU.)
FUNANI. (Walking off on TENDAI’S arm.) You have to pay extra if you don’t use a condom.
ICICI. Let me be your girlfriend.
JACOB. Beat it. I am still eating.
ICICI. (Touching JACOB.) My plate is empty.
JACOB. (Throwing a few scraps of food on her plate.) Does your father know where you are?
ICICI. My father gave me to an old man.
JACOB. All you sex workers blame somebody else.
ICICI. You can have me.
JACOB. How old are you?
JACOB. More like twelve.
ICICI. Does that concern you?
JACOB. No. (He throws plate on the ground.)
ICICI. What if I have the virus?
JACOB. It doesn’t matter. I already gave it to my wife.
Outside of 4th Street Clinic, USA
VICKY HILL stands speaking into a rolling camera.
VICKY HILL. It has been thirty years since the first cases of AIDS were reported in the United States. Since then, more than half a million Americans have died of the disease and 1.1 million people are currently living with HIV. Recently, the Obama administration has attempted to reinvigorate the domestic response to the HIV epidemic by developing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Tonight, we are live at the 4th Street Clinic to talk with healthcare officials and people living with HIV. This is Vicky Hill for Nightwatch. All right cut it.
Truck Stop on border between Republic of Botswana and South Africa
CHILD BRIDES. Our bodies carry a weapon. We kill because it is in our blood. When we spread our legs, the virus crawls from the man’s trunk to the village wife, babies are born with no milk to feed tomorrow.
4th Street Clinic, USA
ANODIWA and VICKY HILL are in the middle of an interview.
VICKY HILL. It must be difficult to work at this clinic, coming from Africa where AIDS is such an epidemic.
ANODIWA. No, I am passionate about health prevention. That is why I came here—to study medicine.
VICKY HILL. But the AIDS virus is ravaging the African continent.
ANODIWA. There is no AIDS virus.
VICKY HILL. I am not sure what you mean.
ANODIWA. HIV is the virus we associate with AIDS. In this clinic we are testing for HIV. If one tests positive, we want to ensure the virus does not damage their immune system to the point AIDS develops. You see, AIDS takes myriad shapes with infections and diseases.
VICKY HILL. Thank you for that. In 2002, Kofi Annan said that women are the face of AIDS in Africa. Is this still true?
ANODIWA. It does not discriminate. But, yes—the new cases are disproportionately young females.
VICKY HILL. Will you go back?
ANODIWA. At some point.
VICKY HILL. I would like to turn to the United States. Do you see similarities between female sex workers in Africa and prostitutes in America?
NATASHA. I left my cell phone in here.
ANODIWA. There it is.
VICKY HILL. I’m Vicky Hill with Nightwatch.
NATASHA. I know who you are.
VICKY HILL. I am doing a story on this clinic. I would be very interested in speaking with you.
VICKY HILL. It could be strictly confidential.
NATASHA. What about no do you not understand? Did you say anything about me?
VICKY HILL. Of course, she didn’t.
ANODIWA. Your name was not mentioned, Natasha.
NATASHA. You just said my name!
VICKY HILL. I can pay you for the interview, and I won’t use your name since that seems to be such an issue.
NATASHA. You are just trying to make a name for yourself off of sick people. This is not reality TV—I am a real person who needs privacy. I come to this clinic because it is a safe place.
VICKY HILL. Are you HIV positive?
NATASHA. Is that camera still going? You bitch! (Grabbing VICKY HILL.)
ANODIWA. Natasha, stop!
NATASHA. (Grabbing camera and throwing it on the floor.) This is not your story, asshole—it’s my life.
CAMERAMAN. What the hell are you doing?
NURSE. What is going on in here?
NATASHA. I came back to get my cell phone and she had that camera going.
NURSE. Miss Hill, we talked about this. You can’t record patients without their consent. I am going to have to ask you to leave.
VICKY HILL and CAMERAMAN walk out.
NURSE. Are you all right, Natasha?
NATASHA. No! Why would you allow a reporter in here?
NURSE. Because we still need HIV and AIDS awareness in this country.
NATASHA. She told her my name.
NURSE. Why would you do that, Anodiwa?
ANODIWA. I was trying to calm her down—she was agitated.
NURSE. Natasha, a national news story promotes funding to keep this clinic open.
NATASHA. You sound like a whore—you all are no better than me.
NURSE. No one said we were—but we are trying to keep people healthy.
NATASHA. Really? You might know how to read an HIV test, but you have no idea what it feels like to be positive.
NURSE. That can’t be confirmed until your report comes back from the pathologist.
NATASHA. You don’t think my body has been talking to me? I already know. (Looking at ANODIWA.) She knows too. I remind her of some dead girl. (Walking out.)
NURSE. Make sure you come back in two days, Natasha. . .
NATASHA. That bitch reporter better not be in here if I do come back. (Exits.)
NURSE. She is probably texting her pimp. These girls play Russian roulette with their bodies every day. They want to blame us when the gun is loaded? Bullshit. What about Destiny? Do you have her results?
NURSE. God, I wish this day was over.
ANODIWA. But we still have to face tomorrow.
Truck stop on border between Republic of Botswana and South Africa
JACOB drags ICICI twisting her arm.
JACOB. (Dragging ICICI.) I would have been better fucking a goat! Their teats are bigger than your breasts! Give me my money back!
ICICI. Let me go.
JACOB. Your father should have beaten the whore out of you.
ICICI. Stop! You are breaking my wrist!
JACOB. I am not paying for bad sex.
ICICI. That is mine!
JACOB. (Walking off.) Go find some clean work. You shame the father that gave you life.
ICICI. Wait! My shoes and pants are in your truck.
JACOB. (Pulling out a knife.) Get over to the camp before I call the guard.
ICICI. But I am half-naked.
JACOB. Move out of here. There is nothing between your legs to satisfy a man.
JACOB walks off. ICICI takes off her outward blouse and attempts to tie it around her waist as TENDAI, FUNANI, and IFU walk in, drinking and laughing.
TENDAI. Hey, where are your shoes, little sister?
FUNANI. Did that trucker hurt you?
ICICI. He wouldn’t pay and took my pants and shoes.
FUNANI. That was your friend.
TENDAI. Forget him.
IFU. But he didn’t pay and took her clothes.
TENDAI. This is how it goes with business out here.
FUNANI. We gave you a good time.
TENDAI. And I paid you! Now don’t spoil it or I will find some new girlfriends.
FUNANI. Take my shoes and go back to camp.
ICICI. I am bleeding sister.
US Attorney’s Office
MS. HOPKINS. (On her cell phone.) It’s done. You have three weeks to secure contact with Meder.
T-KNICK. This isn’t my calendar. I have to wait for Meder to contact me.
MS. HOPKINS. The immigration judge is expecting me to present a case against this girl in three weeks.
T-KNICK. Tell him you need a delay.
MS. HOPKINS. No, this is spiraling out of control.
T-KNICK. I’ve got two sick girls on my hands because of her. I want her gone.
MS. HOPKINS. I don’t give a damn what you want, T-Knick. This is not some illegal who crossed the border. She is a nursing student who came to America to study medicine. She has been over at that clinic ten hours a day and worked with a UN mobile unit in African villages. This has got me sick. I am going to ask for her release when I go back in front of that judge.
T-KNICK. You do that, and the deal is off.
MS. HOPKINS. I’m done—I mean it.
T-KNICK. She better not go back to the clinic.
MS. HOPKINS. Or you’ll do what?
T-KNICK. As long as she stays away from the clinic, we can move forward.
MS. HOPKINS. Contact Meder—I want this over.
US Prison Cell
CHILD BRIDES. Ten fingers can’t heal two continents. When you planted your legs in the soil of America, did you forget our faces?
ANODIWA. America wrapped her arms around me. Even when her people hated me—America loved me.
BIG BERTHA. Diko, are you talking to yourself? Be careful—a lot of girls crack up in isolation.
ANODIWA. Three weeks is not a long time for one who knows the bush.
BIG BERTHA. Lights out.
CHILD BRIDES. You were the final drink from clean water, the last eyes that saw three brides. We took the donkey cart to the border clinic and asked for Anodiwa, but you had gone to America. With no money for medicine, not every doctor has hands you can trust. When the trucks ran us over, we became three dangling spirits watching a memory.
Clinic on border between Republic of Botswana and South Africa
FUNANI and IFU carry in ICICI.
NURSE. Where are you coming from?
FUNANI. The truck stop.
NURSE. Are you sex workers?
FUNANI. She is only twelve.
NURSE. Has she been tested?
FUNANI. We are all HIV positive.
DOCTOR. There are no open beds in here.
FUNANI. Please just stop the bleeding.
NURSE. Bring her over.
ICICI. I am freezing.
NURSE. When did her legs start swelling?
FUNANI. I don’t know—she was with a trucker tonight. He left her half-naked. I think he caused this bleeding.
DOCTOR. She has swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, face, and hands. Swallow for me. Does it taste like metal?
DOCTOR. (Feeling her back.) Is there pain here?
DOCTOR. (Feeling her side.) Here?
DOCTOR. Get an IV ready.
FUNANI. You have to save her.
DOCTOR. We can do something for the pain tonight—but she is bleeding out.
IFU. What does that mean?
DOCTOR. Her kidneys are shutting down. The closest hospital is a hundred miles. She would never make it.
FUNANI. What are you telling us?
DOCTOR. She only has a few hours.
NURSE brings IV.
ICICI. Funani? Ifu?
NURSE. She needs to be moved to that corner.
ICICI. I am so cold.
FUNANI. Do you have a blanket?
NURSE. There are not even open beds. Give her your jacket and try to keep her calm.
ICICI. What does it mean?
FUNANI. We are not going back to the truck stop.
ICICI. I hate them.
IFU. They won’t hurt you again.
ICICI. I am so cold.
IFU. Here, let me hold you. (Lies down and holds ICICI.)
FUNANI. Please, you must be able to do something. This is all my money. Take it.
DOCTOR. Go back to your sister.
US Prison Cell
BIG BERTHA. Get up, you got a visitor.
BIG BERTHA. They are letting you out.
MS. HOPKINS. Ms. Diko, the United States is dropping all charges against you.
ANODIWA. I can leave now?
BIG BERTHA. Your papers have to be processed first.
ANODIWA. How long will that take?
BIG BERTHA. By tomorrow.
ANODIWA. And my visa status?
MS. HOPKINS. Everything will be in order. When the government obtains false information, we try to correct it as quickly as we can. I know this has been a nightmare, and I feel personally responsible—I want you to know that.
BIG BERTHA. You are getting a lucky break, Diko.
ANODIWA. I never stole medicine out of that clinic, and I am not HIV positive.
MS. HOPKINS. We are well aware of the mistake. The clinic contacted my office today. They were adamant about your release.
ANODIWA. Who gave you this false information?
MS. HOPKINS. Ms. Diko, my office is flooded with all kinds of these cases. The United States has a responsibility to investigate and take action on every lead it receives, to protect its citizens.
ANODIWA. So, because I am on a student visa, you have no obligation to protect me? You just lock me up and then do your investigation?
BIG BERTHA. Diko, watch your mouth—you haven’t been released yet.
MS. HOPKINS. Our investigation has cleared you of all charges.
ANODIWA. There was so much sacrifice for me to come here. All of the market women in my village gave part of their earnings. Now I wonder why I ever came to this country.
MS. HOPKINS. I regret that you were placed in this difficult position, Ms. Diko.
ANODIWA. You did this to me.
MS. HOPKINS. I am going before the judge in the morning. You will be released by noon.
MS. HOPKINS and BIG BERTHA walk out.
CHILD BRIDES. Do you remember us, Anodiwa?
ICICI. My sisters buried me with the money for our medicine.
IFU. An aneurism exploded the moment a saline IV entered my veins, so they dragged my body to the morgue.
FUNANI. I took the longest to die. My stomach grew as my arms and legs shriveled. The police arrested me for possession of a condom. They threw me in a prison cell, where a baby was born, and my dead sisters found me.
ANODIWA. Did I sacrifice village girls to walk up the walls to America? I stepped down from the roof and entered the city where the taste of metallic prison bars stings my tongue with no familiar in the heart. How do people look from the sky? Are we all the same in our apartments, houses, and huts? Medicine sits silently on warehouse shelves. Without American dollars, is there value in an African child?
CHILD BRIDES. The virus works guerilla tactics to shoot bullets at your organs. Leaving the earth isn’t difficult when your body is a war zone.
ANODIWA. I would have to walk the stars to get to the place on my birth certificate. I have touched the tips of fingers in villages and cities—it is always the same, hands craving to sustain life. African rhythms are in American blood. We just have to hear them.
END OF PLAY
Carolyn Núr Wistrand’s plays include She Danced With A Red Fish ( 2018 Winner of the Inkslinger National Playwriting Competition, Southeastern Louisiana University); Rising (Winner of the Mario Fratti-Fred Newman International Political Playwriting Award, Castillo Theatre, New York City); 9 Steps from St. Ann Street (New Perspectives Theatre, New York City); Even the Dirt Bleeds (Around the Coyote, Chicago); Tic Toc, Watchwomen, Lit (Savannah State University); Magdalena’s Crossing (Wordsmyth Theatre, Houston; Echo Theatre, Dallas; Runner-Up Female Playwright of the Year, Bridge Initiatives, Phoenix; and the Negro Ensemble Company in New York City). She is a recipient of a MCACA/NEA Award and NEH Fellowship in Greek Drama. Her plays have been published with One Act Play Depot, Canada, Contemporary Drama Service, Denver, Africa World Press, and Carmel Publishers, India. Carolyn lectures online for the Dept. of Africana Studies, UM-Flint and is an Assistant Professor of English at Dillard University in New Orleans.