An old friend of mine came to visit me in Amsterdam right after Christmas. It was so good to see him. He’s living away from his family, they are in South America still. Sometimes we got to talk about them and what it is like to live far away from your loved ones.

This time he looked a bit sad. He told me that the last time he saw his family, last summer, his brother had this wound on his nose. He told him to go to the doctor’s. But his brother is a real macho guy, he makes tattoos for friends and people from the village. He did not want to talk about that.

When I asked my friend why he was kind of absent minded, he told me that he just learned that his brother had aids. It seemed they had not always used clean needles while tattooing one another. They make these traditional tattoos from their tribe and has been an ongoing ritual for generations. His mother was upset, as this strong, masculine son all of a sudden had this gay disease. Facts and stories, very hard for people to make a distinction.

One hour later, he received a call from his mother, but the connection was lousy. After a couple of attempts, his mother told him that his brother has passed away. It was very cold that day. And I could not make it any warmer. This end was not necessary.


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