Nonfiction from NER 41.2 (2020)
The asphalt stuck to my sneakers as I walked through the parking lot toward a squat, concrete building. It was midmorning in Santa Elena de Uairén, Venezuela, and hot. Inside the waiting room was a single wood laminate desk. Two men, one young and one middle-aged, were shuffling through a stack of papers while an old woman waited, her palm slapping quickly, unconsciously, on the surface of the desk. A sign on the wall behind her read MALARIOLOGIA in dark green letters.
“You have to come back after lunch,” the older man told her. “Her test isn’t in here.”
The woman passed me on her way out, her face tight.
“Name?” The younger one was looking at me. He seemed no older than sixteen.
“I already have our test results,” I told him, and thought back to the moment they had arrived. I was at home, trying in vain to bring my husband’s fever down with wet T-shirts and a small bowl of ice water. We had been without running water since the drought started in October, and it was April. The results had come in the form of a text from my brother-in-law. “There are two strains of malaria,” he wrote, “the nasty kind, and the deadly kind. Benjamin has both.”