AIDS was… an illness in stages, a very long flight of steps that led assuredly to death, but whose every step represented a unique apprenticeship. It was a disease that gave death time to live and its victims time to die, time to discover time, and in the end to discover life.~ Hervé Guibert
The Dream a Wish Show (1)
Continued from… Thirteen years: An introduction
Applause. All around her.
Annie clapped her hands too, turning her head towards her husband next to her, and smiling at him. Her two kids, Mindy and Kevin, and her mom, Grace, sat on her other side. Annie had no idea how her mom managed to get tickets to attend the recording of one of the country’s most successful shows – the Dream a Wish Show. They had seats in the center of the second row, and a perfect view on the stage.
The applause grew in intensity when the presenter of the show, Henry Haldon, entered the studio and waved to the audience. The formula of his show was to fulfill people’s dreams and wishes. Sometimes the wishes were simple, like a special dinner for an entire family, but the show also helped to bring people together, whom had not seen each other for a long time because they live in different parts of the world. Every week Annie and her family watched the show on national television, just like millions of others with them.
The first item on the show was light hearted. A national music critic, who had once claimed he hated country music, was invited to come onto the stage. After a short conversation on the couch, where Henry sat with his guests every week, a group of country line dancers emerged from behind the scenes. The music critic groaned audibly, but Henry wouldn’t let him off the hook: he had to dance with the group. Even before the dancing started, the audience was roaring with laughter.
Annie’s thoughts strayed. She thought about the letter she had written to the Dream a Wish Show a couple of months ago. She and her husband – at the moment of writing the letter he had still been her fiancé – had plans to get married at the end of that year. They wanted to invite friends and family, and Annie desperately wanted to invite a special friend from South Africa. Because she knew he didn’t have the money for an international trip, she wrote a letter to the Dream a Wish Show, asking if they could fly him over. She had never received a response.
In the meantime, the second item of the show was already busy and Annie automatically clapped along with the rest of the audience applauding. Her thoughts were not with the show, though.
Due to unexpected circumstances, Annie and Jacques were married four months earlier than they initially had planned. Honest as she was, Annie wrote another letter to the Dream a Wish Show, telling them about their earlier marriage. In this second letter, Annie changed her request: she wanted her friend to experience Christmas in Europe, as it was so different from Christmas in South Africa, mostly because of the opposite seasons.
The third item of the show captured Annie’s attention. A woman wanted to see her godfather one more time, but he was too old and sick to travel, and therefore a film crew and the woman in question had travelled to Indonesia. Annie felt tears well up while she deeply longed for her own wish to come true. She didn’t want it for herself, but for her dear friend, Isaac.
Annie was still laughing and applauding after a humorous, but touching item of twenty-year old twin sisters who wanted to learn how to skate, when Henry walked closer to the audience.
“Where’s Annie?” he called out, searching the audience. In the next second, many things happened at once. She heard him, but Annie didn’t fully register what he had said. From the corner of her eye, she noticed her husband looking at her. She turned her head and looked at her mother. She smiled at Annie.
A feeling of utter joy started to form deep inside her. Was he here? Was Isaac really here?
“Is there a Annie in the house?” Henry asked again.
As if they led a life of their own, her legs carried her down the six steps towards Henry. She couldn’t stop smiling, but was shaking inside – excitement, nervousness. She followed Henry to the couch she had seen on television a million times, and sat down. She could hardly believe Isaac was waiting for her somewhere behind the scenes.
“Welcome to the Dream a Wish Show, Annie,” Henry said.
“Thank you!” Annie had a broad smile on her face.
“We received a letter from you about a friend of yours,” the presenter smiled, “and he lives in South Africa.”
“I didn’t think I was going to hear anything from you anymore,” Annie impulsively blabbed. Henry laughed.
“Unfortunately, we can’t make every wish come true and sometimes it just takes time before we can act on a request,” he explained. “However, to get back to your letter – or actually letters – tell us a bit about your friend. How did you meet?”
“We used to be colleagues back in South Africa. We worked in the same office for just over three years,” she answered. She was grateful to be sitting, as inside her body was still shaking, and it sounded through in her voice.
“So you stayed in contact after you left?”
“No, actually we lost contact for a while, and about eighteen months ago we started corresponding with each other.”
“How did you find each other again?” Henry asked.
“A mutual friend of ours informed me Isaac was in hospital and they feared for his life. That was in the second half of 1996. Luckily, he pulled through and left the hospital at the end of 1996, just before Christmas. Isaac and I started writing each other shortly after that.”
“How frequently do you write each other?”
“I write him a long letter every Sunday. He writes me whenever he feels well enough to do so,” Annie smiled.
“How do you mean, well enough?” Henry asked with a sympathetic smile on his face.
“Isaac is HIV positive,” Annie said softly.
To be continued… The Dream a Wish Show (2)
Note: This series is a rework of a self-published book (2009), rewritten for this blog, and in loving memory of a dear friend who suffered from and passed because of AIDS. Keep in mind this story happens in the late eighties and throughout the nineties. Names of characters have been changed to protect their privacy.
© Rebel’s Notes
Image from Pixabay