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
Meeting friends and seeing places
Continued from… Planning the day trips
Myra and Joe arrived just after they were finished with a light dinner. While the couple took off their coats, Myra was as talkative as ever. Annie had always thought Myra liked to be heard and have all attention turned to her. Joe was the quiet one. In fact, between Annie and Jacques the roles were more or less the same, except that Annie didn’t like drawing attention to herself.
Annie introduced Isaac to the couple. The first half an hour of their visit was a bit awkward, as they had to concentrate hard to understand everything that Isaac said, but in a surprisingly short time, everyone was at ease. The evening started with coffee and a piece of apple pie, which was Jacques’ specialty. He had baked it that afternoon.
Soon after the coffee and cake, drinks were served and snacks put on the table.
“Joe, a beer?” Jacques asked.
“Yes bro, what else!” Joe laughed.
“Myra, what can I get you?”
Jacques wiped the sweat from his forehead with his hand. Somehow, he wasn’t feeling at ease. Annie suspected he was nervous because he wanted everyone to have a good time.
“Do you have some red wine?” Myra asked.
“We surely do,” Jacques answered, “one glass coming up. Isaac, would you like a beer too?”
“No, thanks, Jacques,” Isaac declined.
“A glass of wine?”
“No, I’ll just have some diet Coke,” Isaac said.
Annie went to the kitchen to help her husband. Behind her, she heard Myra’s loud voice.
“Oh come on, don’t be a party-pooper, have some wine with us!”
“No, I really don’t want anything with alcohol in it. I’ve been quite ill some months ago and since then I’m careful.”
Annie returned with two glasses of red wine, one each for her and Myra. Jacques was still nervously standing in the room, now looking at Isaac. Annie felt some light irritation towards her husband.
“Jacques, get yourself and Joe a beer. Isaac, I’ll get you a diet Coke. Come one everyone, grab some snacks,” she said, taking control of the situation.
Jacques seemed to feel more at ease as the evening progressed. Annie sat on the couch, next to Isaac, with Myra and Joe on the other couch. Jacques had grabbed a chair from the dining room and he had placed it in such a strategic position, that he could easily get up and go to the kitchen for more drinks or snacks.
Myra and Joe asked Isaac a lot about South Africa. Annie and Isaac enjoyed telling anecdotes from their time together as colleagues. Joe shared his knowledge of South African wines. This was something Annie had encountered many times before, people sharing their knowledge of her home country. Also, since Afrikaans was so close to Dutch, people tended to use silly words – not even real Afrikaans ones – to demonstrate their knowledge of Afrikaans. These facts sometimes irritated Annie, but this evening was too nice to be spoilt with irritation. She and Isaac started sharing the differences between words, of which some are swear words in the one, but perfectly normal in the other language. Soon, all of them wiped tears of laughter from their faces.
Two o’clock the next morning Joe and Myra decided to go home. They lived a few streets away. Waving at them as they rounded the corner, Jacques, Annie and Isaac stood laughing at the front door since neither Myra nor Joe could walk in a straight line.
Sunday and Monday were two quiet days, on which both Isaac and Annie took the time to rest. Isaac was exhausted, and didn’t feel ashamed when he only appeared downstairs roundabout noon.
On Tuesday morning, just after the kids had left for school, Jacques, Annie and Isaac got into the car and drove to Rotterdam, where Jacques parked close to where the Spido was moored. They had planned a harbor trip. While Annie and Isaac nosed around in the souvenir shop, Jacques bought three tickets. During their wait to board the Spido, they had coffee and apple pie in the restaurant.
Once they could board, they searched for a place close to the window, with a good view outside. The Spido sailed off. A recording played during the trip, pointing out historical buildings to the passengers and sharing more information about the harbor and Rotterdam.
Isaac was quiet and content. He enjoyed the trip and when they sailed closely past a container ship, he was amazed to see how big it really was. The trip took just more than an hour, before the Spido was back where it started.
Leaving the car where it was, the three friends walked towards Rotterdam city center. Annie and Jacques allowed Isaac to determine the pace, not only walking there, but also from shop to shop. They ended up in a restaurant, had a sandwich and a cup of coffee, and then returned back home.
Wednesday and Thursday were yet again quiet days. Jacques had to work and the kids had to go to school. Annie took Isaac to a shopping center close to them, where he once more enjoyed nosing around in the shops. He wanted to buy his mother a souvenir, but couldn’t find anything he liked.
On Thursday, Annie wanted to be home when Mindy came home from school, as it was her birthday. They weren’t having any visitors over for it until Saturday, but the family celebrated with a special dinner that evening, and Mindy unpacked her presents.
On Friday, Jacques had to work the afternoon shift, which meant he joined Annie and Isaac on their trip to the big market in Rotterdam that morning. Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday there was a market where merchants sold their merchandise, varying from cheese to clothes, from flowers to fresh fish, from tools to second hand stuff. Annie loved going to the market, and wanted her friend to experience it too.
As always, the market was filled with activity. Merchants yelled out their prices, reciting it like a poem, trying to draw customers to their stands. Annie stopped at a stand, where she bought two shirts. At a stand a couple of meters further, Jacques bought fresh fruit. After some time Isaac stopped at a stand selling cheese, and freshly roasted nuts. He bought two bags of nuts, this time not allowing Jacques to pay for it.
Close to lunchtime, they each had a bag of French fries with lots of mayonnaise. They ate it while strolling between the rest of the stands. By now, they were tired and had seen enough. Since they had to get home in time for Jacques to go to his work, they went back to the car.
To be continued… Introduced to traditions
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