Thirteen years: Pancakes and pain

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

Pancakes and pain

Continued from… Visiting Madurodam

Once in the restaurant in Kijkduin, everyone ordered something to drink. Isaac ordered tea. He was still pale and doing his best not to show his pain. The cramps followed each other rapidly now. When the waitress came back for their food order, he ordered a plate of poffertjes, as did Annie and her mom, while the others all ordered pancakes.

When their food arrived, Isaac was relieved to see that it was on a small plate. The poffertjes looked like small pancakes, but they were thicker and sweeter than that. On top of the poffertjes were powdered sugar and a square of butter, which already started melting. Even though the plate was small, Isaac quickly realized he had miscalculated. The food was richer than he had anticipated. He regretted that he couldn’t eat it all, but the cramps had spoiled his appetite.

Annie kept a watchful eye on her friend.
“How are you doing?” she softly asked.
This time he didn’t lie to her.
“It hurts a lot.”
“We’ll go home as soon,” Annie promised.

“Don’t worry,” the ever-polite man said, and he returned to half-truths, “I’ll be okay. It just hurts a lot, but I can manage.”
Hearing his own words, he noticed how little conviction it held.

Annie had noticed this too and a hand of fear grip her heart. She was aware of the fact that only some months before, Isaac had pancreatitis and she was afraid it might have returned. However, Annie had no idea what the symptoms of pancreatitis were. Deep down she hoped stomach cramps wasn’t one of the symptoms.


Isaac excused himself from dinner that evening. He didn’t want anything. The poffertjes they had eaten halfway through the afternoon still lay heavy on his stomach. While the family had sandwiches for dinner, Isaac went to bed. He wasn’t feeling well. The stomach cramps were ravaging him and fighting the pain drained his energy.

During the evening, Annie frequently checked on her friend, consumed with worry. Repeatedly he assured her he could handle it and that after a night’s sleep, it would be over. Annie went to bed an hour before midnight, after checking on Isaac one last time.

Both him and her had a restless night, for different reasons.


Isaac was startled when he felt Annie’s hand on his shoulder. He had just drifted off to a restless sleep, when she walked into the room to wake him. Concern for her friend’s wellbeing was written all over her face, and had kept her awake most of the night.

“How are you feeling?” she asked him when Isaac looked at her with tired eyes.
“I’m feeling better already,” he said with a smile, trying to soothe his hostess.
“Are you sure? Otherwise I can call the doctor to make an appointment,” she suggested.
“No really. I’m feeling okay. I’ll take a shower and be downstairs in a while,” he promised.

When he appeared downstairs, he was – as always – immaculately dressed. He had always taken great care of the way he looked. Back when they were colleagues, his uniform was always much neater than hers.

“Do you want something to eat?” Annie asked. “You must be hungry after going to bed without food last night.”
“I’m not hungry, but I so need to eat before I can take my medicine,” Isaac said.
“What do you want?”
“A slice of dry bread. I don’t want to upset my stomach again, so will be careful with what I eat for a couple of days,” he explained.

Annie lay the table for them – a plate and a knife for each, and she added bread, a roll of Dutch rusks and different sandwich toppings. She made each of them a cup of tea and sat down opposite Isaac.

“I think since you had a bad day yesterday and probably a bad night, we should postpone our trip to Delft. We can go tomorrow. Let’s stay home and rest today,” Annie suggested.
“My thoughts exactly,” Isaac smiled in agreement, “if you have not suggested it, I would have.”

During breakfast they chatted about the day before, and memories from their time together in South Africa. Isaac indeed seemed to be feeling better, which made Annie a bit less concerned about him. She was glad that they wouldn’t be going out, as she was tired after the restless night.

After breakfast, while Isaac took his tablets, Annie put the dishes in the dishwasher. Then she went upstairs to put laundry in the washing machine. While upstairs, she made her bed and that of Isaac. Glancing into her daughter’s room on the attic, she saw that both beds in there were not made. She wanted to make the children’s beds, but stumbling over clothes on the floor, she decided to leave the room for what it was. She shut the door behind her.

Annie was still in her house clothes. Now had done most of what she had wanted to do, she went into the bathroom to take a shower. Half an hour later she was ready to go back downstairs to join her friend. Expecting to find him in front of the television or reading on the couch, a cold hand gripped her heart when she saw him.

One look and she knew he was gravely ill. His face was gray, and sweat literally ran down his forehead. He clutched his arms over his stomach, and doubled up in pain. Annie knew the cramps had started all over again, or maybe had never disappeared.

To be continued… A visit to the doctor

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

3 thoughts on “Thirteen years: Pancakes and pain

  1. My heart hurts for you, Marie… having watched him suffer this way and being unable to do anything. You must have felt so powerless. Hugs, my friend <3

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