Thirteen years: Viral letter

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

Viral letter

Continued from… Christmas Celebrations

Since Annie had only been working with Sandra for about a month, she couldn’t take any time off between Christmas and New Year’s. Luckily, she had to work only in the mornings. Sunday was a quiet day where the adults yet again sat in the sitting room, reading or watching television and the children played upstairs.

Annie noticed Isaac ate some more than on Boxing Day, which settled the feeling of unease she had about Isaac’s health. It was only on the second of the four days she had to work that week that she noticed something was indeed wrong with Isaac.

At first she wanted to pretend she did not see it, knowing Isaac’s desire to go home. However, when she saw a flash of pain in his eyes, she knew she had to be the sensible one.

“Isaac, you’re in pain again, are you not?” Annie stated a fact.

Her friend looked at her with doubt in his eyes. She thought he was going to deny it. He didn’t.
“Yes, Annie. I have the same pain again,” he admitted.
“I’ll call the hospital. You have to go back to the doctor,” Annie said and got up to walk to the telephone.
“Annie! No!” Isaac said firmly, “I don’t want you to call the doctor.”
“Why not?”
“Because it’s not as bad as it was. I can handle this pain. Just please don’t call the doctor. I don’t want to go back to the hospital again,” Isaac almost pleaded.

“Okay Isaac,” Annie agreed, “but if I notice the pain gets worse or if you get a fever again, I’m calling the doctor. Even if I have to ask him to come here.”

Isaac said nothing. He just sat on the couch, staring. Annie sat down next to him, not saying anything either. It was quiet for quite some time before Isaac spoke.

“I once wrote a letter to the virus. The psychologist I went to see wanted me to write it as part of the therapy. I carry it with me wherever I go,” Isaac said and reached for his wallet. He handed Annie a folded piece of paper.

September 11, 1997, 5h30

Hello Mr. Virus,

It is your host here, Isaac. I am really not sure how long you’ve been a visitor in my body. I met Freddy in 1983 and in 1986 I was told you lived inside me. So just when exactly you hitched a ride, I don’t know.

I’m sure your life was comfortable most of the time. I was healthy, so you weren’t in any danger. I might have used weed and Mandrax but that only happened occasionally, so I’m sure you weren’t harmed. When Freddy and I had sex, you must have met up with some of your friends who had stayed with him.

I went through a thin stage but that was just to hold on to Freddy. I wanted to be able to go to the beach with him, but mostly I wanted to be thin so he wouldn’t reject me as being fat. So I must say, you can’t complain.

I would have to look up the date of the last visit from your old friends. But even without your friends, your life got better. They didn’t bombard you with drugs. I got fatter, or I should say: there was so much more of me you must have had a royal life.

Then in 1991, they started me on AZT. I am sure it became harder for you to survive, but you made it. You had all that fat to live on. I only used three AZT’s a day and I’m sure you got used to it. Maybe some of your weaker friends around you had died. I’m sorry for you and since none of the old friends came to visit you, you might have felt lonely or have had a hard time. You see, Freddy died in ’89 and by that time, it had been a few years since we had sex.

But you survived.

Then the doctor (you cannot blame him; he’s on my side) started me on a trial of tablets and the AZT was increased to 5 a day. You must have been hit hard then. But you were lucky as well. I had gotten so fat that it helped both me and you. You got used to the life you led, even if all the tablets interfered with that life.

You lived, and I lived.

Then in 1996, something happened. I got a bug. If it had something to do with you, good for you, but why? I was only trying to survive. If you had nothing to do with the bug, I am sorry it gave you a hard time. When I became just skin and bones, you must have huffed and puffed to blow me down, but you couldn’t succeed. I had a Friend who had decided it wasn’t yet time for me to go.

Just think, was it wise of you to do that? If, of course, you had really made me ill? If I had died, you would have died as well. So now we live together. How nice. If you were not a virus but a man who loved me for myself, I would have been happy. Maybe even you too.

But I’m alone. I still have my Friend above, and if it wasn’t for Him, we both would have died. You and I. I’m sick of being sick and I’m bombarding you with just about anything I can get my hands on. I’m sure you’re not so happy now. If I had never given you a hard time before, you’re getting it now. But it’s all your fault. We could’ve lived together in harmony, but you wanted all of me. Eventually, we would both have ended up with nothing.

I want to live and you want to live.

Sure, I’m not making it so easy for you, but you’re still alive. Ýou want to stay alive, right? Well, I want to stay alive as well. So let’s come to a compromise: you live and I live. I may make use of tablets and a very vile tasting medicine, but those are not killing you. It may give you a hard time, but at this stage, you’re still alive. Don’t hold it against me. I haven’t stopped you yet, have I? In a way, I’m making you stronger, but please don’t hold what I’m doing against me. You would’ve done the same.

We are together, come what may. I give you a hard time and you may give me a hard time. I’m prepared to live like that. But the important thing is: we can both live.

I’m feeling quite well now; let’s keep it like that. Look, no matter how many tablets I take, you’re strong. Please let those tablets do some of the work they’re supposed to do. That’s the best way in which we can both stay alive.

Live and let live, I say.

How about it? Do we have a deal?


Annie folded the letter again and handed it back to Isaac. She didn’t know what to say.

Isaac broke the silence.

“The virus is breaking our deal.”

To be continued… New Year’s Eve

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

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