Thirteen years: New Year’s Eve

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

New Year’s Eve

Continued from… Viral letter

It was the last day of the year.

Annie was home already, and she expected Jacques soon to be home too. They had plans to celebrate New Year’s Eve at Joe and Myra’s.

Isaac’s condition didn’t change in the last two days. His abdomen still ached, but he hadn’t developed a fever. Annie kept a close watch on him, as she still intended to call the doctor if Isaac should get worse.

The evening was a happy and pleasant one. Isaac seemed to feel better than he did in the past days. He loved to be between people who accepted and loved him for who he was. Joe and Myra were the perfect hosts. They made sure everyone constantly had something to drink. On the tables were bowls of chips and other savory snacks. Their daughter Sylvana came around a couple of times with plates of sausage, cheese, cucumber and cherry tomatoes. Music played, and some people danced while other sat around, chatting to each other.

Annie, who couldn’t help to check constantly whether Isaac was okay, was happy to see he was having a good time. She noticed he drank only soft drinks, which was good, but when she saw him eating sausage and cheese, she wondered if it would do him any harm. She was overly concerned, and decided Isaac was a better judge of what he could or couldn’t eat.

About ten minutes before midnight, Joe switched on the television and muted the sound. He did this so they could all keep an eye on the clock, as the old year slowly made a place for a new one. Just before midnight, all of them grabbed a glass of champagne and they went outside. Isaac followed them outside without a glass, not really knowing what was about to happen. The moment they heard the clock strike midnight, the spectacle started outside. Everywhere – not only in the street where Joe and Myra lived – beautiful colors erupted in the skies. The sounds were deafening, and slowly the skies filled with smoke.

Isaac leaned against a car, looking up at the skies. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Back in South Africa, he had seen firework displays, but never as much as this on one occasion. Isaac loved the fireworks where colors burst from the center of a circle. His next favorite was the fireworks that had a weeping willow effect. Very soon, he couldn’t distinguish what he liked most. He just loved the colors, the sphere it created, the celebrations.

In between the cacophony of sounds and displays of color, everyone wished each other a Happy New Year. Annie and Isaac held each other close for quite some time when they wished each other the best for the next year – each with their own thoughts. Later, the neighbors came outside and wished them all a Happy New Year too, even shaking hands with people they didn’t know. Other people who happened to pass by also had good wishes for the people on the pavement. Isaac just loved this.

After a good half an hour, they all went back inside. Isaac was quieter than before the fireworks spectacle. Annie asked him a couple of times if he was okay and he repeatedly assured her he was. He told her he didn’t want to go home, as he wasn’t tired yet. He just wanted to stay and enjoy the company around him. Annie believed him and, even though she was slightly concerned, she didn’t push Isaac to tell her why he was so quiet.

It was only on New Year’s Day, after all of them had slept for a couple of hours that she realized why Isaac was so quiet the previous evening after they had watched the fireworks.

“Annie,” he said, “how much money do you think was spent on all those fireworks we had seen last night?”

“Oh dear,” Annie answered, “I have no idea. I guess it will be mentioned in the newspapers tomorrow. Normally, it’s thousands and thousands of guilders.”

“If so much money is given out for fireworks, why can’t someone pay my hospital bill for me?”

Suddenly, Annie knew this thought was born while they had looked up at the skies at midnight.

“Who would you then have to ask to pay your bill, Isaac? Private individuals, not the authorities, had lighted all the fireworks that we saw last night. I don’t think that you can ask private individuals to pay for your hospital bill,” Annie said in a kind voice.

“I don’t want private individuals to pay my bill. I want to ask the authorities to do it.”
“Which authorities?” Annie was puzzled.
“In the hospital, I read a leaflet from the Dutch AIDS Foundation. I want to write them a letter,” Isaac said.
“The AIDS Foundation? I guess it would not harm to write them,” Annie said in turn, “but I don’t think you should expect…”
“Just leave it to them to decide what they want to do after they have read my letter,” Isaac interrupted Annie.

She decided to drop the subject.

To be continued… Isaac Goes Home

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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