Thirteen Years: From Amsterdam to Cape Town

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

From Amsterdam to Cape Town

Continued from… A Couple Of White Lies

At half past seven on Friday morning, the Boeing 747-400 with the name Hong Kong, landed on the runway at the Johannesburg International Airport.

All passengers with Cape Town as their final destination had to stay seated while they brought new food aboard. A cleaning crew quickly tidied up the inside of the airplane after most of the passengers had left the plane. About twenty passengers, including Jacques and Annie, still sat in their seats.

The Boeing took off again at eight o’clock and they landed in Cape Town about two hours later. It was raining and chilly outside. A bus transported the passengers from the airplane to the terminal. Before they went to stand in line for passport control, Annie and Jacques went to the bathrooms to freshen up.

Kathy waited for them in the arrivals hall. It’s been seven years since Kathy and Annie had last seen each other. Both women felt awkward, but still happy to see each other again. From the airport, they drove straight to Isaac’s place. That morning, Kathy had phoned him to tell him she was off from work and would pop in for a cup of coffee.

At the security gate that gave entrance to the complex where Isaac lived, Kathy pushed the button on the intercom. Moments later, they heard Isaac’s voice.

“Isaac, it’s me,” Kathy said into the intercom.

Isaac didn’t answer her, but the gate slowly opened. Kathy drove inside, passing a white car, which she said was Isaac’s. They parked about ten meters on the other side of Isaac’s car. Annie jumped out of the car, keeping the camera ready. Just then, Isaac appeared from a house across from the white car. He expectantly looked over to Kathy’s car.

The expressions on his face changed from normal expectation to incomprehension, to disbelief.

He shook his head and disappeared around the corner of his garage.

“Come on,” Kathy said, “let’s go inside.”

Annie and Jacques followed her. Just as they rounded the corner, Isaac walked out of his front door again. Without a word, he put his arms around Annie and hugged her tight. His hug lasted for minutes. Then he turned to Jacques, shook his hand and hugged him too.

In the couple of months since Isaac had left the Netherlands, he had lost a lot of weight. The clothes he wore could not reveal his thin arms and legs. His face, however, still had a nice roundness to it and the red color indeed made his hair look thicker than it, in fact, was. Even though they knew how gravely ill Isaac actually was at that moment, both Annie and Jacques thought he looked good.

“What are you doing here?” Isaac asked, looking at Annie.

“We brought you a package,” Annie joked.

Again, Isaac only shook his head. He was speechless.

“Shall we go inside, Isaac?” Kathy asked. Isaac turned around and kept the front door open for all of them to walk inside. Soon they sat in the sitting room, each with a nice hot cup of coffee, which Isaac had made for them. He had donuts too, which he had bought early that morning. Annie told Isaac how they had been planning the trip and that only Kathy knew about it. Isaac gave Kathy a mocked angry look. Then he looked back at Annie.

“Does Jeanne know you are visiting?”

Annie shook her head in denial.

“There’s one thing that we need to know, Isaac,” Annie said then, “and you must be very honest. Is it okay if we stay with you for the next nine nights? We leave again a week from Sunday.”

“Of course it’s okay. You don’t even have to ask,” Isaac assured her. He looked around. “Where are your bags?”

“Still in the car,” Jacques answered. “We did not want to impose our company on you.”

“Gmpff, impose your company!” Isaac mocked, “You are more than welcome to stay. I am so happy to see you. I thought I might never see you again,” Isaac said, and his eyes seemed to glisten just a bit more than usual.

It was quiet for a while, and then Kathy stood up.

“Shall we get your bags from the car, Jacques?”

Jacques got up too and followed Kathy outside.

Isaac bent over to Annie and took her hand in his.

“Thank you, Annie.”

Annie didn’t trust her voice. She just nodded and squeezed Isaac’s hand. When they heard Jacques and Kathy approaching the front door, they stood up to meet them in the hallway.

In the next hour or so, they shared anecdotes of Isaac’s trip to the Netherlands with Kathy. During this conversation, they learned Jeanne was sick at home. Kathy said she would phone Jeanne to tell her they — Kathy and Isaac — were coming to visit her. However, Jeanne was adamant she didn’t want them to come there. Kathy said nothing about Annie and Jacques being in the country. When she hung up, Kathy had a puzzled look on her face.

“I have to get my daughter from boarding school. I don’t think that Jeanne will be able to resist you when she sees you in person,” Kathy said.

It was then decided Isaac, Annie, and Jacques would go to Durbanville, where Jeanne lived, to surprise her.

Jeanne didn’t answer her door, even though her car was in front of her garage. A neighbor knew her cell phone number and called her. Jeanne didn’t know what was going on, but this time she agreed to meet Isaac at the Spur in the Tyger Valley Shopping Center.

This shopping center had a mix of international and national shops, movie theatres, restaurants and lots of other entertainment, such as a mini-golf course. The Spur is a chain of steak restaurants situated throughout South Africa. This was always Annie’s favorite restaurant when she still lived in South Africa. She especially loved their salad bars, and this is exactly where she dished up her lunch while waiting for Jeanne to arrive.

When Jeanne walked into the restaurant, she looked around to find Isaac. It took her a couple of moments to recognize Annie. They hadn’t seen each other in seven years. Jeanne could only just suppress a squeal of delight. The women hugged each other and Jeanne sat down next to Jacques, after Annie had introduced her to him.

The four of them stayed in the restaurant for hours, talking about so many things. Jeanne shared she had plans to visit Iris on Sunday and she invited the other three to join her.

Annie had met Iris when Iris had travelled to the United States about a year before. Iris had to wait in Amsterdam from early morning till late at night on her return trip to South Africa. Annie and her mom had picked Iris up from the airport and took her to Keukenhof — the most beautiful flower paradise in the Dutch spring — and to Madurodam. Annie would love to see Iris again, but she didn’t want to join Jeanne for the trip if Isaac wasn’t also up for it.

They were there to spend time with him, after all.

To be continued… Rekindling Friendships

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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