The moment they unexpectedly showed up on his doorstep, he knew this was his chance. He would never have the courage to do it alone, but with them at his side, he would find the strength.
William parked the car close to the entrance of the ticket office of the cable car, feeling woozy because of the double dose of morphine plasters he stuck on his abdomen that morning.
The couple jumped out of the car, excited for their trip up Table Mountain.
For a moment, William closed his eyes and breathed in deep, composing himself. A broad smile covered his face when he got out of the car and joined his friends. It felt more like a grimace than a smile as he fought to hide the pain in his belly.
He stood looking out a window of the cable car at the view beneath on their way up the mountain. William needed a few moments of quiet. The ride up was not enough. Disembarking from the cable car, he suggested for them to explore the footpaths on top of the mountain. He would meet them in the restaurant later.
Watching them excitedly walking away — he first had to assure them he really was okay — he walked to the stonewall barrier, and looked out over the mountains, the city, the ocean.
It was a clear day, with no clouds and lots of sun. His eyes rested on Robben Island, which is so famous because Nelson Mandela was a prisoner on the island for 18 of the 27 years of his imprisonment.
But that wasn’t on William’s mind when he looked at the island. He remembered a trip he took there with colleagues. It was a windy day, and the sea was a bit rough, but not bad enough for the boat trip to be cancelled. As they left Cape Town harbor, they all sat down at the bow, their feet dangling over the side. Water splashed everywhere, but no one cared. They were a tight group and the fun they had was all that counted.
To the right of the island is Bloubergstrand. If he squinted his eyes, he thought he could see the white of the beach, but wasn’t sure. Bloubergstrand — another place where he had fun times with colleagues. Long beach walks on a weekend afternoon, mostly followed by a braai on the beach. Sometimes they skipped the walks and just did the barbecue.
His mind travelled back even more years, to those moonlit nights when he walked hand in hand with the only love of his life. Maybe it was one of those nights his lover had infected him with this horrible disease.
A shiver ran down William’s spine.
Was it the memory, or was he running a fever?
He shrugged. He didn’t want to think of it and turn his head to the other side.
Ah, Hout Bay, and that lovely fish restaurant.
William salivated at the thought of freshly caught fish, but winced when his tummy reminded him he wouldn’t be able to eat it.
No, only baby food for him. Everything else made him sick.
He shrugged to clear the negative thoughts from his mind.
In his mind, from Hout Bay, he followed Chapman’s Peak Drive. He loved that road following the coastline. Loved stopping at the lookout points to watch the sea, or baboons climbing over the cars. He smiled, remembering baboons getting into cars when people opened their doors.
He continued his mind’s travel to Fish Hoek, and Simon’s Town, and then to the other side, to Muizenberg. From there, he could continue along the coast as far as he wanted, to Strand and Gordon’s Bay, and even Hermanus.
No, he wanted to stay close.
He looked down at the city below.
The city where he, the country boy, became a man.
The place where he allowed himself to love for the first and last time.
Thinking about that, a pang of sadness filled William, remembering how his lover died.
Was his sadness for his lover, or for himself? He had seen what this disease did to his lover, and knew it would do the same to him. There wasn’t much time left. He could feel it. HIV had turned to AIDS, wrecking his body, leaving him weak and in constant pain.
Today was about saying goodbye, just like yesterday and the day before, when they drove to other spots he had always loved to visit.
He jumped when an arm snaked around his waist. His friends were back.
“Come on,” he said, “there’s one more place we should go, and then it’s back home so you can pack.”
They drove around the mountain to get to Rhodes Memorial, and there, under the trees, they ended their week together with rooibos tea and scones with strawberry jam and whipped cream.
It was a good week.
He had said his goodbyes.
William was ready for the final farewell.