As I began to prepare the food he brought, I was taken aback by the familiar, unseen hand which from time to time twists and rips at my intestines. Codeine normally keeps this at bay, but I take breaks from it so my tolerance doesn’t increase. I ignored it at first, not wanting to take any of the opiate, but soon capitulated, sweating and doubled over in pain.
Fox has seen these attacks before, but never one this swiftly intense. “Are you ok?”
"No, but I will be once the meds kick in.”
He takes over the cooking, joking and trying to charm my daughter’s slight distrust.
While things are sizzling away in the kitchen, he joins me at the back door where I sit on a low stool, arms around legs, smoking and willing the unseen hand to stop squeezing my guts. He starts apologising for causing me pain. We’ve been over this ground before many times in the past seven months and I don’t understand why he’s bringing it up now. That’s ten years and more in the past. There’s no longer any need to tell me this; I forgave him a lifetime ago.
This morning a turn of phrase in a book brought his concerned eyes looking into my own again, as they had the other night. Like a knife in my heart I suddenly understood what pain he was apologising for – and it wasn’t from the days of our youth as I assumed. He was apologising because I was doubled over with the pain of what HIV physically does to me sometimes. The true meaning of his words never occurred to me when he said them. I hate that he feels responsible. I hate the pain I see in his eyes.
I hope one day he understands there is no blame directed at him in my heart. Truly understands. When that day comes, there will be one less ghost to demand his attention.