It had been a good day. A day off, so we had a decadently long lie, slowly and lazily enjoyed the depth of the morning. I counted my blessings, a daily ritual that helped me get through. Loved and lover, brothers, friends, family. Health and wealth, alive if not quite kicking. A different year with a different outlook.
I eased myself out of bed, showered and dressed then cooked a good early lunch for the two of us. Nothing fancy, nothing too much, just simple food for a simple, sunny day.
We went for a walk and I coped well with being out of hospital again and adapting once more to the new life in the new town. In fact nothing was quite so simple anymore; I remembered long walks, I remembered running away from trouble, playing football, hockey. I remembered striding up the hills. Now it was an achievement to walk into town and the hills and glens would be for other people. Maybe I didn’t miss it. If golf was a good walk spoiled, a good walk was an afternoon ruined. Perhaps I protested too much but hell, post-rationalisation was my new philosophy. Make the most of what you have, not what you’ve lost.
After all it was a beautiful day, a shiny azure reflective day of the transient Scottish summer, and we walked by the river, occasionally taking a seat to admire the view and to allow me a rest. Dogs ran amok chasing frisbees, children threw and kicked and jumped and climbed, parents worried and fussed, older couples strolled and we sat and watched. Perfectly content, together, knowing the world could be a beautiful place.
In the late afternoon I passed my driving test, albeit to drive an automatic car, but this meant a lot to us both as it gave me a new level of freedom and independence. We went for a meal to celebrate; I risked having a small drink as things seemed to be coming together, slowly and finally. I didn’t want to risk being unsteady on my feet: control was everything these days. Control was suddenly like growing up, the ability to restrain myself. Control was what finally let me put one foot in front of the other.
A taxi home together, laughing and holding hands in the back seat, gazing into each other’s eyes as much to say “everything is all right” as to declare any intent for the late evening, even if I did intend. I paid the taxi driver, tipped him well, and we headed into our flat.
As we went through the communal door, we saw immediately things were not all right. The word “AIDS” had been spray painted in orange across our door. The letter box was surrounded by charred wood: they had posted fireworks through our door too. They weren’t that clever: the fireworks had burned the ransom-styled note which had also been posted, although the collaged word “faggots” could still be made out. I extrapolated the rest in my mind, then put it in the bin.
He silently cleaned up the door and I got the paint out. After all this wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.