Foreword

This is the last chapter in my writings about my uncle, who died of AIDS almost a year ago. The other writings related to this are in daylogs, and are pipelinked and softlinked to this node.

.oOo.

After the fork, the church was the last building on the road. Surrounded by half-deserted houses and fields it stood in the carcass of a village, looking back down the valley.

We had come here to say goodbye.

In the car was a man with schizophrenia. Years of drugs had suppressed his illness, making him able to function properly in society.

He had lost his ability to talk about anything more important than hot drinks.

Before we met him, he was described as 'one of Paul's friends.' The speaker was still unable to accept that his brother was not the paragon of heterosexuality that modern society still expects its men to be, despite constant pressure to sensitivity and understanding.

I often wonder if we're the ones who need to be suppressed with drugs.

In the car, the conversation hardly touches on the object of today's excursion - to remember the life of a great man in one of his favourite places on this Earth.

Of course, that's not really what this journey is about. It is about 'closure'. It is to be the completion of a tragedy, the filing away of sorrow in candles and memorial plaques and photographs.

There will be no tears.

In the second car of this meagre cort├Ęge is a boy with Asperger's Syndrome. He has spent his whole life being patronised about things he understands, and punished for things he doesn't. Last week, his frustration caused him to lash out violently at his teacher. He couldn't understand her unreasonable behaviour, and she couldn't understand his.

When the boy tried to talk to me, I was too tired to listen. My mind was on other things. Not on my uncle, but on the girl who lived barely ten minutes away, but whom I would not see for another week. I needed someone to share myself with.

I felt a twinge of guilt - Paul would have had time for this boy. I turned around, but he was gone, 'causing trouble' with his sisters, about to be punished again. About to be hurt again. I could do nothing.

With the cold biting at our faces and the mud crawling up our shoes, we inspected the memorial trees and plaques. Happy with these, we solemnly lit our candles and left, one by one, barely even saying our last goodbyes. Our minds were now turned to the business of dinner and transport, practicalities taking over from emotions.

It had been a very English tragedy, and now it was over.

.oOo.

One of the forks on the road back leads to a lake in a quarry which glows bright blue. Copper sulphate deposits from the bare rock face have stained it this way.

It is the most beautiful body of water I know of.

On the fence surrounding it is a sign warning off potential bathers - the water is not safe for swimmers. Other chemicals in the water have made it poisonous.

Like the rose in our funeral bouquet it sits there, enticing us in with the beauty of its surface. But when we get too close, we are stung.

A year ago, my uncle died of AIDS. We dressed up his tragedy as we would deal with any other death. We hid from the aspects that frightened us. We pushed away the truth because we didn't find it beautiful.

Was it the right thing to do? Can we carry on sanitising every aspect of our life, hoping nothing unpleasant breaks into our stained pine cocoon?

I don't know, but I know that Paul wouldn't have done it this way.

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