Walking through the drizzle along Hackney road, fine droplets forming on my glasses – my mind was working over time. I was on my way to visit Nick.
Nick who first came to us as someone in alcohol detox several years ago. Found faith and for a while journeyed with us as a church. Times changed and Nick slipped away. Telephone calls never returned, only 'twitching curtains' when I called around, cards and letters all unacknowledged. That was until a couple of weeks ago – contact was re-established and now I know why. I understand why he kept away.
Nick – a Falklands veteran – has some stories to tell. A hard ex-military man with pretty nasty 'kill or be killed' stories. I remember him telling me that there were things he’d seen that he couldn’t bear to talk about – I kind of understood his alcoholism better. As I made my way to Mildmay hospital I knew he was facing a new predator, a new battle one that his body would eventually lose.
Wiping my glasses clear I saw Nick in the ward’s conservatory before he saw me. Smoking, reading a paper – ITV’s Trisha droning on in the background. I saw Nick and he looked better than I was imagining. We had tea together and sat – I heard his heart through his words. Nick still has stories to tell but now it is about pro-longing his life. Nick still has stories to tell but now it is about coming to terms with death. Nick still has stories to tell but now it is about his new battle.
We hugged and for a moment I felt the weight on his shoulders. I walked away back into the drizzle of East London with his words echoing through my mind - "Gordon…time is now my predator…"
HIV/AIDS is now Nick’s battle.