time you visit a church, will you steal a candle and light it
for me?" Tommy asked.
"I certainly will not," I answered, grinning. I stroked
his rat-eaten balding head, careful not to touch the festering
"You always steal a candle and light it for those who died
..." Tommy pouted.
" ... during the war," I interrupted. "And I dont
steal them. I refuse to pay for them, because the church is too
bloody rich anyhow and they dont do anything with the money
from those candles, as far as I know."
"Lousy excuse," Tommy came back.
"True. I think its more kind of a revenge. Anyhow,
for you Ill buy a candle and put it in front of our window
... like I do for my other loved ones."
"To show them the way home," he whispered.
"Yeah, to show them the way home."
I looked down at his handsome face; handsome, in spite of the
sores and the yellow skin that was stretched tight over his protruding
cheekbones. My Tommy was no more than a skeleton, my Tommy was
My Tommy was going to die today. It had been decided to end his
suffering today. Thanks to the thinking, human and compassionate
lawmakers of our country, Tommy was allowed to stop living in
agony. He didnt have to wait until his lungs filled up with
liquid and suffocated him, or until his liver gave up functioning.
Today, his heart would stop beating, because Tommy himself had
decided it to be so.
"Want me to wash you, babe?" I asked. The nurses didnt
have enough time to carefully wash his wasted body and some of
them were too scared to. My Tommy smelled of rot and decay. Such
a wrong smell for somebody who was going to die that same day.
"I love ya, Meg," sang my friend.
I got the wash basins and the bar of Chanel 5 soap I bought for
him and nobody used, because it wasnt antiseptic. As if
yet another infection would have made any difference. His body
was covered with infected sores and one more....
"Dont know if this soap will hurt, bud. Ill wash
around the sores, okay?"
"Dont care if it hurts, Meg, itll make me smell
good. Do you think Coco washed with Chanel 5? Put on gloves, Meg!"
"Nag, nag, nag," I laughed. "Jeez, kid, Johnny
trusted me more than you do, you know that!"
Tommys drug-misty eyes misted over even more. It was a year
ago that Johnny died, exactly one year ... today.
My romantic friend decided to die on the same day as his lover
did last year; even at the same hour ... that is, the product
would be injected at exactly the same time.
"Mind giving my arse a good scrubbing, Meg? Those little
nurses are scared shitless of me, but especially of my arse. Pray
tell, would that be because its a gay arse?"
"I dont give a shit, my friend, and in all honesty,
you are full of shit ... your arse is, I mean."
I ever so carefully washed around all the oozing wounds that come
with the disease and the ugly bedsores the non-care of the medical
team had produced. It shocked me to see his body in such a poor
state. After all, AIDS was no longer a word one didnt pronounce
and the nurses should be used to taking care of that damn diseases
victims by now.
The soap did its work. Tommy began to smell much nicer.
As I carefully rolled him onto his back again, there was a knock
on the door. Before we had a chance to say anything, a splendid
looking man in a long, black cassock walked in. The hospitals
"Please, wait outside, sir," I demanded. "I will
be ready in a few minutes."
The priest looked at me and walked towards the window. He turned
his back on us and stared outside.
"Outside, sir!" I barked.
The priest did not react and stood. Tommy grinned like a naughty
"He hopes to be able to take a peek at my...." he started
in a loud whisper.
"Shut up," I hissed and continued to wash him. I changed
his sheets and rearranged the Christmas decorations Id put
up all around his bed and on the stand of his intravenous drip.
"Jingle balls, jingle balls, kosher all the way," Tommy
sang and I bit my tongue not to burst out laughing.
I dug into my handbag and put some make-up on his face. It made
him look better.
"Want some eyeshadow and lipstick?" I asked.
"Sure, kid. I want to look my best today," Tommy snickered.
"You can turn around now, sir," I said, taking off my
I put out my hand. "I am Meg Deers," I told the priest.
"Ah," he answered, surprised. "Tommys sister?"
"No. Im his wife, sir," I answered, straight-faced.
"Yes," Tommy announced with pride. "Meg and I got
married two months ago."
"You were joined in holy matrimony?" the priest panted
and Tom and I both burst into laughter.
"Not very holy, sir," I began to explain, but he interrupted
"Father, dear. People call me Father."
I smiled sweetly and felt like kicking him where it hurts.
"Well, I wont, sir. Youre not my father and,
as far as we know, you arent anybody elses father
either. I will call you sir, sir. Oh, and talking about our marriage,
sir, the matrimony in which we are joined, isnt a very holy
one. You see, sir, I am Jewish and divorced, and Tommy is gay.
I think your church wouldnt like that combination very much
and never would have married us."
"We got married to get rid of my money," Tommy announced
matter-of-factly. The priest cocked his head and stared at him.
"Before he died, Johnny and I sold all our boutiques and
he put his part of the money in my bank account," Tommy went
on. "Now, since we got married, Meg has that money in her
account. We got married, because of the money."
The priests mouth fell open and his eyes almost popped out
of his head as he stared at me in disbelief.
"After Tommys cremation, Im going to Africa,
sir. To invest Tommy and Johnnys money in several AIDS clinics,"
"Oh, my goodness," breathed the priest.
"No, not your goodness, sir. Tommy and Johnnys."
I bent over and kissed Tommy on his nose. He pursed his lips,
his eyes twinkling with mischief. I grinned back at him and softly
brushed a kiss on his mouth. I felt the priests eyes in
my back and heard him thinking.
"No, sir, Im not afraid to be infected. We dont
French-kiss, you know," I told him as I straightened up.
"I darn well would, if I were butch," joked Tommy.
"Go tell that on the mountain, lover," I grumbled and
left the room to get some coffee.
As I was drinking the excellent espresso the machine gave, I suddenly
remembered how a nurse protested, when I put up the Christmas
decoration in Tommys room.
"That decoration isnt sterile! He might get an infection,"
she told me and Tommy piped in with a loud, "Yo, sis,
it isnt kosher either, but with a good Christmas ball infection,
Ill get out of here faster, and itll save the Doc
from giving me my final high."
The nurse was not amused; we were. Since the law on euthanasia
had become a reality, the vast majority of the people saw it as
a blessing, and spoke about it quite openly. Some still avoided
it, however, like some people still avoid pronouncing the word
I walked back to Tommys room. The priest was just leaving.
"You are going against Gods will, my son," he
said to the dying, suffering man in the bed.
"Hes not your son, sir," I barked. "And,
if there is a God, Im sure hell understand and if
he doesnt, he should abdicate. Now, would you, please, go
home, take off your dress, put your feet up and relax. My beloved
friend ... shit, no, my beloved husband, Doc David and I have
more important things to do. Things, like ending his suffering
and unbearable pain, his steady decay and his losing all feeling
of being human."
The priest left, shaking his head. Tommy closed his eyes and sighed.
"Is it almost time?" he asked. I looked at the clock.
It was ten to four.
"Doc David will be here in ten minutes," I announced
and sat next to him on the bed.
"Ill miss you, Meggums," Tommy whispered.
"Life will be lonely without you, my dearest," I said.
We sat without speaking, until at four oclock sharp, Doc
David walked in.
Doc David did have a last name and he even was a professor, but
for all who knew him, the chubby and always tanned, soft-eyed
medical man was Doc David.
"Ready, Tommy?" he asked.
"As ready as Ill ever be."
"Youre absolutely certain you want to go through with
"Yes, Doc, Im absolutely certain. Im tired and
I want to ... well, like ... I want to go home, or on a long trip.
Im really tired, Doc."
Tommy turned to me and put out his hand.
"Will you hold me, Meg?"
"Ill hold you, Tommy."
I settled next to him against the pillows and carefully put my
arms around him. He leaned his head against my shoulder.
"Quarter past four, eh Tom?" asked Doc David.
"Quarter past four," Tommy affirmed.
I put my hand on my friends chest and felt his heart beating.
Damn, he must be running a fever again, I thought, stupidly.
Doc David stuck the needle of the syringe into the tube of the
"Youll get very warm," he said to Tommy. "It
will be like a very warm wave."
"Like a Jacuzzi," Tommy murmured. He turned his head
and looked at the clock. "Quarter past, Doc."
"Yes," said Doc David and slowly emptied the syringe
into the transparent plastic tube.
"Meg?" Tommy asked.
"Im here, dearest, Im here."
Two tears rolled down Tommys cheeks, but his face was calm
and almost peaceful.
WhenI dont know how much laterI felt his heart
flutter and then stop, I almost expected him to smile. That would
have been so typical of Tommy.
"Hes gone, Meg," said Doc David.
"He always loved to travel," I joked weakly.
"This time hes gone on a very long voyage," answered
the Doc, and disconnected all the tubes and needles. He didnt
call in a nurse to do it, he did it himself.
"Well keep in touch, wont we, Meg?"
"Id like that very much, David," I said. "Besides,
Ill need your help for Tommys and Johnnys clinics
The Doc touched Tommys hand in a farewell gesture and kissed
my cheek. I straightened the sheet and stroked back the few puffs
of hair my friend still had. Tommy looked as handsome as ever,
even with the rat-eaten balding head. He looked younger than before.
Tommy was free. I bent over and kissed his lips. We always kissed
each other on the lips.
"Bon voyage, dearest," I said out loud and, quite suddenly,
pictured myself at the airport, seeing him off on a trip. I heard
his voice ... If you get lonesome for me, you know where you can
join me, Meggums ... he always said that.
"Not yet, my friend, not yet," I answered, smiling.
"First, I have to take care of some business in Africa. Remember?"
Rey (1938 - ?) was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and
from the time she was a little girl, has worked in radio, television,
publicity and the theatre, as a broadcaster, entertainer, scriptwriter,
translator, editor, and actress, in the Netherlands, Canada and
Today, retired, she finally has the time to be a full-time writer
for herself, and an editor for other authors.
Her work during the Second World War, as a 'baby-courier' in the
Dutch Underground, earned her the honourable distinction of having
been one of Holland's two Child Resistance Fighters.
Deborah Rey is married and has one daughter, and one grandson.
She lives at the French Atlantic coast, with her husband, the
Dingo-Dog and six cats.