I am in deep mourning. My dear friend Erik Gould, astrologer and famous tarot reader otherwise known as The Great Oracle or Prince Tcherbanoski (or some Russian sounding name which I could never spell) has passed away or left this mortal coil as he would put it. He wanted to go, he had been in a nursing home for the last few years, a dire place full of old fogies as he called them – no place for the exuberant character he’d been in the days of yore with his diamond necklaces, fedora and long black cape of a hundred camels.               

To my shame I hadn’t been to visit him for quite some time, I couldn’t stand to see him in that awful place. But something made me go and I’m so glad I did because he died the next morning.                                   

We’d reminisced about the good old days and the many mad escapades we’d shared together and we’d laughed of course, and sang like we always did. My idea was to rally him round like I’d done the last time he’d been knocking at death’s door, some years ago after a stroke. I hadn’t told Erik I was HIV positive because knowing him as I did I knew that he would have found it hard if not impossible to keep such shocking news to himself and for that reason I’d been deliberately keeping my distance. But when I got the phone call that day informing me that he was intensive care and might not survive the night, I wouldn’t have been able to live with the thought that he might go to his maker without knowing the reason I’d been avoiding him. So I rushed up to the hospital forthwith to find him wired up to tubes and drips with a mask tightly strapped to his face and two bloodshot eyes bulging over the top.   

“Get me out of here darling,” he’d raged, “Tell nurse Ratchet over there,” he poked his finger wildly in the air nearly dislodging his drip, “That I’d rather die than remain in her sadistic hands. She won’t even let me have a pee. Why won’t they just let me die – or at least let me pee?       

I could see his point; it was horrendous in there; people isolated in plastic bubbles hooked up to breathing apparatus, no television, no radio, only the sound of wheezing and the huge clock ticking the last hours or even seconds away.                                                                 

“Erik, I’ve got something to tell you,” I’d taken his familiar hand, covetously looking at my moonstone ring on his little finger that we’d allegedly swapped many years ago (although I couldn’t actually remember taking part in the deal) and trying not to think that I might soon get it back, “The reason I have been withholding my distance from you,” I stared into his bulging eyes, “Is because I am HIV positive.”        

Well, his eyes had nearly popped out of their sockets and he frantically tried without success to relieve himself of the claustrophobic mask so he could speak to me. Nurse Ratchet immediately stormed over and yanked the strap even tighter.                                                                 

This shocking disclosure of mine was enough to bring Erik round and give him the will to live, if only so he could tell everyone else. That’s not strictly true, but I like to think that I was part of the process in his sudden and miraculous recovery.                                                           

This time when I saw him though, which turned out would be for the very last time, I said as I was leaving in an attempt to rally him round again, “Now no more of this popping off stuff, promise?”  Then looking around the dismal room, the sum total of his existence, I added, “Oh Erik, pop off if you want to.” And it seems he took me literally.                            

It’s the special people you are fortunate to know and love in this life that help make you who you are. Erik was the most intelligent and intuitive man I have ever met. In the days before Google and Wikipedia if I needed to know something I would ask Erik and he always knew the answer. He said that when he died it would be like a library burning. I think that’s a famous quote – but I don’t know who wrote it. Erik would know of course, but sadly he is no longer here to ask. RIP my dearest friend you certainly enriched my life and the lives of many others.



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