Wednesday, September 4
LONG TIME GONE
He's dead and you feel sad, but more so embarrassed. You learn he has been gone two years and yet you are just now finding out. By accident--if anything is really an accident--you found out via social media.
You Google his name. Read his obituary. "Surrounded by family, he died at home." What clues remain in that sentence? Was it the dreaded cancer? Had he taken up smoking again since the time you were together? Was it cirrhosis of the liver? At the alarming rate he consumed alcohol, it was a definite possibility. Was he happy with wife number---three? four? We were merely lovers, never spouses. We had casually drifted from co-workers to friendship to lovers. Our kids got along, but we both silently realized it would never hold together. He ended it abruptly and dated another quickly. I was sad, but not devastated and moved on without hesitation.
Although we lived in the same town, we didn't cross paths. There were some places that one could go and see almost 'everyone.' He was not one of the everyone. Maybe he rarely went out, or maybe it was that I didn't frequent chain store liquor lounges in mid-day or maybe he didn't prefer to shop at the local natural food store.
I try to think back to the last time I saw him. It was many years ago. Did we hug? He was not much taller than I am and I always felt comforted when we hugged, our chests fitting together snugly. I remember that we did hug, standing out in some public place, but now am uncertain that this happened. I think he called me by the nickname he had given me, and that he laughed the way he always did when he called out the rhyming name. Once, a long time before the chance meeting, we ran into each other in a professional meeting in town. He came over to chat and told me that he had remarried, someone with whom he had worked. They went to Vegas. I remember being highly critical of their choice and though to myself, 'how tacky.' I don't think at the time I had even known that he had divorced the wife that came after me. I just remember piecing together the impression that he just didn't like staying by himself very much. Were the demons too much to bear alone?
The last I heard anything about him when when I caught a glimpse of his mug shot on the late local news. I didn't hear what was being said, so I jumped on the computer to search. He had been arrested for DUI. He had driven to the end of the street where he lived and without stopping had pulled out onto the highway directly into the side of a Sheriff deputy's car.
Thinking back, I recalled a conversation with him while we were seeing each other. He was struggling financially to pay a hefty child support for his two children on a State employee's wage. He said that he was cashing in his State retirement pension. I expressed my horror at this thought. What a thing to do in one's early 30's! I had counseled him that if he did this, he would have no money left for his old age. "Don't worry," he grinned with his blonde charm, "I won't live to see my old age. I'm sure of that."