February 7, 2003

Fallout

One more depressing entry and then I'll try to lighten up a bit.

I've been working on this one for days and don't feel altogether comfortable with it.
It's too much about ME and I have to keep reminding myself that this is MY diary/journal and it's supposed to be about me.
My reaction to events in a friend's life is normal content for a diary.

Writing about how I feel helps enormously, as anyone who does this (online or off) will know.
Yes it's self-indulgent. I know that.
Even this disclaimer is self-indulgent.
Continue then at your own risk.


A day or two after I posted the last entry, I heard more news about my friend in Europe.

Actually I received an email from a colleague of his telling me that he had news and asking who I was.
It took a couple of hours until I heard back from him, during which time my imagination ran wild. I knew the "news" was probably mostly what I already knew but maybe it wasn't.

As it turned out it was the same with a more dire tone to it, suggesting that the unconsciousness might be permanent.

I wrote the following, but didn't post it then:

I have more news about my friend in Europe.
He has not regained consciousness since his cerebral hemorrhage on January 19.
He is however "stable".
Stable is better than dead I suppose. But turning out like a vegetable (if that's the case) is not.
They intend to transfer him to Ottawa, his home base in Canada, within the next few weeks.

Every time an e-mail comes in bearing a strange name, my first reaction isn't that it's spam. It's that it's a notification.
Today it really was a notification, as a friend and colleague of his contacted me, probably as a result of a forwarded inquiry.
It wasn't the worst news that I'd been dreading but it was bad enough.

I feel as if I'm walking around underwater.
Every movement requires deliberate energy.
I have that sick, aching feeling in my chest - something that has been all too familiar these past few years.

No matter how bad it is for me, of course it's worse for his family. For those he didn't keep at a distance.
Still, in my mind he is my oldest friend, the link to my past and one who knows who I am.

He's not yet 52 - only a few months older than I am.
He was supposed to be my friend for life.
I hoped one day to see England and Ireland (the places of his childhood) through his eyes.
I didn't want to marry him or live with him.
I did expect us to grow old as friends.
Now maybe only one of us will have the chance to grow old.

The way he lived - travelling to the world's worst trouble spots - may have contributed to his illness. As a member of the RCMP and later the diplomatic corps, he went to Haiti, Bosnia, refugee camps all over Africa, and many places I'm probably not aware of.

He was based in Kenya for two years, arriving there just in time for the U.S. Embassy attacks.
The U.S. Embassy was (is?) close to the Canadian Embassy in Nairobi.
He wasn't injured - not physically, anyway. There was some talk of post-traumatic stress syndrome due to his helping care for the injured. (He's a doctor.)

He picked up malaria, dysentery, and parasites, one of which might have caused the brain hemorrhages.
This is what he wanted. (Not dysentery, but the way of life.)
Not only in his twenties and thirties but well into his forties and fifties.

I understand the need to live the way one chooses. I understand and respect it.
It's just awfully hard for those of us left on the ground.
So there won't be any terse, cryptic e-mails from him anytime soon. No hits from his European ISP on my site.
What little contact we had is gone.
I didn't post that at the time because I didn't want to re-read it, edit and html-ize it.
I didn't want to see it at all.

By the next day I managed to rebuild my little shell of denial and have been living in it fairly contentedly since.
Or at least, functioning.
There really is nothing for me to do but push it into a corner and rewrite my fantasies.

I haven't contacted the wife or the colleague since, but I suppose I will have to, soon.

Meanwhile every time I check the mail I expect one to read, "I regret to inform you.."



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