“I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart.”
― Kazuo Ishiguro,
I’m not sure how to describe how I’m feeling, or to even dare to feel as deeply as I do. I never met him after all… He was the man who wrote to me one cold morning in Georgia, where I kept a pair of UGG boots beside the bed to warm an icy, rough hewn floor. And a fire to warm the coldest parts of me. I opened my unsuspecting laptop to find a message waiting, and the rest is our short history…
We wrote every day (sometimes many times a day) while he struggled with his alcoholism and his knee buckling sorrow. Early on he wrote:
I really do not know why but every time drunk or sober I write to you, I tell myself say “goodbye”. Hit delete in your contacts. Turn and run , run fast. Never come back to writing her, or reading her daily blog. Just run and you will never know. You will not know there are others out there who are alcoholics. You will never see other’s painful experiences. No one else would ever understand you and surely no one else has ever had a life of hell…
But he did come back, and we wrote to each other for eight months. At first he was angry and drunk, his children taken from him and a wife and baby in the ground, a history of pain. And then he was so many things: friend, confidant, teacher, student, annoyance, awaited, penitent sinner, generous patron. His children returned to him, he was navigating the strange waters of his daughters’ coming of age with humor, and rumpled resign.
He was my favorite kind of sober. The thinking, craving, questioning kind: who looked for God in the pockets of an old coat, in the bleeding light of his beloved night sky. And what I’m coming to, what I have to tell you is that he is dead. And it is not fair that when the light was shining steadfastly at the end of his long, dark journey, his life is so unexpectedly done. We were to meet in two weeks for the first time, and because he was a nudge and a planner and chivalrous, he had already made a reservation and paid for my valet service, and I gave him a ration of shit because he needed to be more spontaneous. More seat of the pants, to please me.
We will not meet. And I will not open my computer to see an endless, self-searching email from Nick again. Or an email to ask me, “Really, how ARE you?” We will not experiment with phone conversation again: he nervous, me saying, “Nick you’re breaking up. I can’t hear you.” Our dinner reservation will go unclaimed and the valet will keep the tip and life will continue, as it always does.
Nick knows the answers to all the great mysteries now. Whether our souls meet on the other side to await the coming of those who have connected us on this earth… We wait below, looking up to see the stars, the moon, and a rocket burning brightly on it’s way to find heaven.