You’d think a guy’d remember if it was the first time he’d seen a body but I didn’t not at first.
[Hadda chance to graduate from college into one of our acceptable wars but didn’t, into the war that is, and no shot at a medical profession: left HS Chem as it had only 28 Bunsen burners; the teacher culling the class by asking our intended college major and I said journalism; the open period that semester, just before lunch meant many Carl’s Jr. runs, and in the next I think I took a journalism class.]
Then I recalled funeral home viewings of friends’ relatives; and also my Da, intubated and unresponsive, and apparently unaware but who really knows? Only he and Jesus.
This was different.
For my work I do things like write these posts; on my job I do things like check on people parking illicitly after dark. So far at least three preparing to compound their parking problem by acts of unlawful carnal knowledge.
Entered the lot, saw the car, lit the flashers [always done] and the front-facing powerful white light on the roofbar [not always done, annoys the hell out of targets, tends to help people find their pants].
Pulled up, tapped the horn [safer to stay in the car, though not as cricket as stalking them through the high grass].
POS multi-hued gray Sentra — old as the kids, more faded than I — got out his side, tapped hood with flashlight, window with knuckles …
He looked not right slumped forward like that, and there was something up his sleeve; it was like a Club — those anti-theft devices many of us got and that can be disabled with a can of compressed air and a few knocks from anything hard. Mighta been something else.
Lots I didn’t know, including what to do, and that’s when you call 911 and the police rumble up and paramedics and a fire engine and later the coroner, and then you back out the company vehicle [also POS save for that white light] and let them work.
The police officer — fresh of female face; clear and kind, at least as cops go; efficient but not harsh — confirmed to me he was dead, noting lividity and rigor and such, but we already knew: he didn’t look right.
Andy Dufresne asks the dead guy’s name and another con says, more colloquially there than this, ‘Who cares?’
It’s Andy’s second miracle, after not breaking in the first place; the man took his spot, in a [fairly weak] sense but that’s not the point. His asking says it’s vital the man has a name, needful that we know it; and this isn’t lost on the other cons whatever the reaction of one.
I don’t think often of Dufresne as Christ Figure tho he does die, rise again, emerge from a tomb … but lots of journeying heroes do this. More like priest [his parish the table in the wilderness-mess hall, playing ball on the yard] or poet [gets a good deal of the good lines] or prophet: a Jeremiah say, if Jerry had a quarter million in 1960s dollars and a sweet convertible ride for his On The Road trip.
The 1970s philosopher William Joel averred ‘only the good die young’ — but he was speaking with falsed tongue about something else entirely, like lines of impiously parked cars.
The line has little utility despite aphoristic aplomb and bouncy beat as it says merely that of those who die early, all are good; it does not say all the good do die early and most do not. It also doesn’t discuss the difficulty of living hard for a long time, tho he knows more about that now.
Every age has its staged sages.
But no matter: the forking tongue was frustrated too, at least per the song. Virginia does not come out.
I’ve seen few dead; my son at half my age has, as a U.S. Army medic, EMT-ish ER denizen, and VA hospital attendant [where old soldiers go to die unheroically], seen thrice or more that.
The officer, younger than he, may have both of us beat. Or I assumed so anyway — who really knows?
Only she and Jesus.
Every man’s death diminishes me, but why?
Yes, yes, because no man is an island, but more … or what does that mean? One thing it means is every day someone else is alive they’re adding to the experiences of a dozen others. Thus every day someone else close to us is alive they’re adding to ours.
When they die, it’s done.
Imagine each day a donut at desk or door. Yes, a donut — different one daily or your all-time favorite flavor in all the world.
Of late, I’ve gone large — apple fritter, giant cinnamon roll — but sometimes [with age, heh] a nice old-fashioned is fine. When I was a kid — and here we get into memory, that is, saving the experiences of ourselves and dozens of others, that is, living on, and after death — it was a maple bar; my sister got chocolate.
[Siblings, huh? Weird.]
So donuts daily for decades. Stops. That’s death.
Ha! That’s not death at all. It’s a damned donut.
In trying to get at something, I’ve diminished it.
Maybe that’s death.
You can’t get there from here.
Or you can, but takes forever.
Everyone around us dies and when we’ve seen all we can from all that, we go, too … or … hell, I don’t know.
I’m as lost as you are.
But that’s not true and I don’t think it or I shdn’t be writing this.
Quite possibly not true, it’s just what we say; who really knows?
Strangers, people we kinda knew, children. All die.
Death becomes like brushing our teeth if we let it.
I didn’t write this for several days — a lifetime in blogging, right?
Then, a half-week later, I learned the reason for the delay, which I’d put off variously to time constraints and fearing not knowing what to say. The key is embracing not knowing what to say.
But timing is beyond us.
Think what we mean by ‘the right time’ or not so or comedic timing or whatnot. We’re saying there’s a running-in-the-background standard, a rightness and wrongness — ‘too soon?’ we joke after telling the joke.
But there is a wrong time and a right one, are right words and wrong ones. There are stupid questions.
We don’t punt the puppy into the recycle bin for piddling on the patio and likewise we must roll with other people’s stupid, as they do ours.
We’re trying, even when we’re trying.
So. Came a right time and words, then all came together.
What happened is I learned of a second death, on the same day, of a man closer to me. He I knew, shared with — good and bad, meals and projects, and people.
Know his name, some of his skills, some of his sins.
Do not claim too much here. I don’t know more about him than I do and there’s more about him I don’t know than I do. And who really knows.
I know none of those things of the dead man in the car.
And I can’t and wldnt say even what I do for my friend.
Both men’s deaths diminish me. Of course I’d say the second man more so and in key ways that’d be true. But who really knows.
I have not much to say about him but it was the diminishing needed to say any of it.
Shd be a third. We like things in threes, no less so than in death. To make it fit — writing, deciding, claiming to know — needs a third.
Ought we wait?
Death says don’t.
We’re the third.