Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Friend From A Lifetime Away. And Two Blocks From Here

One of Fuh’s neighbors held the front door open for us as we left. Someone was smoking a cigarette on the stoop. Ten steps away was Bob, walking toward us.

“I know you,” I announced.

Bob looked up, as stunned as I was.

It was such a strange coincidence. We were in Brooklyn Heights for two hours, outdoors for less than five minutes. Had we not hurried away from Fuh’s to make a clean getaway after sticking Lumpyhead’s poopy diaper in Buttmunch’s pocket, we would have missed Bob by twenty steps.

The entire encounter was surreal. I stammered and repeated myself. I couldn’t remember Bob’s last name. It never occurred to me that Bob didn’t know Bump and I should have introduced them until Bob stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Bob.”

I neglected to give him my contact information and didn’t get his, except to learn he lived two blocks away. He was still a teacher, and on his way to meet his wife and child.

Bob looks exactly like he did ten years ago.

I used to equate New York with Bob. Brooklyn, in particular, Brooklyn Heights specifically. He was the first of our friends to move there, and John went to see him whenever he could. On Sunday as we drove to Fuh’s place, I never thought, “that’s where Bob lives.” I’d forgotten him.

I lost touch with all of John’s friends not long after he died. The last time I saw them together was New Years 1996. The time before that was John’s funeral, when six of them made the trip to Arkansas to say goodbye to him.

The New Years celebration was planned before John’s death, and he was looking forward to it. I felt I needed to attend, for him, even though I didn’t particularly want to.

I did not make the gathering merry. Had I not been there, John would have been missed, but I think his friends would have enjoyed each other’s company and had some fun, not focused on him the entire night. Without me around, they could pretend their friend was just absent, not dead. Instead, I was a constant reminder of what they had lost.

There was no escaping John’s death for me. For them there was, or at least there could be, but not with me sitting in their midst. While they always welcomed me warmly and supported me in any way they could, I hated being a vestige, a painful presence that made people cry. I liked them all very much, but they were John’s friends, not mine. I lost them when I lost him.

In a similar way, the friends we went to see in New York last weekend are Bump’s friends. While I never feel like an outsider and I adore them, I realize their primary connection is to Bump.

That parallel struck me as we walked away, and I glimpsed a life in a different present. I saw a trip to New York to see a different set of friends. I was two blocks away, leaving Bob’s house in the rain instead of Fuh’s. John had not died; I had a different son on my hip. A different child in my belly.

It was chilling.

I like my life and I’m happy with it. The path I took to get here had some hardships, but those events have made me who I am today. If I had the option, now, of avoiding certain horrible things, would I take it? What if it meant I became a different person? What if it meant losing what I have and love?

All this is silly, of course. I can’t make a choice and change the past, resurrect someone and fill the space of the last ten years.

But the idea that my current life could be very different if not for a single event (if the passing of a loved one can be considered a single event) makes me cherish what surrounds me today.

A chance meeting. An untimely death. Gratitude for what is mine.

8 comments:

E :) said...

Wow! That's an amazing post. I always do the "what if" thing as well even though it's really pointless to speculate. Incredible.

Em said...

I think they saw you less as a vestige and more as the last link that they so desperately craved. I think your presence on New Years was comforting because it made them feel closer to John. It wasn't much of a party once you left.

I also remember an IM or e-mail you wrote after 1996 but a long time before there were April Fools by Reflecting Pools. You said if you won the lottery tomorrow you wouldn't change a thing about your life as it was that day. That doesn't mean that parts of the journey weren't a walk through fire, but damn, if it didn't all turn out pretty well.

PS You know if Weber was a breeder those kids would be in the ER all the time.

Gidge said...

I think about that stuff all the time, the what if's of different choices.
It's wonderful to know that you love the ones you made.

CPA Mom said...

Who was John? Was he your husband? I ask because I too lost a husband prematurely and it shaped the life I lead now. I have the same thoughts. I didn't know there was someone out there like me in "blogland"

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

I think it is completely normal for you to think about these things.

I never met John, but from what I understand he was a wonderful guy.

I have met Bump, and Lumpyhead (and I've seen the pictures of Akutaq and I have been in her presence) and I sometimes am awed at how lucky you are to have found love twice, and wonderful it is that you still have John's family AND Bump's family that love you and I love it that Nana V is considered a grandparent. You have a wonderful family - immediate and extended.

I cannot even begin to imagine what you went through, but if you believe in karma maybe that is part of why your life is so good now.

Or maybe you just attract great guys.

Heather said...

Great post. Did you ever read those Choose Your Own Adventure books? I would always hold my place and try to follow the chain, then come back and make the other choice. What if? That must have been a very strange day.

Michele said...

Really provoking post. I can guess who John was, and I can imagine how odd that was to see his friend.
Not to diminish the gravity of the situation but sort of like the Bizarro episode of Seinfeld. I think about how things would be different if I had made different choices, but since I had my kids I cant get past the thought of not having them if I had made any other choice.
Damn LHM. This is way beyond poop.

stefanierj said...

Whoa. It's my first time at Chez Lumpyhead, and this was quite an initiation.

My mom lost her first husband when she was 23 and met and married my dad three years later. I wonder if she has moments like this sometimes. What a beautiful and compelling post.ydjjjvjf