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Lying About Dying

May 25, 2007
This post is not about Guy. How dare you horrible people imply it. I wrote this about a boy/man in North Carolina that I grew up with, who does not know the first thing about loving life muchless caring about others. Take your need to find juicy rubbish elsewhere.

Remainder of a Life

by Mahmoud Darwish

If I were told:
By evening you will die,
so what will you do until then?
I would look at my wristwatch,
I’d drink a glass of juice,
bite an apple,
contemplate at length an ant that has found its food,
then look at my wristwatch.
There’d be time left to shave my beard
and dive in a bath, obsess:
“There must be an adornment for writing,
so let it be a blue garment.”
I’d sit until noon alive at my desk
but wouldn’t see the trace of color in the words,
white, white, white . . .
I’d prepare my last lunch,
pour wine in two glasses: one for me
and one for the one who will come without appointment,
then I’d take a nap between two dreams.
But my snoring would wake me . . .
so I’d look at my wristwatch:
and there’d be time left for reading.
I’d read a chapter in Dante and half of a mu’allaqah
and see how my life goes from me
to the others, but I wouldn’t ask who
would fill what’s missing in it.
That’s it, then?
That’s it, that’s it.
Then what?
Then I’d comb my hair and throw away the poem . . .
this poem, in the trash,
and put on the latest fashion in Italian shirts,
parade myself in an entourage of Spanish violins,
and walk to the grave!

(Translated, from the Arabic, by Fady Joudah.)

The above is a poem I read in The New Yorker recently. It does not particularly have anything to do with what I am writing about other than the topic of dying. However, since poets normally lack exposure I thought I would extend the courtesy to this bloke. There seems to be a breezy yet ominous feeling of resignation to his words worth noting.

I have (or perhaps I should say had even though there has not been an official notification of the past tense to make this an accurate declaration) a friend who sent me an email saying that he was dying. I just rolled my eyes, well I did, just now, and when I read the email. Actually, first he sent an email saying something along the lines of “I hope you forgive me for anything I may have done to you in the past…..blah blah blah.” Then, instead of appeasing him because I have been down that road before, I responded with “what brought this about.” Next, is when I received the one line email “I’m dying.” It has been a month since and I have yet to respond, and I doubt that I will. For one reason, I do not believe him. We have been friends since we were fourteen years old and there have been several of these incidents throughout our lifetime. Granted, he has never used the exact words “I’m dying.” This is a first. However, I suspect each time my reaction is less dramatic he must then up the ante. The dysfunction is dizzying; it reminds me of Professor Zero’s Da Whiteman series.

My gut instinct says he is lying, my mind questions my confidence. I called two old school friends and asked for their opinion. One said, “He probably is dying.” Then she laughed a little. She has always been very direct and blunt. In 1985, I gave her refuge from a cheating husband. She just had her oldest child, really, when they came to live with us the baby was only one week old. After delivery in the hospital the philistinism of an ignorant upstart arrogant intern (he may have even been a fourth year medical student) at the free county hospital told her she had Herpes because of some symptom going on with her newborn’s eyes. No test though because it would cost the hospital money. Supposedly, if the mother has genital Herpes, a c-section is recommended in order to avoid passing it to the infant. Even though her husband was a cheat and a scoundrel, I did not believe it to be true. Of course, I am not a doctor, however, at the time I did do medical paper work and read a lot. I did not believe that she had the symptoms of Herpes. She accepted it as fact and that was that. I refused to, so I had my doctor-boyfriend test her and the baby. He diagnosed that the intern who told her this was in fact an idiot. I will never forget how she was so use to surviving that she simply accepted the diagnosis and instead of fretting resigned to deal with her circumstances. Yes, that is best and healthy but we were only 22 years old and even as graduates from the school of hard knocks, I still thought one should retreat to lick their wounds periodically, or at least when the wound is significantly profound, and I most certainly considered this a case that warranted some woe.

Next I asked my other friend if she thought he was dying. She immediately answered no. As the first friend, she is direct and blunt too, but she is not so resilient. She has had her periods of being on the couch, as we call it. In other words, a dark hole that one does not want to go back to once they have the healthy hindsight to conclude just how dark the hole actually was. She went on to tell me her oldest son, twenty-five years old is doing an eight-year stint in prison. I was shocked when she told me that he did the crime and deserved to be in jail, not shocked because she said anything out of character but because I momentarily fell into expecting the same response my mother usually gives when defending my brothers. According to my mother and brothers, they are never guilty, someone is always out to get them, someone framed them, set them up, and life is entirely too cruel to poor innocent boys who were just minding their own business when they failed the breathalyzer, or tumbled their car off the road, or failed the drug test that they needed to pass in order to get work. Apparently, her son decided to rob a Taco Cabana along with several other young men. There is a rumor that there were around eight of them. Their take, a whopping twenty-five dollars. The police were called immediately and the masterminding neophytes got no further than the apartment complex across the way from the Taco Cabana because their getaway car broke down. Most of the young men decided it would be best just to duck down and stay in the car while the police cruisers sped by. Her son and one of his friends felt their chances would be better if they got out of the car and crossed the street to catch the bus home. As they were waiting for the bus an employee identified the duo as two of the robbers and directed the police’s attention to the bus stop.

Therefore, I have one friend who thinks he may be dying and one who does not, along with me, who thinks he may be telling the truth, but feels as if he is lying.

Time will be the judge.

  1. JoannaOC permalink
    May 25, 2007 2:56 pm

    Hmmm, would it change things for you if it turned out that he really was dying, or would you still need to keep your distance? My mother used to say to me, “you’ll be sorry if your father dies and you haven’t talked to him for years” and my answer would be something like “I’ll be sorrier if I keep in touch with him because it always ends up with me feeling horrible.” So I made my peace with having said goodbye already. He’s still alive, and now, many years later, I’m able to call him maybe once a year just to see if he still IS alive, but I have learned to just say ‘Uh huh” at intervals for about ten minutes and then move on.

  2. Professor Zero permalink
    May 25, 2007 8:12 pm

    Good points, Joannaoc.

    If he’s giving no details, my bet is he is not dying. Of course, what do I know. I do think the blogger Colorado Bob is dying – he says so, refers briefly to his terminal illness in which the blog has helped to keep him company, and says good-by to the blogosphere in a dignified manner. I just hope he’s not all alone.

  3. E. K.(Kitty) Glendower permalink
    May 25, 2007 11:20 pm

    I do not think he is dying. I can write a book with all the history we have regarding his one-sided attention hogging. He always has a hook. I will admit my guilt in accepting that hook, but around 1995 I was through with indulging him, I certainly did not get anything out of the shenanigans. It sounds petty now that I look in hindsight but I remember the first extremely annoying incident. Perhaps not the first, but the first I began to notice. We all have vaccination scars on our left arm, it is an indicator of our age. Some people’s are more flat, further back, more centered what have you. His is raised somewhat like, mine is very flat to the point I have to find it. It is almost just a shadow of itself now. One weekend in 1985 several of us was having a Roman holiday because he and another one of schoolmates had just returned from Panama. Supposedly by the hair of their chinny-chin-chin. Something to do with paying off lawyers and crooked cops and drugs and being in the Army. Anyway after they were drunk, I was not, I was driving, he starts telling us a story about a man with a cigar in a bar and a contest and how each time something something something one of them had to take a cigar burn and that was the origin of that scar. Not remembering or caring that we all knew it was his vaccination scar. Like fools we did not confront we just laughed and encouraged the stories. I have not been tolerating the stories since 1995 when his brother killed himself and he wanted to rewrite what actually happened. Ever since he ups the drama. It is like damn grow up already. Not saying we have to be stuffy and boring, but enough with the lies. If he is not dying, I will hear from him around 2010 or maybe 2009, his pouting intervals from my ignoring him grows less as we grow older.

  4. Professor Zero permalink
    May 26, 2007 12:58 am

    Yeah. There are some good lines in the poem, though, like this:

    “and one for the one who will come without appointment”

  5. Chris permalink
    May 26, 2007 9:58 pm

    Your friend, by chance, isn’t James Frey, is it?

    To me it is sad that a “friendship” (not sure you actually used that word, but play along) could erode to the point that one party no longer can trust the other party even with something as serious as a possible terminal illness.

    On one hand, he may think DAMN HER for not caring. But on the other, it may be DAMN HIM for degrading the relationship to the point it is at.

    In an odd way, I feel sorrier for him if he is NOT dying because I don’t know how I could LIVE a life like that.

    Either way, my condolences in regards to your friend:(

  6. E. K.(Kitty) Glendower permalink
    June 2, 2007 9:51 am

    I feel sorry for him too…..

    Still no contact. I shall wait however, because I just cannot play the game anymore.

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