Sunday, November 19, 2006


Photo 161

Me. In the hotel room. Right before I left for the memorial service.


Y. A photo he sent to me when we were preparing to meet one another.

I feel as if I've dropped a box of marbles on a hardwood floor. They're rolling everywhere. They are my memories of Y. I'm afraid I won't be able to gather them all up, that some will never be found again. Maybe years later, when someone is renovating the house, they'll find a single cat's eye underneath a floorboard and someone will wonder at its significance.
Note from my notebook as I've tried to write down what is happening to me right now.
This is the letter I sent to his friends and family after he died.

Y's last day

Dear Friends of Y,

I want to tell you about November 10, 2006, about the hours that I was with Y. I know that Yves was a private man; he and I talked about that, but I believe he would be okay with my talking about such personal matters with his friends. I think he would like for you to know that on November 10, he was a very, very happy man, and that except for the last five-to-ten minutes of consciousness, he was in no pain.

I ask you to indulge me for writing in English. I do speak and understand French, but there would be no way that I could tell you all of these things in a language other than my native one.

Y and I met on-line. The online personals. Both of us felt rather dorky about meeting this way, but in this modern world, sometimes, it's the only way to reach across the miles and find someone interesting. I had been out on internet dates before. Some had been good, some had been awful. Y had never posted online before. The weekend of November 3, we made contact. First, at the site, and then very quickly, through our private e-mail accounts. Instantly, there was a connection. And Y called me on the telephone when we had been in contact for less than 24 hours. From then on, we talked on the phone a lot, e-mailed a lot, exchanging bits of information about our lives and our families and what we wanted.

I found myself impatient to meet him, and I "dared" him to meet me Friday. I had the day off work, and I offered to drive up to Montreal to meet him. He agreed. And both of us were very nervous. We kept talking about our "butterflies," how we were taking such a chance to meet a total stranger and hope that there would be chemistry. We had agreed that I would most likely sleep in the guest bedroom, although there was a lot of flirtation back and forth about whatever possibilities might occur. We had seen photos of one another, and there was already a feeling that we were going to be attracted to one another.

I stopped by my work to pick up my reading glasses and called Y about 9:15 to let him know I was on my way. At about 1:15 pm, he called me to ask where I was. I pulled up in front of his apartment building about 2:30 I think. He came out to my car, helped me in with my bags. We were both happy to meet one another. As soon as I arrived, I walked over to his refrigerator and looked inside. He was puzzled, and I said,
"My girlfriend's a little worried about me coming up here without meeting you first." So I made him listen as I called my friend and said to her, "Well, I've checked. There are no body parts or decapitated heads in the refrigerator."
And Y said, grinning, "You better check the freezer." And we laughed.

We sat down on his couch, began to talk, and he said that we should go to the market to get a few things because there was nothing to eat in the house. And so we had this plan to go run all these errands, and I went into the bathroom. I came out, and simultaneously, we reached for each other and kissed. "Made out" as Y said. And at one point, I asked him, "Do you think we're going too fast?" And he said, "Yes, but I don't want to stop."
And we made love all afternoon. It got dark, and we were laughing and touching and Y just kept telling me how lucky he was, how amazing this was, this thing that we could feel happening between us. And he said a lot of personal things to me that meant a great deal to me, lover's talk.
Anyway. It got dark, and we agreed that it was time to go to the market and get some food. We took a shower together, and then we set out to go into the village. We were going to go buy some food to bring back and cook, but both of us acknowledged that we were starving, and Y decided we would go to this restaurant he knew. So, we turned the corner, and Y just lit up because there, in front of us, were H and M. M got out of her stroller, and she showed her daddy her banana popsicle, and I heard him tell her that he would come get her from daycare and spend time with her, and she told him about the banana popsicle, and they hugged and kissed.
Then we walked on, and he was grinning, and he said that seeing his daughter had made the day even more perfect because she was everything to him. He said that when he thought of her, he could think of nothing else.
And he stopped at a little store and bought some cigarettes and he and the shop clerk talked about M and her banana popsicle. And then we went to the restaurant.
We were very silly at the restaurant, making jokes, and flirting, and having a good time. And Y said, "I think I've won the lottery." And he talked about how happy he was that this date had turned out to be so perfect.
We talked about all the things we needed to buy at the market, but Y had a little headache, so we decided we would go shopping the next day.
So we walked home, and we ran into Y's friend and her daughter, and we walked with them until we got to the apartment building.
We went into the apartment, and I told Y to lie down after he had taken some aspirin for his headache. I rubbed his scalp, and his neck, and shoulders and back, and he talked about how much it meant to him to be touched. And we talked about how amazing this all was, and then, again, we made love.
And he kept saying, "I've won the lottery." And "I know I'm repeating myself, but I've won the lottery." And we were making jokes about all the ways we could find to get ourselves arrested that weekend. And he was going to make pancakes and fruit and yogurt for me for breakfast. And coffee. Definitely coffee, because we both loved coffee.
At about 9 pm, Y started apologizing because his headache hurt and he wanted to sleep for a while. So I curled up next to him and I got out a book of poetry that I had brought and read to him while he lay there.
The poems are all by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, and the first one I picked to read to him because I knew it would make him laugh.

A Dog After Love

After you left me
I had a bloodhound sniff at
my chest and my belly. Let it fill its nostrils
and set out to find you.

I hope it will find you and rip
your lover's balls to shreds and bite off his cock-
or at least
bring me one of your stockings between its teeth.

And we did laugh at the absurdity of the poem, the jealousy and such.

I was flipping through the book, and the next poem I read was completely random:

In a Leap Year
In a leap year the date of your death gets closer
to the date of your birth,
or is it farther away?
The grapes are aching,
their juice thick and heavy, a kind of sweet semen.

And I'm like a man who in the daytime passes
the places he's dreamed about at night.
An unexpected scent brings back
what long years of silence
have made me forget. Acacia blossoms
in the first rains, and sand dunes
buried years ago under the houses.

Now all I know how to do
is to grow dark in the evening. I'm happy
with what I've got. And all I wish to say is
my  name and address, and perhaps my father's name,
like a prisoner of war
who, according to the Geneva Convention,
is not required to say a single word more.

And then I said I wanted to read to him Amichai's most famous poem. And I told him the story of how when Yitzak Rabin and Yasser Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize, this was the poem that Rabin read. I wanted to read it to Y because I knew he had children. It was only later that I realized what was contained in the poem.

God Has Pity on Kindergarten Children

God has pity on kindergarten children.
He has less pity on school children.
And on grownups he has no pity at all,
he leaves them alone,
and sometimes they must crawl on all fours
in the burning sand
to reach the first-aid station
covered with blood.

But perhaps he will watch over true lovers
and have mercy on them and shelter them
like a tree over the old man
sleeping on a public bench.

Perhaps we too will give them
the last rare coins of compassion
that Mother handed down to us,
so that their happiness will protect us
now and in other days.

Y was tired, and he closed his eyes. I read a novel for a little while. I have chronic insomnia, so I took my sleeping pill and I fell asleep.

About an hour later, Y woke me up. He got out of the bed, and he said "My headache is killing me. I'm going to take some tylenol." And I listened as he went in the bathroom. I heard a noise, and and I heard him turn on the water to get a drink, but the water was running really hard. So I got up to see what was going on. Y was sitting on the floor, his back against the wall, and the pills were spilled on the floor. He said, "Please help me take the pills." So I got them and gave them to him and a glass of water. I grabbed a washcloth and soaked it in cold water and gave it to him to put on his forehead. I knelt down beside him and he said, "Help me back to bed." So I tried to help him stand up, but he fell against me and I fell against the vanity and felt myself bruise. He was rubbing his arm, and I said to him, "We should call the doctor." And he said, "No. I'm just a little dizzy. Just let me sit here for a minute and then we'll try again."

I got this idea. I went into the bedroom to grab the duvet, and I came back and said to Y: "Crawl on to this blanket and I'll pull you into the bedroom. We'll put you back to bed." And he tried to move forward. At that point, I said, "I'm calling 911" and I called the number.

Y pitched forward, putting his head down on the blanket. His eyes fluttered closed, and I wrapped the blanket around him. He was breathing very hard, and he was unconscious. He could not hear me. But I kept rubbing his back and sitting with him, waiting for the ambulance. He was shaking. But he was in no pain. When the EMTs arrived, they could get no response from him. I believe he was already on his way to somewhere else.

They worked on him for a few minutes, and then they took him to the hospital. I went in my car. I waited in the waiting room. Two doctors asked me to describe everything that had happened before Y collapsed and I told them. I asked if I could see him. They would not let me, and they told me to go home and they had a lot of tests to do and they would call me.

So I went back to Y's apartment and I lay on his bed. I slept a little, and then the phone rang and they told me the bad news that he had had a massive brain bleed. They told me they didn't know how to contact his family, but I remembered that Y's cell phone was on the kitchen table, so I went and got it. I remembered that when we ran into M and H, that Y had told me the name "H" and I looked for that in his phone list. I gave them the phone number. They told me they were going to take Y to another hospital.

You know the rest. H called me at 7, and I went to the hospital to say goodbye.

I want you all to know that Y did not suffer. He had a headache, but I do not think that even when he was feeling dizzy that he knew he was dying. He was so insistent that he did not need a doctor when I first said it. And he was not alone as he sank into unconsciousness. I was there with him. He knew he was being cared for.

I have done so much crying since Y died. There are so many things to be sad about, including my own sense that I had found this man with whom there seemed to be this bright future, and then it was snatched from me, from us.

But I am so grateful that I got to be there for Y. It has struck me repeatedly, all the strange things that happened. Why did his brain bleed happen when I was there? Why did we change direction and then run into H and M? Why was it so intense between us? Why did Yinsist on telling me, over and over again, how happy he was?

I have been shattered by this experience. I feel as if I got to be a part of something so much greater than myself, that I got to be present for Y and take care of him in his last conscious moments. That I got to help him to have such a happy day.

Part of me is so angry. Angry that he leaves behind Z and M who still need him. Angry that he will not see them grow up. Angry that I got to have just a few hours of Y before he left. I am not a religious person, but if I meet God someday, I will kick him in the shins. I think Y would approve.

So that's what I wrote to his family. His family has been insisting that I was the angel in all of this, and they asked me to be at the memorial service. Y had been alone for two years before he met me.

I was fussed over at the memorial service, and I was asked to tell the story of his last day. Which I did. And at some point, I'll be able to write about what I said and how I let all those people know that Y had not suffered, how he had given me the gift.

I was okay at the memorial service. Before I spoke, his friends, who were all musicians, took turns singing various songs in French and English. I was sitting, and one of his friends got up and said, "Y was not alone on his last day. He was with an angel, and she is right here now with us." And then she started playing this song, by Sarah Maclachlan, and I fell apart.

Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay
There's always one reason
To feel not good enough
And it's hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
Oh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins
Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight

In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there

So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There's vultures and thieves at your back
And the storm keeps on twisting
You keep on building the lie
That you make up for all that you lack
It don't make no difference
Escaping one last time
It's easier to believe in this sweet madness oh
This glorious sadness that brings me to my knees

In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here

So, I've been listening to that song. But I've also been listening to this song, by Dar Williams, especially this part:

After All

But now I'm sleeping fine
Sometimes the truth is like a second chance
I am the daughter of a great romance
And they are the children of the war

Well the sun rose with so many colors
It nearly broke my heart
And worked me over like a work of art
And I was a part of all that

So go ahead, push your luck
Say what it is you've got to say to me
We will push on into that mystery
And it'll push right back
And there are worse things than that

'Cause for every price
And every penance that I could think of
It's better to have fallen in love
Than never to have fallen at all

'Cause when you live in a world
Well it gets in to who you thought you'd be
And now I laugh at how the world changed me
I think life chose me after all

This is the first time I've tried to write about this. There is so much more left to say. I think there is a book in here somewhere, but right now, I'm the blank page.

I want you all to know that your kindness to me sustains me.

I miss him so much.

No comments: