SATURDAY NIGHT BONUS CONTENT FROM THE UPCOMING RELEASE THE MOURNING AFTER
It was years before your cancer diagnosis, years before your wife answered the phone crying.
“I found the poem you wrote about him folded neatly in his wallet.”
Years before my life without you, we were leaving the supermarket we worked for, heading out to look for drinks, to meet women, when you spotted one staggering to her knees outside the adjacent drug store.
“What’s with her?” you asked, pointing in her direction. She started projectile vomiting onto the pavement as soon as I started to look.
“Help me, please,” she gasped between heaves.
My hypochondria repelled me back, I covered my nose and my mouth with my sleave, you immediately ran to help her.
“Oh my God! Jesus! Are you ok?” In a few minutes you discerned that she had the flu, that she badly needed meds, and that her boyfriend had refused to walk to the store to get them.
“Please, don’t call an ambulance,” she begged us, “a trip to the hospital will bankrupt us.” The boyfriend was unemployed. She was a waitress. Her vomiting had calmed down. You took off your button down shirt and used it to clean her face. You helped her roll over and sit on the curb as you handed me your keys.
“Go get my car,” you said to me, then turned to her and said, “don’t worry, Miss, we’ll get you home.”
I hesitated. “Dude, I don’t know.” And you lost your temper with me.
“I said get the fucking car! Now!”
We drove her home slowly, avoiding the bumps, her head hanging out the back window. She just kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
You replied, “You’re welcome. Now, just keep breathing. The fresh air will make you feel better.”
“Ok,” she sighed. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
In five minutes she was gone, and we went back to the supermarket to buy supplies, to disinfect your car, to hopefully remove the lingering stench of her vomit, and to get back to looking for drinks, to meeting women.
“Ugh! Some Saturday night!” I complained, wiping Lysol drenched chunks from your back seat with some no frills paper towels.
“Dude!” you snapped again, this time stern in a way only a man in his 30s can be with an early 20-something kid.
“That could’ve been my future wife, or your mother,” you said, “and I can only hope to God if that kinda shit ever happens to one of them some people like us will come along and help.”
Then you shut up, your point made. And I shut up, because I got it. And we finished cleaning the car. And we found the drinks, but we met no women. And neither of us had the flu the next morning.
In all my years of Buddhist training, of Higher Education, you were my greatest teacher of empathy, of compassion, of the point to living in a society—all that wisdom gained on some random Saturday night in the early 90s, from a butcher who kicked himself until the day he died for never graduating from high school.