the spare bedroom blog
The Moving Finger writes; and having writ, Moves onThu, January 8, 2009 - 8:06 AM
But what do you do when the person responsible for changing your life forever has died, and you didn't have a chance to say goodbye?
Well let me tell you something about defining life moments: They are riddled with regret.
A decade ago I went to a staging of Antigone with my dear and intimate friend thirty years my senior, the brilliant, poetic, cultured, well traveled, and highly esteemed ethno-biologist Dr. David from London, by way of Australia. I haven't really allowed myself to think about our friendship and all of it's implications for years, the only thing I've thought about with any major intensity was how he made the introductions that day at Antigone to the people who I would leave with and travel the country with for the next three years, and how that "on the road" experience has been the thing that's made me who I am more than anything else has.
Jessica knocked on David's door...David was conversational and polite, he bought some books from her and told her our plans for Antigone that weekend. Jessica and especially her boyfriend Abel loved Greek Tragedy. David invited them to go with us to an afternoon production and afterward we discovered that Abel had the same penchant for dark beers as we did, and we ended up wasted on a Sunday afternoon... and a week later I put my whole house into storage, packed a suitcase, quit my job, and jumped in a van with them and about fifty other people in vans, and didn't look back...so whenever I start to tell THAT story in media res it ALWAYS feels like it should have a prologue, one that tells the story of how this British professor walks into a bar one day and orders a glass of chardonnay in the middle of the afternoon with his egg salad sandwich and then orders another glass, and finishes it fast because he has to get to class to teach across the street.
After that first day he came in regularly. He was charming with his accent, his culture, his stories of living in all these crazy places where he would do his research...(the study of how plants in an environment directly impact the people in the environment) and how village chiefs would put virgins in his hut as welcoming gifts...we were fast friends, David and I. Sometimes he brought me and the bartender, Sharon, roses, a dozen, a piece, red. My favorite. My boyfriend would get so jealous. I would tell him that everyone gets jealous of roses. Everyone.
So David and I would close the bar down the street a couple times a week, falling off our chairs drinking Bush mills and Guinness, stumble through the alleyways discussing the bigger problems of the world, or him just telling me story after story. I love stories and he told the best ones. He had been everywhere in the world, lived everywhere, seen everything, done everything...his curriculum vitae was fifty pages thick and counting and I admired him, I wanted to grow up and be just like him, traveled, educated, published, esteemed, and unique.
I was a twenty-one year old cocktail waitress, I could hang out with whoever I wanted to and I wasn't in school. And it wasn't about sex, although I wasn't a naive twenty-one, so I wasn't unaware of his attraction to me but the kind of attraction that he had for me was an innocent fascination, the same one I had for him. He was attracted to my charm, my ideology, my life, it's promise. And I was attracted to his breadth and his depth, of all he had accomplished, and how at ease he was with the most beautiful things in the world, art and tapestry, and oriental rugs, and literature and culture...
He made me my first martini, took me to my first symphony, my first opera, my first Shakespeare. He wasn't the first person to tell me how smart I was, but he was the first person who said it who I believed.
On the day I left he had tears in his eyes and he gave me a gold embossed copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The minute I learned of his death this morning I went and found the decade old copy, now battered from years and years of carrying it around. I opened it and out fluttered a tiny square piece of paper, typed...
The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
and then in his own writing
To Alea, all my love,
Years later I found out from Sharon that he had been rather devastated at my hasty departure and blamed himself for introducing me to Jessica and Abel. A few months ago one of his colleagues, my boss actually, and another man, the owner of the bar that David and I would go to, who I now work with, and used to work for, ... well we got to talking, and David came up in conversation...and then a few months prior to that another friend had emailed me and told me that Dr. Dave heard I was back in town and wanted to see me. I emailed David and never heard back from him, I didn't know it was because he was sick. No one told me that. Maybe he didn't want me to know.
All I know is I never saw him again. And now he's gone.
And I don't know if I can face that casket.
And I don't know if I can't.
image: Christchurch Botanical Garden fountain sculpture. 'Regret' created by Sam Mahon, photo by James Blackman.
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((hugs))i can't add anything else that doesn't sound trite, cliche and stupid.
thank you for sharing this story. your story. it's a beautiful testimonial.
yes, a wonderful story ... maybe like one of his?
Interesting that the sculpture is titled "Regret" because I was thinking, looking ahead, would you regret NOT facing his casket? Can't go back on that one.
Love you so much, woman. Lots of hugs and a shoulder to cry on.
Go, say goodbye. I believe any regrets you might have in the future are more likely to be associated with not going.
It's alll in ze inscription.Much fluff to aryooo mein deer. Ze doctor sounds lyke ze man who would understand. Donut fret.
Go. Wish him happy trails. He'll know.
Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it. ~ The Philosophy of Despair
A wonderful book always deserves to be read in full to the very end. One chapter closes, another opens...
Never regret something that once made you smile, it's worth going to say good bye.
i think you've honored him well...........you will honor him further by attended the celebration of his life with his friends. he IS still through that connective fiber that is love and remembrance.
thanks for sharing yourself here.
you have an easy and sincere voice
|A great story , He seems to have been of great influence on many.You are very lucky to have had such a friend.People of quality are so rare and if one leaves it's only right to honor them and say good bye.|