Two words that mean something bad is coming down the pipe.
Tonight it came to me as I sat on the couch with my sister-in-law, enjoying a quiet night in. Just us two girls, plus the cats, plus the old dog; all of us snuggled in the living room watching movies and gathering together against the dark post-daylight-savings-time rainy evening. I spent the day doing nice stuff: shopping for food, walking the dog because my roommates are so busy right now; walking him right into a local shoe store, where I bought some expensive and stylish rain boots. My sister-in-law and I were doing the usual thing of half-watching the movie, half-checking our phones and various devices so we didn't miss a thing.
A message, short and sad: Rob is dead. Cancer. I know you weren't in touch but I thought you'd want to know...
Rob was my boss, years ago. He breezed into the bookstore where I worked, and he made working retail fabulous. "Life is a banquet," he'd quote from Auntie Mame, "and most poor suckers are starving to death." He was gay, and out, and proud. "Love you!" he'd proclaim loudly down the store phone to his long-time boyfriend, and he didn't care who heard. He could be a customer's best friend or worst nightmare, depending on who they were, what books they were interested in, and what kind of a day he was having. He reviewed an autobiography of Pamela Harriman by saying "she slept with all the best people." He was catty, bitchy, and incredibly kind and sensitive.
He smoked a gazillion cigarettes a day, always smelled like them. My memories of him are smoke-tinged. I can't imagine him talking without picturing him blowing smoke out of his mouth and nose. He was the manager of Blackberry Books, and I his assistant. Our "staff meetings" were more usually smoke-and-gossip sessions outside the store. Years later, when we became Facebook friends, I couldn't believe his transformation: little Rob, with his ever-present cigarettes and his nerdy physique, had transformed into a mid-life stud: muscular, handsome; posing shirtless in photographs with jeans saucily unbuttoned. I guess I'll never find out now what (or who) was behind this metamorphosis, but it never ceased to amuse me when I saw his pictures. Do you still smoke, Rob? I'd wonder to myself. He performed in a gay comedy troupe called Tops & Bottoms. I always meant to catch a performance but never got around to it. He wrote me an absolutely wonderful reference which I used for years; I wish I still had it. For a while, he was an important person in my life; a co-worker and a true friend.
Am I the only person who looks suspiciously over their shoulder when bad things start to happen? Trust me, I don't have the monstrous ego to think that this spate of deaths has anything to do with me, and yet... My bandmates and I met up last weekend to find that everyone had had a brush with death last week; death or illness had come too close to all of us and we shivered as we felt its icy breath.
I am healthy and happy; I have an exciting vacation booked with a dear friend, and a new man whose saucy, romantic texts can sometimes leave me breathless (not to mention his presence, which causes similar difficulties at times).
I don't want to die. I don't want my loved ones to die.
At the end of the day it's what most of us wish for; as the song says: Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go now.
I pray for more of what we all want: time. Time to laugh, to make love, to enjoy my friends and my life. No more deaths for a while, no more sadness. But I am getting older, and so I know that this is only the beginning.