When I woke up, I had the feeling that I had not slept soundly. On the phone, there were 19 missed calls, all from one number. They had started at 3 o'clock in the morning. Were I younger, I would have concluded I was getting drunk-dialed. But I'm not younger, so instead, fear seized me, as I assumed something horrible had happened.
I thought it must be a death. A stillbirth, a complication. But as the fog of drowsiness cleared out of my head, I started to doubt myself. With death, there is tragedy and sadness, sometimes inconsolable sadness. But so little to discuss, in some ways. It is so final.
Opening my laptop, I found three emails, the first starting at 3 a.m, begging for a phone call. A wave of shame swept over me that I had slept through all these calls. It started to dawn on me that something irreversible had happened. I didn't even want to anymore, but I steeled myself to the news about to arrive and called.
He had two rules- don't say "I can't believe it" or "I would never have thought that this would happen to you." Fine, simple instructions.
I wanted to tell him to say it quickly, like pulling a bandage off the skin. Say it fast, it will hurt less. But I was wrong. Whatever the speed, the pace, nothing was going to change how horrible the news was. In my head, I was thinking I can't believe it and I would never have thought that this would happen to you. But I held my tongue. It wasn't a death, but wasn't it really? It was the death of everything he believed in and built his life around, everything that gave him his unswerving assuredness and ambition.
He was paralyzed. We talked for two hours, but in circles. Waves of realization kept crashing down on him, toppling him over. He, usually the first to sit me down and analyze a problem with precision and logic, could not even get his hands around the magnitude of what was facing him. What he wanted was for none of it to be true. Beyond that, he did not know what to want.
He did not know what to want anymore. He was left to choose between two equally distasteful paths and none of them led to a time where this ceased to be reality.
I know this did not happen to me. I know I didn't have much to say to him, didn't have a magical solution to transform his life back to the idyllic haven it had once been. A part of me thinks I was lying when I told him he would be okay. I am hardly okay and it did not happen to me. It occurs to me that I have watched some things fall apart in my lifetime, and every time, it shakes my foundations too. I believe in the people around me. I believe they have made better choices than I have. I look up to them, I suppose. So when something like this happens, it shakes my faith too. Things suddenly felt so dark when I put down the phone on such a sunny day. I can't imagine the sort of permanent midnight he is now inhabiting.