It was a bad day. I’ve had a few recently. Often enough to know that they don’t get better halfway through; only progressively worse. After lunch, I should have packed up and gone home to bed. I had done that before and it had worked; no one could argue against the logic. The less I do, the less that can go wrong. Why tempt fate by pressing on regardless, when the situation was beyond saving.
A phone call increased my workload; I should have switched it off earlier. The error led to a twenty-mile journey in the opposite direction and another so-called ten-minute job, that turned into four hours. I’ve been doing this work since I left school and I’ve never been able to do a job in ten minutes.
I loaded up in the rain; it had been constant all day and getting worse. I needed coffee and dry clothes, but the coffee spilt and the clothes got wetter. The cup holders on these vehicles are the wrong size for Tim Hortons, American trucks, designed for American cups. Why can’t they make them bigger? Big enough to fit a coffee cup would be good; is this another way of saving money, what were they thinking?
I was already uptight and irritable when I pulled onto the world’s biggest parking lot, sealing my fate. You would think that eight lanes in each direction would be sufficient to take the weight of this city. It’s not as if everybody drives or leaves work at the same time. There’s a good transit system; subway, buses, streetcars, and trains, and it’s nearly eight o’clock, but nothing is moving!
Sixteen lanes of stationary traffic for as far as the eye can see is a harrowing site and my foul mood takes another turn for the worse. These people don’t understand my situation, if they did then they would get out of my way and allow me to pass so that I can get home and rest. I should be doing that; the doctor told me. Instead, I’m stressed, hungry, tired, and wet, and now I’m helping to set new records of congestion on the four-oh-one.
If I die; it’s all your fault! Yeah, you mister suited and booted in the Mercedes next to me. A real estate agent if ever I had seen one. No wonder properties are doubling in price around here; someone has to pay for that car! Who needs a car that big anyway, to carry a stinking briefcase? When the traffic edges forward, I try to keep the nose of my trusty Dodge truck in front of his overpowered glamour car, and I’m doing okay as we speed up to almost a crawl.
I get some satisfaction by leaving him behind, but it’s hardly the brickyard and it was only because my lane was moving quicker. I could have walked and still beaten him, but it didn’t stop me from gloating at his misfortune. See you later sucker! Then to press home my advantage and keep him behind me, I swung into a sudden gap created by a daydreamer, seizing my opportunity with skilful precision. Lewis Hamilton couldn’t have done it any better. Later, as the traffic eases, and we approach highway speeds, he shoots past me on the outside, leaving me for dead, but it doesn’t matter anymore, I won when it counted.
It was late when I got home and the house was empty and cold. I should’ve stayed on the four-oh-one, at least I wasn’t alone. After a shower and some food, there’s nothing left of the day, but perhaps that’s a good thing. I don’t want anything else to go wrong if that was even possible.
I’m at my desk trying to relax; I should have been doing this all day, but my doctor won’t pay my mortgage, so I have no choice. I have to work to live; but to live, I have to rest. It’s a difficult choice, but one that is made easier by my bank statements. I haven’t felt any discomfort for a few days. I’ll live; if only to annoy others. I may even get around to finishing my story. A few weeks ago that had seemed improbable.
Writing was one of the few activities which the doctor had encouraged and it was easy to see why. I use it as an escape route to a more interesting time, where I am able to re-write my own history. It’s therapeutic, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distance myself from the main character. There are several projects that I’ve started and shelved and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to write anything else. It was too late that night and I were barely able to stay awake, but I logged in, if only to satisfy my addiction and check on the progress of my latest chapter.
Gay Authors has become another well-worn escape route and one that I am using with increasing regularity. I’ve even made a few friends. Cyber friends, I suppose, because none of them actually know me. We never talk, but type messages and express our feelings with funny little emoticons. They know me simply as Dodger and their only visual reference is a cartoon drawing of ‘The Fonze’ from ‘Happy Days’. The television character is a poor representation of the real me. It’s the perfect disguise and perhaps that’s why I chose it.
It was close to midnight when I sat back yawning. My bed was calling me, but I was distracted by a familiar avatar on the page. It had been a while since I had seen anything posted by Skinnydragon and he hadn’t reviewed in a couple of months. Perhaps this was his long-awaited explanation to everyone and my mood was lifted. I knew that he would come back, he enjoyed the site, he had unfinished work and was a prolific poster and reviewer. There had to be a good reason for his recent absence and when I saw the title of his blog, it made sense.
Skinny’s sorry. Yeah, whatever buddy; let’s see what you’ve been up to? Travelling maybe, busy at work, moving house…illness wasn’t on my list and certainly not that illness.
It was soon clear that this was no ordinary blog, and the gravity of his statement hit me at the end of the first paragraph. I read on until the end, before reading it again much slower, and then once more in tears. I had read every word of every chapter that Skinnydragon had posted on GA, but his final paragraphs were perhaps the most powerful that I had read from any author. It was obvious to me that those words were laced with pain particularly at the end where there were mistakes so untypical of his work.
Dying wasn’t even a probable, but when I noticed the date, it became a certainty. Nearly four months had passed since that blog had been posted. I never knew about it, and had never bothered to find out why my friend had been absent for so long, although I did have a few problems of my own.
He was my first friend on the site and in the early days, we had spoken quite a bit via comments and messages. He had followed my story from the beginning, posting regular reviews and when I needed his advice, he was quick to respond and thorough in his replies. He was a good guy and friends of everyone on the site. It was easy to see when reading the many tributes left on his blog. No longer tired; I stayed awake until the early hours reading and re-reading every one, but beneath my sadness was a constant reminder of what could have been.
‘There but for the grace of God go I’, was something that my mother used to say, and after reading about my friend, I’ve been using those words a lot myself.
It was February 26 when I was admitted to the hospital with severe chest pains. It was a Sunday and I had been feeling ill for most of the weekend. That evening the pain became unbearable, I was short of breath and collapsed. I was fortunate that I wasn’t alone. Most nights I would have been. My friend got me to the hospital, the doctors saved my life and I’m still here!
I haven’t seen the light and I’m not going to start preaching to people or telling you how to live your lives, but I will admit that I was very scared and the initial assessments that I received gave me good reason to be.
The days that followed were dark and with little or no desire to write, I focused on more important and seemingly urgent requirements. I gave instructions to the family for funeral arrangements, prepared a will, and even wrote letters to friends. I never realised how exhausting dying could be, but when I read Skinnydragon’s blog I was able to feel some of his pain. I hope that he had good people around him, and I also hope that his end came quickly, leaving him as little time as possible to dwell on his fate.
I thought I was too young for heart problems; I have a reasonable diet and I’m not exactly overweight, but no one knows what lies in wait for them. While most of us can hazard a guess as to where we will be in five years’ time, we are unlikely to even consider the possibility that we may not be around at all.
I was lucky, within a week my breathing improved and the chest pains had disappeared. I spent the first two weeks of March, in cardiology being hooked up to machines that I was unable to even pronounce. I have no idea what all of this would have cost me without a health card, but I was at least able to see where some of my hard-earned taxes had gone and for once I didn’t begrudge them a penny. The Canadian health service doesn’t suck!
I asked a lot of questions and learnt a lot about the human heart and how complex and resilient it is. I bet that most people are unaware that it can often repair itself to overcome minor defects and there is a good possibility that this is what is happening in my case.
On Friday, six weeks after my collapse, I was delighted to receive a clean bill of health. My heart is not perfect, but it is in a reasonable condition and contrary to the initial assessments there is no longer any need for surgery. I will need to change my life a little, but I am happy that I still have one to change. Others, as we know, have not been so fortunate.
In loving memory of our good friend—Skinnydragon. May you rest in peace, my friend.