Sometimes I Google someone just to make sure they’re still alive. But I’ve reached the age when the odds are starting to stack in Death’s favor, when I can look across the table at him and almost see a smile beneath the hood as he looks down at the cards Fate has dealt. Linsner’s redheaded goddess of birth and rebirth sits beside me, three tears slipping down her apple cheek, and she pats my hand. "Everything that has a beginning," she says, before I get up and walk away.
A couple of years ago, I did a search for a former coworker of mine; let’s call her C. We’d last seen each other around 2002, when the startup we were working for was gobbled up by a larger company and slowly disassembled. But we’d kept in touch a bit here and there, through email and then through social networks. We hadn’t been best friends or anything, but we were both writers, we both got married around the same time, and she, being older by a few years (and loads wiser), had become a little like a big sister figure.
When I had no clue what to do about getting my fiancée a wedding present, and no idea where the money would come from, C helped organize a collection at the office and walked me down to a jeweler on Tremont, just beyond the Public Garden, and helped me pick out a pair of earrings. Stef, my wife, doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry, but she does bust out those diamond studs every once in a while, and they remind me of something C said to me when I was hemming and hawing about whether or not to buy them. “She may not wear them much,” she said. “But when she wants to wear something like that, she’ll be glad to have them.”
C had two kids in the years after we first lost our jobs and then lost touch. She moved to Rhode Island with the kids and her husband and it sounds like she did her best to cope with the illness that she coped with so well during the time that we knew each other that I pretty much forgot she had it.
But then, she died.
I cried when I read the obituary that Google served up as its Top Result. She was so young, I thought to myself, and she had the two kids. Those poor kids, I thought.
But the truth is that we are, none of us, all that young anymore. And what does age matter anyway? Death isn’t picky. He likes ’em young, too.
I’ve been walking around the streets that C and I used to walk, on our way to the commuter train that carried us home back in the day. I’m visiting the internship sites of students not much younger than I was back then, students coping now with the same workplace struggles that I used to vent about to my old friend. And I’m struggling to communicate to them some message about the epiphany I’m having, or that I’m close to having. Something about aging or cherishing the moment or whatever.
But I’m not sure what to say. I try to think of what she would have said, of what she must have said to me when I presented some similar problem all those years ago. She was so good at finding those few words I needed to hear to get through the next day, and the one after that.
I’m on the subway right now, about to pull into the Park Street station, and I’m tempted to run above ground when I get there, to chase her ghost to the Common, the place where we met up or walked through so often, and ask her what to do.
But in my heart, I already know what she’d say: “Get back to the table and stop letting the Reaper win every hand you play. You know this game. You know what it takes to stay in it. So, stay in it. And teach the rest of them to do the same. It’s as simple as that.”
Yes, it’s as simple as that.