In the past weeks I learned that two of my closest friends had died. One I met in high school and then we shared a friendship in college. After that, we saw each other a few times, and as happens often with men, we lost track of each other's lives. In recent years, however, thanks to digital media and, yes, regular mail -- turns out that a friend in common had become a postmaster and was good at tracking people through that very old medium -- we reconnected, emailed feverishly, shared memories and saw each other a few times. More recently, he was not responding to emails, though I still saw his posts on Facebook. Then a niece posted that he had died.
The other friend I met in New York when I lived there in the '80s. We shared our nationality and a love of its popular music, he being a more knowledgeable and sophisticated aficionado. That giddy decade we sailed through together until he moved, first to Miami, where we still saw each other frequently, and later to Puerto Rico, where his life was taking turns I had difficulty following, and then there was silence. I tried looking him up online and found nothing. A few days ago, replying to my query about his whereabouts, someone whose family had been close to him told me he had died some time ago.
These are not the only friends who are gone, just the most recent. As with the loss of family members -- I have no elders left -- it is the simple consequence of the fact that I'm old. I knew this would happen. You lose friends and then one day you are the one who is lost. Because I belong to a generation, loosely speaking, that relished youth to the point of silliness -- geezer rock bands -- and because life expectancy has been stretched, it feels surprising, no, wrong, to be dying. It's even more surprising that words fail me here. What I, who have cultivated the guilty pleasure of the essayistic obit, have to say about these two deaths is what I just did. No more.
Time moves too fast. Not as it hurtles me to the grave, but as it doesn't allow me to digest these episodes of loss. Same for episodes of love. I have a manuscript posted on this website full of erotic memories, but for the most part they are from my youth. The ones that aren't, except for a phrase here and there, are the ones that only took place in my imagination. It seems I need a lot of time to turn loss and love into writing. I would like for it not to be so. It would be purging, therapeutic. But that's not the way the machinery is engaged. How songwriters can have a big emotional experience and come up with a song beats me.
So I'm left with my feelings, my longings and my fears. Give me twenty more years and the healing can begin. By then, of course, the episodes will have piled up like a big highway wreck. Step on the gas, swerve deftly, get me out of here. There's an exit ahead.