Requiem For An Acquaintance
There is a guy name Paul. I played poker with Paul just about every Monday night for the last two years. Paul is a nice guy. Paul is a young, healthy man. Paul is fortyish and plays very crafty poker and enjoys bluffing, and is a gentleman when called on his bluffs, and at all other times. Paul takes a long time to make decisions and his mind is agile and fierce and if you're sitting across from him at the poker table and you are the subject of his gaze, it is a fearful stare and believe me Paul can make you squirm. Paul is a gifted poker player and a very nice man, and one who makes his living photographing poker players and running camera for the World Poker Tour. Paul is loved by many and liked by even more.
Paul played in a tournament earlier this week and went home complaining of stomach pains. He thought perhaps he contracted food poisoning from bad pizza or whatever he ate at the tournament and went so far as to call another participant to see if he too felt ill. The other person did not. Paul replied on his evite for our weekly Monday night game that he was too sick to play that week. We thought nothing of it.
On Tuesday he went to the hospital and sat in the emergency room for seven hours and was seen and sent home. He returned later that night and sat for another seven hours. During his unimaginably long wait, his appendix ruptured. Such a small thing. Such an insignificant, tiny, sitcom thing. His appendix. Stupid, unnecessary appendix. What a cliché organ to be inflamed. Finally, he was seen. But too late. After two surgeries, Paul died.
In truth, I cannot say that Paul was my friend. I might say he was my friend if I ran into him in, say, Greece while on vacation and we saw each other at the airport and in the refracted light of the bizarre, unexpected encounter in a distant, strange land I might say, "That was my friend Paul! Unbelievable to run into him here in Crete!" But no, Paul is not my friend. He was an acquaintance. His number was not in my cell phone. I simply saw him every week and admired his play and enjoyed his company. His loss is not one that fills me with honest, true, full, blinding grief. That providence is saved for his girlfriend, who is seven months pregnant with his child, and his family, and his true friends, like my friend Becky. No, real grief is the providence of those who worked with him day in and day out and who mourn his sudden, horrific, cruel, sick, unimaginable death like a razor slash to the face. I simply reel in the loss and the dull ache of this wonderful life we all share that can turn in such amazingly unexpected, awesome, ridiculously tragic seconds like the sound of an orchestra strike, an earthquake at 4am while your cats drape themselves across your bed, snoring.
I do weep for my acquaintance Paul. I have no right to the grief and I don't want it. I really don't. But I weep for him nonetheless. Real tears. For him. Not for my dead father or anyone else who has passed. For him. For Paul. Hurt more acute than I have earned.
Goodbye, my friend. I am so sorry.