Tonight I read my father's will. It was sitting in the drawer of a desk in the kitchen, in a plain manilla envelope, neatly folded. Is there life after death? You bet. My father's life after his death is all written out on exactly one piece of paper in his smooth, flowing script, somewhere between the 'aforementioned's and the 'heretofore's. I managed to get all the way through to the end before the tear fell on it.
And then suddenly it hit me. Do people really think about dying thus? This man, my father, who has actually sat down and plotted out the dissolution of his life after his death, has he really thought about DYING, Roger? You know, the end? The big black? The nothing?
Every detail, set down with infinite care and accuracy, layed out in a sensible, fathomable structure. And sealed away, to wait patiently for the demise of its author. If only our lives could be so absolute.
Do you remember, one of the first times we met, we all got drunk together, you and me and Dave and Alan and Rich? It was my first time ever, and I collapsed into hysterics at the simplest joke as we sat around the gaming table playing 'Champions'. At one point you pointed a thumb at Alan sitting beside me and, seeing your offending digit waving hypnotically throgh the alcoholic fog in front of my face, I bit it. Everyone around the table collapsed in heaps of wracking laughter as you cradled your poor throbbing thumb, and I attempted to spit the foul taste out of my mouth.
Those times were always a big ego game between the four of you, Dave with his quiet, smug self confidence, Alan and Rich constantly warring with each other for social supremacy, and you with your scornful laugh and quick wit. I was the bottom rung, I guess, and everyone found it a little too easy to dump on me. Those were hard times for me, I suppose, as hard as any others, but you and Dave weren't all that cruel, really.
It's strange how little I actually remember of you now, Roger. It's like the memories are just slipping slowly away, one by one fading silently into the shadows and vanishing.
I remember you had a PET personal computer, an archaic fossilized hunk occupying one corner of your rec-room, just wasting space thought I, the proud owner of a Commodore 64. But you refused to get rid of it and buy something newer, even when you had the money. I guess it had some intense personal value to you, that stained and sorry little computer with its 32k memory and eaons old tape-drive. You refused to let it die, that decrepit old thing, you refused to abandon it, and I guess I eventually learned to respect you for that. There are some things, I discovered, that people will always hold onto, no matter how impractical they are. Like their lives.
My father turned sixty-two today Roger. He's just about ready to die, too. His wife has left him, his daughter is growing up far too quickly, his one son has just graduated from university and is dealing with the crisis of suddenly realizing that he will have to work eight hours a day for the rest of his life, and his other is a brooding, broken drunk, living life like a landlocked fish, gasping, gasping..
Soon my father's last will and testament will be taken from its drawer, from its plain manilla envelope, carefully unfolded, and read. I won't be surprised; I've already read the ending.
What frightens me Roger, is that this does not really frighten me. I have lived face to face with death for so long, kissing its sweet lips each and every day, that there is no longer much value in the caress for me.
Do people really think about HOW it's going to feel when they die? What does that last, ragged breath sound like in your own ears? What are the last broken thoughts that a person thinks as the room sways and the lights grow dim? I have thought about these things for a long, long time Roger, and it has long since ceased to frighten me.
Which is why I felt nothing, nothing at all, when Dave woke me up, groggy and hungover, to tell me about how they'd pulled your body from a rivr, three days after you'd dissapeared and several miles down stream from the lake you'd drowned in.
Of course, I felt sad, and sorry for Dave and your family and all, but personally I felt nothing. And I wonder of I ever will.
So, this is goodbye Roger. I will never get the chance to ask you how your thumb is doing, or whether or not you ever broke down and sold that old PET.
I didn't know you as well as I might have, but I think I could have considered you a friend, Roger.