I don’t think January likes me very much, and I’m not sure why. It takes from me with methodical precision, at least it seems that way, and that’s why I decided to boycott any blog entries until its heartless page was finally turned on my wall calendar. Believe me when I tell you that I stood watching the clock until it hit midnight. Once that bell rang, the year’s first born was cast into the cold and February welcomed with open arms like a POW greeting that first, tall, green liberator walking through the barbwire. And I’ll do the same thing every year until I get some answers.
Let me explain further, and I promise to make this brief. I’m not one to cry on a reader’s shoulder, but I feel you all deserve a few more details.
One bitterly cold January night back in 2005–it was the 8th, a Thursday–I was enjoying a phone conversation with my longtime friend and music writing partner, Danny. He told me he was going out and wanted to first confirm our getting together the following day for a writing session. I told him I was looking forward to it, and after a few jokes about freezing his nuts off, we hung up. Early that morning, Friday, January 9th, he was killed in a car accident. He was 39.
Suffice it to say, I was completely devastated. Danny and I were like brothers, but better. We’d known each other since our early teens and bonded over anything cool–and for an expert in that area, you need look no further than he. We drove across the country listening to the new Radiohead record, read and discussed Kerouac together, wrote dozens of songs and performed them for large crowds. He was funny as fuck, a folk hero, never a saint, and to this day there are things that pop into my head that only he would understand. Now that he’s gone, I’m forced to leave them there. That sucks.
Danny also suffered from neurofibromatosis, which meant he didn’t like to be hugged due to the pain it sometimes caused him. I don’t know why this fact bums me out more now than it ever did, but let’s just say I really, really miss him.
Flash forward to exactly four years later, January 8th, again a Thursday. I arrive home with a few bags of groceries in expectation of seeing my beloved cat Lucy greet me at the door as she has done for the past thirteen years. I’m a little apprehensive about it, as she’s been losing a lot of weight and having trouble eating. I’ve been laying out a virtual buffet for her each day in hopes I can find something that she’ll like, but nothing has really done the trick so I’ve already made an appointment to take her to the vet the following day. She having been a diabetic for the last six years of her life–requiring me to give her two shots a day, one in the morning and one when I got home–forced me to mentally prepare for further complications down the road. By this point, however, she had miraculously reversed the condition, so there was no rush for me to come home and give her insulin. Her weight loss, I gathered, was both the cause and result. She went from obese to climbing on the table, seeking my love with a fervor normally reserved for hunting voles. Times were good. Or so I thought.
When I arrived, she didn’t come to the door. After calling for her a few times, I dropped my groceries on the table and ran to the back room where she was known to sleep. I found her crouched in a daze and unable to raise her head. Then I did a very silly thing: I prepared yet another new meal for her in the hopes, perhaps, that the smell of good food at last would raise her from that well known and heart-sinking position. This after already having seen that she’d eaten more that day than days previous, so I pretty much knew she was satiated. Coming to my senses, I called the vet and in two minutes we were out the door. I don’t want to go into much detail at this point because it’s pointlessly hellish to recall, but once they discovered she’d had a cancerous tumor rupture inside her, there was barely enough time to say goodbye. With a kiss on her ear, I whispered that I loved her and watched as she took her last, labored breath. To say the least, I wasn’t expecting to lose my delightful roommate so abruptly. Taking note of the date and time on the long and tortuous ride home–it was shortly after midnight, so Friday had only just arrived– I maybe should have known better.
Since then, I’ve been climbing the walls a bit, crying at weird times, wrestling with guilt, accidentally anticipating tasks that are no longer necessary, and generally feeling a bit shit. You see, I live in a Jersey shore resort town where they lock the parking meters for winter, and the quiet can be both a writer’s blessing and a merciless curse. And I can’t stop imagining that horrifying moment in I Am Legend where Dr. Neville is forced to kill his own dog, who, at the time, was his best and only friend. Dramatic as that analogy might be, my heart and mind have been known to team up and pick on me at weak moments, and believe me, they’ve been a couple of real bastards, lately.
But back to my realization of the date and day of the week being nearly identical to when I lost Danny; I want to say my first reaction was to curse it. In truth, it was one of small relief. The coincidence carried with it a profound feeling of plan; there was more to the story, our stories, everything. Perhaps an agreement had been struck to which I wasn’t privy? Could it be possible that my “more dog than cat” Lucy and my buddy, Danny (who had a cat of his own, named Roger Clemens) were sending me some kind of message? I swished this posit around a few times in my mind, and a long breath escaped from my slackened mouth. Then, before the windshield had completely defogged, I snatched the notion back out of the air and slipped it into a secret drawer, fearing that if I worked on it too long I would manage to disprove it. It remains there to this day like an antique toy: one that you can play with for only a few minutes until you need to return it to safekeeping. After all, you don’t want to ruin something so valuable. They don’t make them like that anymore.
I’m hoping this entry will help me get a few things going again. My reserves of enthusiasm–challenged this time of year in the best of circumstances–have been dangerously low, and other than a couple of short stories I’ve the good fortune to have offered to me for publication (cheers, Ryan) I play with my other projects like cold vegetables on a plate. I know I’ll get around to them, eventually. Nothing’s changed about my dreams; they’ve only lost a little color. But if my awful coincidence separated by four years is indeed a sign, then I think it means that time is precious, and not cruel at all. Just use it well, and keep your eyes open for every opportunity of joy.
Hugs to you Danny, and a kiss for you, Lucille. Thanks to both of you for coming when I called, when you could.