David Letterman would get awkward during interviews when guests asked him what it was like being a new father, and I get it now. He felt like a dope speaking on behalf of millions of people who have been doing this for thousands of years, as if sharing his experience meant anything other than burdening an ocean with a single tear of joy. Likewise, people have been losing friends since before the invention of gravestones. I lost my best friend the other day. That’s never happened.
I think all human actions, even apparently altruistic ones, are ultimately selfish. The project of mourning Dax is confirming the theory for me. I try to think of what it must be like for his family, or for his friends in Victoria, and it is undeniably a sad thought. But even I am surprised by the sheer narcissism of how I am interpreting this. His death is happening to me. It appears to be affecting other people, too, like his father, whose red face and wet cheeks are somehow audible over the phone. But I am also experiencing other people’s expressions of grief as happening to me, for me, on behalf of my friend. Maybe this is normal.
Dax broke the news to me when Christopher Hitchens died last year, because he knew how much I respected him as a writer and orator. At the time, knowing that Hitchens was gone pierced the balloon of my ambition and let out some air. What is the purpose of being successful if it is impossible that the Hitch should ever see my work? Even doing assignments for school became a grayer affair, since, what is the point of writing well if there is no chance that Christopher Hitchens could ever approve of it? Losing Dax – how do I even know he’s dead? I received a phone call from his family and spoke to the police, but what does that mean, really? I never saw him collapse. I never saw an ambulance. I expect he is going to be cremated in my absence, so I may never see a body. He doesn’t return my calls, or answer my emails, and he hasn’t asked me to run errands with him in a few days, but he might be napping. He’s done this before. He’s just taken it too far this time. It’s gone too far, now.
Losing Dax is obviously a more intense feeling than losing the Hitch, and a more comprehensive one. I knew Dax, after all. Already I’ve had the type of thoughts which I know from watching movies and reading books one is supposed to overcome as soon as possible if he or she is to amount to anything in life. What is the point of dating if Dax will never know my partner? Why should I read this book, or buy this album, if the prospect of sharing it with Dax has been dashed? What does it mean, now, to graduate, to move, to find a new job, to write in my journal, to make any plans at all? Has it ever meant anything? Dax and I talked about the absurdity of life all the time. Maybe we were right.
We talked about a lot of things. We also did a lot of things. Dax is the only person in my life with whom I’ve made specific plans in the pursuit of being a more complete human being. We once bought a purple flower on a cold, rainy night, drove to the lookout point, took off our clothes, hiked down the cliff in the mud, and planted the flower on the hillside, just because we thought it was an interesting thing that a real human being might do. We talked about dropping everything and driving across Canada together until the universe sorted out our futures for us. We might have lived together in Victoria next year. I was really excited about that. In rare moments of forgetfulness, I still am.
It’s probably too early to be writing anything about this, but I don’t know how else to fill the time I would have spent riding crazy carpets down hills or watching Star Trek with Dax. Maybe he would have liked the idea of people writing about him after his death. I never asked him. There’s a regret. I never thought I had any regrets, but I just thought of one. I probably just opened the floodgates.
I don’t think there’s a better place. If Dax is gone, I think that’s it. But there is here. And Dax lived here for awhile. He and I won’t get to grow old and grumpy together like we talked about, but if I’m lucky, I’ll get to stay friends with the people we were friends with together, and do some of the things he might liked to have done. It will all be different, though. Worse for now. Always different.
I don’t want closure. I want my friend back. He gave me too much to ever forget him, but a memory isn’t as funny as one of Dax’s stories, or as pleasant as his company, or as beautiful as his face. If joy ever returns to me, it will have scars. It will be a joy that allows me to weep as I’m doing now for my favourite person who is no longer there. If I thank Dax now for being in my life, he will not hear me. But there is nothing rational about any of this. Thanks, Dax. Sorry. You knew me better than anybody. You still will after I’m dead, too. I love you. I love you.