This Brave New World can attract and repulse in the same breath, or so it seems sometimes. We have ways and means to touch one another's lives that a generation ago didn't exist but we wear the thinnest of gloves to make sure we leave no fingerprints or other evidence of existence. I had a phone call yesterday from a family member of someone I knew a long time ago, (another) Bill, in another life, for both of us. The call was to tell me he had died.
I joke about my age (what else can I do?) while acknowledging that I have become a punchline. Hand on my heart, at 59, I don't see myself as old (I shave with my eyes closed) and am always unhappily surprised when I unexpectedly encounter my reflection in a shop window or elsewhere. I'm at an age where I don't say 'passed' anymore since, if life is, indeed, a test, then those who are dead have failed to stay alive. Nor do I think of anyone as 'expired' as in library card because Robert Klein disabused me of that notion. Dead is dead; damit, basta, ende.
I hadn't seen this other Bill in about thirty years and was unaware he and I lived in the same state (of blissful indiffference; population: all of us). I spoke (too) briefly to someone whom, I believe, was his spouse, though I didn't directly ask and she didn't tell-that wasn't why she called and that's fine.
She called me "Mr. Kinney" which didn't do much to leaven the air of surreality as the phone conversation went on, especially when, in response to my asking 'when is his funeral?' she didn't have an answer and seemed to be flustered at the thought and hurried to end our conversation long before I could get to the "why?" I've noticed I rarely get to that question any more, no matter the subject; I wonder when I'm the topic if there will be a "why?" or even a "huh?" And, true to form, I don't know why I don't know.
He had my name and work phone number in his wallet, she told me, but didn't mention how he came to have them or why (there is is again). I'd like to thnk had he ever called me we would have chatted but we weren't really friends nor were we merely acquaintances. We were,I guess, something in the middle, perhaps familiars, or, what years ago, I called KQ's (known quantities).
The advantage of KQ's is they're a handy reference and provide Dorian Gray snapshots, which, turns out is also the disadvantage. All the memories of KQ's are freeze-dried at a point in the past we've passed out of and so I thought today about AOB (another Bill) as I last saw him, which has even less to do with the here and now than is my usual wont.
After we spoke and she rang off, without ever leaving her full name or a contact number, I got to wondering why, if he had known how to reach me, he hadn't. Seemed an odd way to communicate, by NOT communicating, unless he had concluded we had run out of things to say long before we ran out of the time in which to do it. "And you've blown out all your candles one by one. And you curse yourself for things you never done."