"A man's dying is more the survivors' affair than his own." - Thomas Mann
They tell me you went painlessly, your heart slowly running down like a clock, breath escaping in a final whisper, slipping away without ever waking up.
They told me you never knew what hit you, never realized it was the end. They read the full medical report to me- massive damage, internal hemorrage, torn lungs, shattered ribs, splintered heart.
They tell me all this as if it will comfort me, as if some knowledge of how you died will explain why you're not here, why you're gone and I'm still alive. I never understood that. You know. I never knew why people wanted to know the details of how someone died when all that mattered was that they weren't there anymore and no words would bring them back.
You thought I'd be angry, didn't you, buddy? Screaming at the world, at God, at the doctors, at anything and anyone that stole you from me. But I'm not. I can't feel anger, not with three holes carved into my heart, a hollow gap draining away everything I once cared about.
The captain thought I'd fall apart. I saw it in his eyes when the doctors let him tell me that morning, words painfully loud in the stillness of the hospital. He waited for me to go to pieces, to break down and sob like a child. I didn't. I just sat there, and didn't say a word. I made the arrangements later that day, even went in to see you, lying white and still on a slab. But I didn't touch you, didn't reach out and brush the curls, the cheek. I couldn't because you'd be cold and stiff and I can't think of you that way, don't want to think of you as anything but the way you were, a smile lighting up your face, eyes sparkling with life.
You thought I'd call in sick, take time off and lose myself in a bottle, in some town, didn't you? I didn't, just went to work the next day and kept on as I always had. They tell me I drive faster now, treat the criminals a bit rougher than I should, fill out paperwork like I expect a grade on it. I don't know because I don't notice what I do. Whole days go by that I can't remember and yet I still see that last day, our ping-pong game, that restaurant bet you never cashed in on, as clearly as if I could step into it, bring it all back and change what happened that day.
I'd step in front of the bullets this time, buddy, find out for myself if it hurt. I don't think it would because I'd know that I was saving you.
If you had to die that day we should have gone out in a blaze of glory, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid like we used to joke about. Did we really laugh back then, laugh like there was no suffering, no pain, no loneliness? Were we really that content once, that light of heart? I can't remember.
We should have died together, facing death as we did life, low and high, left and right of the door. Me and thee, remember?
I don't understand and I know I never will. I don't understand so many things but there's one that keeps coming back, a single question hammering itself against my brain, a question that has no answer.
Why are you the only one who gets to die?