I got an e-mail this afternoon that a friend of a friend has died. I didn't know him well--point of fact, I don't even know his last name--but he was part of my little circle of friends, and I've missed seeing him since he moved to Terrell or Tyler or Timpanogus or wherever he took off to about a year ago. Somewhere in East Texas, anyway. He had AIDS and hepatitis, both, and nothing was ever simple when it came to his health. I'd heard he was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, and I didn't think things sounded terribly good then -- something about quite a bit of innards needing removal and possible liver failure? So I'd been at least mildly concerned. He went home about a week ago, but then yesterday or a couple of days ago he became lethargic and confused, so his family took him back to the ER. He died in his sleep sometime this morning. I think he was about 45 years old.
And I? Well, I didn't take it very well.
As in baseball, there's no crying in law firms. Well, maybe in family law firms, but noplace else. Everything happens much too quickly and at far too great a volume to get interrupted by personal drama or a lachrymose state of affairs. There are briefs to write. Motions to move. Medical records to order, re-order, read, organize, certify and produce to the other side. Discovery to discover. Crises to un-crisis. There just isn't time, people. Which was why I hid in my cube and didn't bother telling anybody what had just happened and why I was moping around and why my makeup was all streaky.
Which means, of course, that I didn't give my colleagues a fair chance.
How do you know, for example, that your colleagues don't have time for you if you don't let them know that you need them? (Repeat that a few times, it does make sense, I promise.) How do you know that the manager wouldn't let you step out for a while, or even (Scalia forbid!) go home early, if you don't ask? How do you know that the whole litigation machine can't possibly grind to a halt for a few minutes if you've never given it reason to do so?
Let somebody else give it reason to do so, says I. I'll be the one hiding in my cube.
I am such a fucking coward.
Back about 10 years ago, when Stuart killed himself, I got a similar email letting me know the news. I already knew the news because I had a weird psychic thing the night before. Different law firm, different colleagues, same lachrymose state of affairs. Same reaction, too. Spent the whole morning crying in my cube and hoping nobody noticed. (It's possible nobody noticed; I had not yet done the things I needed to do to be dubbed certifiably insane by that particular group of colleagues, but that's another story and shall be told another time.) This was my role model, my life, my Christ, my great shining hope of the human race drinking himself to death and, just in case a .27 blood alcohol level didn't do the job (it would have), hanging himself from a pipe in a cheap hotel room. Why wasn't I already on a plane, on the way to the funeral? Oh, because I was broke. Right. What in hell was I doing at work? Earning a living. Oh, right. No crying in law firms. Chin up, lassie, there's the girl. Woof.
Anyway. A friend of a friend has died, and I am not handling it very well. I didn't handle it very well when Stuart died, and I didn't handle it well when Roberta died either. Or Uncle Al or Uncle John or any of my four grandparents. I imagine I won't handle it well when anyone else dies, for that matter. It's my brain and death is just one of the things it doesn't handle well. There's no crying in law firms, but there can certainly be crying in the front seats of cars, and I'm heading there now. Adios, muchachos.