(…or, Why I Haven’t Answered Your Email Yet.)
Leslie, with whom I spent almost a decade attached at the hip, nearly died a couple of years ago when a couple of her vertebrae collapsed. She was in the hospital for a long time, and surgeries and months of intravenous antibiotics left her severely immunocompromised. A couple of weeks ago I got a call saying that she contracted an infection which went septic. Her heart valves were infected, her liver and kidneys were in serious trouble, and she was in a coma, on life support.
After a couple of days of her getting worse, I packed a suit, made a few phone calls to people who needed to know, and headed to Ottawa. The first few days were brutal. A lot of sitting around with other friends of hers and talking. A lot of thinking about what the funeral would look like. Much to everyone’s surprise and great relief (including the doctors), things slowly started getting better.
Leslie’s illness (and my visit) also coincided with the Zaphod Beeblebrox 20th anniversary week, which means that I filled in for Leslie as a guest DJ for the 20th anniversary edition of Industrial Strength Tuesdays. I’ve been part of Tuesdays for about ten of those 20 years, but it was really fucking tough to be in that booth without Leslie.
All told, I was in Ottawa about a week before I headed back home.
A few days after I got back to Toronto, I got the call that Graham had died. (My bag from Ottawa was still packed, suit untouched.)
I don’t even know how long I’ve known Graham. I met him at the first couple of 2600 meetings I ever went to, which means it was a loooong time ago. Mid to late 90s. We were teenagers. Not only does the cafe we had them at (Cafe Wim) not exist any more, but neither do the next two cafes it moved to after the first one closed.
The meeting I remember most vividly from those early 2600s (aside from the meeting where I was congratulated by Graham and Mike on how my ‘Hack of the Year’ had hit CNN and thinking “CNN. Well, I’m going to jail.”) is when we ran a telephone line from our table at Cafe Wim down to the payphone in the basement. We stripped the payphone wiring with a lighter, got some alligator clips, and one hastily assembled beige box later we were ringing up the payphones at the 2600 meetings happening in California or wherever the fuck it was we called. They couldn’t understand Paul’s accent (“No, I said Canada. CANADA! WE’RE CALLING FROM CANADA! WHERE SANTA LIVES!”) and Graham took the handset and became our ambassador for the rest of the meeting.
But the reason losing Graham is excruciating isn’t because we were hackers. It isn’t because we were going to the same raves as teenagers, or DJing the same raves a few years later. It isn’t because of the roadtrips we took, or the terrible movies we watched, or the fact that we always had each other’s backs when one of us was calling someone out for sexism/racism.
This is why losing Graham is excruciating: When you put all of those things together, when you’ve shared so many important and formative environments, you end up with the rarest of friends — someone who understands you. Not just someone who understands what’s important to you, but someone with an intuitive sense of who you are, someone shaped by the same things that shaped you.
I don’t have much in my experience to compare that feeling to. It’s a bit like how I feel about my siblings. It’s more like when I read about people who have been through a disaster (or a war, or a cult, or…) and they describe the experience of running into someone who has been through the same disaster/war/cult/whatever. They’re a kind of family, because they understand so much about each other.
Graham was that kind of family. We understood so much about each other. And I’m having a hard time coping with the idea of a world where I don’t share with someone the experiences that Graham and I shared.
3: Jairus and Joshua
I don’t believe bad things come in threes. Still, I said to Audra when I got back from Graham’s funeral that even though I didn’t believe bad things came in threes, I was still anxious, I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
A couple of days later, it did:
Please consider this your notice to Terminate the Tenancy at the End of the Term for Landlord’s Own Use as per the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act. Once you vacate the premises, we will be renovating the property and moving in after the work is complete.
Now I get that it may seem weird for me to post about having to move in the same category as people dying and almost dying, but if I’m going to be honest here, I actually find moving more stressful than people dying and/or almost dying. I’m not being hyperbolic, either. I can’t deal with things that threaten the security of my living situation. All of my life’s most-stressful-events involve my living situation being threatened. (I was going to add an exception for ‘being kidnapped as a child’ before I realized I should probably pencil that in under ‘security of living situation’ anyway.)
So now we’re looking for somewhere new to live.
I don’t want to write an entry that is all doom and gloom, so I’ll end with this:
Every day this week, I have eaten my lunch outside in the sun, reading. Spring is here.