Way back when, a few nights ago, when I met Mr. Viking out on the town for an adult beverage, I had the most remarkable experience. I spent time with his younger brother. Which would not seem all that remarkable, except I’ve never met his brother and never will in the 3D.
He died eight weeks ago.
We sat in the corner of a restaurant, at the bar, with an icy margarita in front of each of us, coming face to face for the first time since our initial encounter in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s. We immediately locked ourselves in our own little world as the Friday happy hour ramped up around us. An hour in, as we bypassed small talk in favor of deep thoughts, the conversation turned to the sudden death of his best friend, his sib. How they had the opportunity to spend a chunk of quality time together recently, reliving their youth, coming so close before being ripped apart by death. How his brother was the light-hearted one, the witty one who balanced the intensity of Mr. Viking, reminding him to remain playful while navigating his time here on the planet.
His death hit hard. Compounded by the loss of their father at an early age. Their hearts retired entirely too soon. Mr. Viking was mourning the loss, shattered by the passing of his kid brother, and on one very deep level, pondering his own mortality, I imagine. Understandably so. Wondering if he was in the bonus round already.
His father died at 57, his brother at 55.
Mr. Viking is 57.
I listened and found myself so open, concentrating on his words from not my mind but from my heart, catching each one in an open apron to safeguard. As he spoke more than he intended to, I became aware of the sensation of his brother filling the space around us, at least 3 feet thick, with his energy. This liquidy bubble that enveloped Mr. Viking and me felt glassy and happy and awesome, in the truest sense of the word. I couldn’t see anything, although the air did look a little more vibrant and thick and watery, but I could feel him and was able to imagine his face. (I haven’t seen a picture and may faint if it mirrors that which was in my thoughts.) I have never experienced anything like this before, yet instead of being blown away by it all, I was calm and felt filled to the brim with care, love, and so much gratitude for the chance to experience something that I knew was magical. After about 15 minutes, the energy dissipated.
Right at the time when Mr. Viking began to cry.
You know already that we returned to my home and watched television, with Mr. Viking dozing, and then sleeping as I wrapped up my tasks for the day. Along with my tasks, I began to feel that I had been given a little mission with my margarita by a happy spirit who cares deeply for his brother.
That mission became apparent when Mr. Viking stopped breathing.
I’ve never been in the presence of someone who has sleep apnea. The first ‘drop’ I heard caused my head to snap up from organizing the dishes in the dishwasher, eyes popped wide open. It lasted long enough for me to ponder all the steps I’d need to take to resuscitate him. The second moved me from the dishwasher to the wall separating the kitchen from the living room where he
choked slept. I closed my eyes as I leaned against it, took a deep breath in – somebody had to – and exhaled hard.
Please, please, please don’t die on my couch.
I’ve done the severed finger. I could even do a severed limb. I have found a man dead in my house before, but that was when I was in 8th grade and my Uncle died in his sleep at a blessedly old age. It really didn’t freak me out. I felt pretty comfortable alone with my deceased Uncle laying arms spread wide on his bed, as if he were hanging on a cross that had been brought back to the ground, bubbles filling his open mouth. When my Mom returned from her morning swim she asked, Did your Uncle get up yet? Not yet, I replied truthfully, as I sat on a bench in the family room, allowing her the opportunity to meet his passing on her own.
But you cannot die on my couch. Nor will you. However, if you don’t get to a doctor soon your heart will stop, too. Too soon. For some reason your brother feels that I am the best messenger for this wake up call.
I have to tell this man, who is a very independent man who doesn’t relish being told what to do, to get to a doctor now before he dies.
That was exactly why he was on my couch that evening.
That is why I felt subdued. This extended ‘hang’ wasn’t because viewing television together was essential, but because I needed to hear him struggle to breathe. I would feel comfortable telling him to seek immediate medical attention. I didn’t care at all if he decided that my message was intrusive or just plain weird. Or too Mama like. I just needed to tell him and the rest was up to him.
Having this type of conversation is not recommended within the first week of hanging out (my new word for dating, thanks to a kitten, is now ‘hanging’.) by most ‘experts’ in such matters. As a matter of fact, I had likely broken every single rule by the time his head hit my couch pillow. So be it.
I followed my heart.
The next hang was a few days later. We rented the movie Ted, a film about a teddy bear that comes to life on the wish of a boy. The time came when the bear wouldn’t grow up, but the man had to in order to meet the needs of his love and start living a conscious life. (There’s only so much pot one can smoke on a sofa with your best friend, a stuffed bear.)
Before we started the movie I sat in front of him on the couch, looked him straight in the eyes and said:
Your brother came to us in the restaurant the other night. I know it sounds crazy, but he was there. Since then I’ve felt compelled to tell you this: You need to go to a doctor. You must take care of your heart. I’m not the first person to tell you that you have sleep apnea, but hopefully I’m the last one that needs to tell you to get it checked out.
As I suspected, he does not see doctors. Ever. Never been vaccinated. Doesn’t do check-ups. Never gets sick. Strong as an Ox, descendant of Vikings.
I know I need to do it. It’s just not my nature.
After 10 minutes of heavy health-related conversation, we both acknowledged the need for a break and started the movie.
(Decent flick, by the way. Sometimes our ‘child’ takes a long time to grow up – usually because she’s not been tended to properly when the time was right. But the ending…well, can one call it a stretch when the movie’s about a bear that comes to life and every one who encounters him takes it in stride?)
As the movie wound down I could sense he was dozing. Once the screen went black we stayed put, my head resting in his arm.
Ten minutes or more passed. My mind was empty. And then out of the blue a tear fell from my eye and my heart got that strange feeling that something was amiss…that twinge. Not a word was said, no movement made. But it felt like someone threaded a shoelace through my heart and was now pulling the lace up tight, twisting it into a bulbous knot and constricting my chest. Then came these words.
I have to go.
Not thanks for a fun evening, or great movie, or that gluten free pizza wasn’t all that bad, but simply, I have to go. Not I better get going, but I have to go.
This is not a reflection on you. Emotionally, I am just raw right now and, well, I have to go. You are an amazing woman. And then something like, I just can’t do this right now.
While not being specific, the intent was clear. His heart is busted up, he’s pondering his own mortality, and he’s been hobbled by a massive gash on his foot from a sea shell. The last thing he needs to do is dive into a relationship, one possibly driven by simply a desire to connect with someone given all the recent loss.
Well, anyone who likes Alice in Chains. That does give me an edge.
I didn’t feel there was any response from me that was needed, except to say, Okay. And then I asked, Am I not going to see you again?
I’ll call you in the morning. I’m sorry.
He kissed my cheek and limped his way to the table by the front door to gather his things. (The injury I’ll get to soon.) And then he left.
I sat on the couch for a few minutes. Tears dropped from my eyes one at a time, but they weren’t mine. While they descended my cheeks I smiled.
In less than 10 hours of total time together, we met, we kissed, I felt the spirit of his dead brother, thought he might die on my couch, felt him get tweaked by something he was feeling two minutes before he spoke of it and then he left.
All of it left me very happy and fulfilled, strangely.
It was a toss up as to whether or not we’d see each other again. But if we didn’t, I would still be grateful to have met him and would be persistent on the physical. It was my responsibility to lead that effort.
Besides, I was a little busy trying to figure out if I was moving to Bolinas or the 4th dimension.
In those 10 quiet minutes Mr. Viking did something we all do, consciously and unconsciously, if we are in the company of someone we fancy. We try on the various stages of a courtship like clothing and see how it feels, how it looks. Mr. Viking tried on the 3-piece suit version of us on a 101° day and broke into a sweat.
After a few quiet moments on the couch, I went out under the stars. The night was cold, the sky jet black, and the stars beamed, in focus like never before. The wet chill of a Marin night was like an ice bath to my hot skin, leaving me alert and aware. All the emotions that surfaced during the last few days tumbled out of me like scarves. I sat down on the low wall that borders the patio, all my furniture now given away, and sorted through them.
Since that first night with Mr. Viking when I felt his brother’s presence, a massive shift has occurred, and I am only just unraveling it. It’s been in a slow shuffle for a few months, but something lit a fire under its tail on that evening.
It’s fair to say I’m in a very vulnerable place right now, in a very good way. Huge life changes are clicking into place at breakneck speed as I sell a house, move to a new town, and finalize my divorce, all in the next few weeks. Being vulnerable has left me strong.
Cuz that’s how that baby works.
And open. Really, really open.
Mr. Viking and I made choices to be at that parking lot that day. It wasn’t fate. It was a choice. And we made a choice to connect. If it was only to pass on the urgent request to see a doctor, then mission accomplished. That in and of itself felt great. However it plays out from this point forward will be an experience I will treasure, like all encounters. But especially this one for showing me that I can be in the moment, open, and respectful of all emotions that come to pass in an encounter. And leave it intact.
My heart feels very secure, very loved, and while she may get lonely on occasion, she more than makes up for it when given the chance, experiencing the magic of being human. If Mr. Viking never materialized again, I would still feel grateful for meeting him.
The next day the phone rang and it was him, I discovered that my intuition has been loading up on HGH, and I witnessed the 90 Day Rule in action, the way it was intended to be applied.
Oh, and then there’s Shakespeare. He wants us to know he was a blogger, too.
You better pour a cocktail for the next one…