Saturday, February 20, 2010

One score and nine years ago...


Been away a long while. I haven't forgotten I've just been occupied. I've taken to getting breakfast at Fran's on College Saturday mornings before work and walking up Yonge Street from College to Belmont. It's usually around 6:15 when I make my way north, past the closed shops and the occasional pedestrian. I think about the strangest things during these treks. So strange - seeing the streets of Toronto that empty. I look into storefronts and wonder if I'll ever have a woman wear those short form fitting dresses for me. I think about PGY1s starting their rounds at St Mikes, Sick Kids, Western, East General. I think about tomorrow, the 29th birthday of my best friend. And I think about Kimlin.

Kimlin Best. She's gone. She exists only in memory, mine. She was so three-dimensional. And now all she is is the past, the flat 2D screen of my mind, of what was. My imperfect recollections of her, in black and white. I have to fight to put color into the vision; I have to fight to remember how she smelled along with the warmth of her body and her fingers and her cheeks -- my crappy memory is a bastard's substitute to the woman, a farce of a facsimile, a cheap caricature of a beautiful creature. Her sidling up against me at parang on Christmas Eve. Her body moves with a fluidity that mine will never have, despite the fact I'll probably outlive her by five decades. I can feel her wanting to be closer. I can feel her wanting to be with me. It comes so easily, her sweetness makes me weak. But I fight it. I fight it tooth and nail. I fight it with every fiber in my being. I could have made her happy and she could have made me happy, if even for a day. And now she's gone forever.

Thing is, do I feel regret over Kimlin? No. Do I think it should have gone differently? No. I mean, I'll miss her mind, her thoughts. But do I wish I could go back? I can acknowledge what could have been intellectually. But to say that the alternative would have definitely been better...I don't know that, it could have been much worse. Why assume one way or another? Why assume that if things were different, I'd be happier? Why not just find happiness in each day?

The problem with that is that it smacks of complacency. I know I have no fire. I see the world as it is and 9 times out of 10, I assume that's how it should be. I see Kimlin there and assume it hasn't happened because it's not meant to. I see medical training and I figure if I actually wanted it, I'd go after it. I hear a soldier was blown up in Afghanistan, I imagine that's where he was suppose to die. And I increasingly have trouble seeing that I have a role in all those things. I operate on inertia. Intellectually I know that I could make a choice and be with Kim, or make a choice and be a doctor or make a choice and stop roadside bombs a world away. But in my heart, I figure all these things are decided without my input, that what I want doesn't even need to be a consideration. The world does well enough without me.

Except Kimlin is dead. And but for a decision to open my heart to a woman that once confessed to me that she always hoped we'd be together, she'd probably be alive. Alive and more than an imperfect memory in the imperfect mind of an imperfect man. Do I yet see that my inaction, too, has consequences? I don't think that I do. And if Kimlin dying isn't enough to wake me, I wonder if anything will.


29. Twenty-nine. 30 minus 1. I would have told you 3 years ago that these numbers are meaningless. What a difference 3 years makes. Ever since Kim died I've been feeling a push-pull of crushing inadequacy set against smug self-satisfaction. If I died right now, my friends and family would say that I'd done nothing. They would say that I wasted time. And what would I say looking down from heaven? I'd say I had a good run. I'd say it was fun. I think about all the people I've met in my life - in work, in school - that have "done" so much. I think about how unimpressive I found all of them. How partial and dim-witted and short-sighted and emotional and unreasonable and intolerant they all were in one way or another. And then I feel the most unimpressive of all. What difference does it make that I'm well-mannered and polite, and generous? What difference does it make that I'm well-informed and well-spoken and capable? Those things that mean so much to me don't amount to anything in this world. Kamil Devonish hasn't done anything. My epitaph.


If I could describe myself now to someone, I'd say that I was a frozen pond. The surface is rigid, static, unmoving. What lies beneath is in constant motion, fluid, dynamic. To look at the outside of me is to see very little change from year to year. On paper, I'm essentially the same person I was in 2005. But my can't rest. Even as I question myself, the inner dialogue continues without fail:

Feeling sorry for yourself doesn't become you. You don't do it well. Can't a man live a good life without a university degree, a master's degree, a medical degree? Is that what you measure the worth of your life against?
Goddamn it. Don't you see. I'm doing it again. I'm arguing for both sides. And I argue both sides well. That's my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. Equanimity. You're thinking too much!
Equanimity isn't good in and of itself, dumbass. It's only good if it leads to good decision. If even-handedness makes you do nothing, you're still doing nothing.
Who the hell is that guy? He might be onto something...
He's just passing through. He just wants to seem smart. Notice how he conveniently manages not to make any more decisions than the rest of us.

I have about 20 of these discussions in my head a day. They generally don't resolve anything.


Mrs. McKean's feet are swollen. Her daughter brought her new shoes. Her husband, Robert, passed away a few weeks ago. They were married 68 years.

Mrs. Ledger's losing her mind. I watch her smile and pick flowers that management has told her repeatedly not to pick. She doesn't remember all her children's names but she remembers the faces. I can almost see the synapses in her head disappearing. Before I worked here I imagined that Alzheimer's and these dementia simply blocked memories. Now I'm not under any illusions. Mrs. Ledger's memories of her daughters' names are gone. I can imagine her looking into the faces of her little baby girls 50 years ago, and knowing that she'll love those faces forever. How many times do you figure she said those names aloud, thought about them, worried about them, wondered about them? 100,000? And it wasn't enough. A lifetime of loving those names wasn't enough to remember them. When the fire alarm rang last month, she was so confused and scared that the woman started to cry.

Mr. Forrest pushes his wife around in a bed. He whispers to her. Her face is expressionless. Does she hear? She has an ominous scar in her fronto-temporal region. Aneurysm, stroke, tumor. It would be so much easier if someone could simply tell me that she could hear him.

Mr. Le Masurier was married for 63 years to his wife. She passed away in 2001. He was married to a woman for three score and three and lived nine years without her.

Mrs. Marsland. Mrs. Marsland is one of the most beautiful living things on this planet. I can't even put it into words what my moments with her mean to me. I pray every time I see her slight form walking away that her grandchildren know what an incredible matriarch they have. I have every intention of immortalizing her in my writing. Her husband of 50 years passed away when I was 2. She's lived my entire life without him.

I tell these stories because set against some of the things these people have been through, for the life of me, I can't muster up anxiety about being 29 and unmarried, living at home, unattached, uncertain, etc. God I want to, if only for the sake of Mum and Papa, Khalid, Kareem, Sanna, Christian, but I can't. I try to imagine that somehow this will lead me to live with some sort of regret later on in my life. Maybe, but I just don't see how. My highest priorities are my health and my family. As long as I have those, I do fine. But the world expects more. I have to make something of myself...


Grandtots, I hope you'll read these thoughts and realize that you aren't alone in your doubts and fears. This is a point in my life when I have legitimate demons - I know that they should stir me into action but they don't. Sometimes it occurs to me that everyone who's ever known me expects greatness in some shape or form from me; I couldn't care less about that. If I spent the rest of my life pumping gas, I'd still be me, which to my mind is a step up from being most people. Patience and complacence. Where does one end and the other begin?


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