She took the bus as usual, only now he wouldn’t be at the office to greet her at arrival.
You know, she liked seeing him every day but not lately, when he had turned so hostile, not caring about her wellbeing, and not respecting her right to not breathe his smoke-polluted air.
She noticed something was wrong from the beginning.
It was her dream job. And though it didn’t seem that at the time, in retrospective she could see how fate has favoured her, god knows why (she truly believed god knew). Events had woven so wonderfully that, when she told how she had turned to be the chief editor of the most important fashion magazine in the city, people smiled, thinking she was probably lying and had gotten the job by some kind of family connection. But everything she told was true and had documents to prove it, even if she wasn’t showing them to everyone.
He was the one who got the job by family connection. He and his other friend, and the others that came after them, crowding the small office with useless writers who wouldn’t take their job seriously and often didn’t even show up to work. She had to cope with that behaviour and more, most of the time they mocked her and questioned her lifestyle, quite tranquil, that contrasted with theirs, who lived by night, knew about music trends and had formed a selected and exclusive group, that rejected anyone different.
She resented that, but was also fascinated about them, and longed to be part of their group, goal she somehow achieved with time. “We should be able to watch life from above, that way we wouldn’t have to worry about stupid things,” she thought sometimes. It is a funny thought, I would like that too. In fact, I can see her life from above.
Her mind was powerful and she used it like a toy, which turned it into a dangerous weapon. Unaware of the real consequences of its commands, that for her (and people like her) were no more than wishful thinking, many persons’ fates had changed drastically for worse.
Long before they became best friends she got mad at him: “He was a consented little prick” and his remarks hurt her. “You will catch the most awful disease, a mortal one.” I repeat, if she had known her mind’s power, she wouldn’t have done it, she thought she was just releasing pressure, trying to cope with the mistreat.
Paula visited her at her house, but she didn’t go up, just waited for her on the street, avoiding any intimacy. “I have to tell you this now, you need to know, I don’t think he will make it.” She didn’t want to hear it. The moment Paula said it, everything would become reality, by the spell of spoken words which, she now knew, were stronger that silenced ones.
She had sensed a secrecy plot over the last few years. Paula and Peter were friends, they had even lived together but not as a couple (which she found strange and sometimes thought that maybe that was the secret: their love affair). Many times she had noticed they talked behind her back but couldn’t figure out what they had against her, why they couldn’t just tell her.
“He doesn’t have a common flu,” she said, “he’s very ill. By now, you must have realised he’s gay.”
No, I hadn’t really, but Paula wouldn’t believe me. We went for coffee. She told me he had been sick before he started working at the magazine. Before, even, he got divorced.
“Remember the first weeks he didn’t show up to work? He had just gotten the results from the AIDS test. Then, when we had to do the medical checkup, he faked the blood, it was Morgan’s. Chief Paul helped him a lot. Nobody would hire an employee with such an illness, not on those days anyway.”
“So everybody knew except me.”
“No, not everybody, just Paul, Morgan and me.”
They were pretty much everybody to me. Oh my. He would die. Now it’s out there, we two said it, are thinking powerfully about it… I can’t get it out of my head: He’s fucked.
The next day we went to work and had the news: our friend had died. Everyone was shocked; not the ones who knew (they didn’t work with us anymore) but all the staff except Paula and me, who were the ones that remained from the original group.
Now all it was left was to avoid the repetitive questions: How can it be? What have really happened? Why was he so ill? The pact was silently sealed: We wouldn’t say a word. We never did.
“Sometimes you just entered the office and we were talking about analysis he had done, or the medicine he had to buy, or how he was fed up with it all, and we just stopped talking… he didn’t want you to know.”
“But why? Everybody else did.”
“No. I was the only one. Morgan had left to Europe years ago and chief Paul was no longer with as. He thought you wouldn’t… He did it for you.”
Maybe Paula was right, I guess I did know something of the sort was going on but didn’t want to face it. In fact, I remember once we coincide at the medical checkup that we do every three years at work, and he asked the nurse if they did HIV blood test, deliberately in front of me. Then he gave me this weird look. I wanted to believe I didn’t understand, but I surely did. It was his way of telling me and I was too yellow to talk to him about it.
“He had been taking the drug cocktail for years, but in the end he made friends with these people I didn’t like, and cut my off. These girls he then started to be with all the time, followed some kind of chinese tradition on food and medicine, and made him abandon all drugs.”
“You can’t blame his death on them, though. The decision was his.”
“I don’t know, I’m bitter over them anyway.”
If she only knew he’s dead as result of my intervention… It’s crazy, because the story flows in a way it seems everything began before my curse, but that’s how it works: out of time. It goes back all the way to wherever it needs to act upon, in order to modify events for the predetermined future to change. Or that’s the way I discovered it worked, out of experience, out of having condemned too many people in the wake of my childish and careless behaviour. Now I regretted it. Now I was afraid. But it was too late. I had never gotten so far.
They gave us two days of mourning; after all, he was like our family: We’d spent more than ten years together everyday at the office. We even got together on weekends sometimes. I cried like never before, it was my first close touch with death. I missed him.
The first day I woke up and thought of him. I felt guilty for my indifference, for never having told him I loved him, for having not been able of carrying the weight of his illness with him. Then I realised why some people (most) are so sad with death: They know they could have been a better friend, a better son, a better wife. Some (like me) maybe even remember the exact moment in which the curse came out of their mind.
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Thanks, I was so sad and you made me laugh…”
“I don’t think it’s funny. I’m quite dismayed about it, Paula.”
“Honey, if such a thing were possible, I would have killed half my family by now.”
“I don’t know… I guess I feel better now, thanks for listening.”
“Hey: He knew you loved him, and he loved you back. Don’t torture yourself.”
Maybe she was right, but I still can’t let go of this funny feeling, through which I can sense everything in this world is upside down, and that we are trained since birth to be blind to the obvious. Because we all have nasty thoughts for mostly everyone at least once in our life, even for ourselves, and the irrefutable truth is one way or another, we all end up dying somehow.
I am a graphic designer and earn a living working in an aviation magazine. The rest of the time I mostly read, write and draw.