Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Saint George and the Dragon

I just dropped into Live Journal yesterday, in search of the journal of a friend who died last week. I wanted to find out what my departed friend shared with his online community over the years. I found this entry -- it's about me, dated a year ago.

Ann is sleeping on the carpet of the meditation room. Before going to sleep tonight she insisted that she was going to sleep on the balcony again. It was because she claimed the air in my apartment was stagnant and suffocating. I told her that all the windows were wide-open and you can't get more air in here unless we move outside. Anyway she said she needed to breath fresh air all the time or she would die. So Ann set up the cot on the balcony. However there was rain during the night and she got wet and now she has decided that suffocating is better than being cold and wet.

Yesterday was our first full day together. First in the morning Ann decided I needed to more air in my apartment. I am okay with the air circulation here as it is, certainly the air circulation is superior to the situation I endured in the basement, but having screens on the windows impedes the flow of air. I know that already and I accept that the screens block the breezes but I prefer the air being hotter in exchange for keeping out with local flying insects. But Ann is accustomed to living the free life in Greece and she wants to continue living the free life here.

So Ann has taken to opening the kitchen door and leaving it open to catch any passing breezes. She doesn't mind flies buzzing in and not finding their way out. I object to sharing my apartment with flies so I keep the kitchen door shut, and I pursue an aggressive no-fly zone indoors. Ann claims that in Greece she can snatch the flies out of the air in mid-flight and release them safely outdoors. I am not so adept. Also, because I am a nudist and because my kitchen faces a busy bus stop and because the open kitchen door allows anyone waiting for their bus to see into the kitchen and because I want avoid being arrested for indecent exposure and because in consequence I have to wear clothes when I go into the kitchen when the door is open and because this is my apartment and because Ann is the guest, I feel Ann is imposing on me even though I am providing her with a free bed and free food and free beer and free wi-fi. You can imagine that I feel annoyed with her. And yesterday was the first day of a visit of unknown duration.

Patrick died a few days ago on August 31. We were friends for about 45 years. If he's reading this, maybe he already knows what I am about to say, even if I don't.

When my brother died in October, 2012, Patrick came to the gathering for him but stayed outside in the street for most of it. He was a very private and shy person, with a deep sense of irony and humour. He was also a great listener who spent hours just letting me talk about my problems when few others would.

As for the air in his apartment, and the question of flies, and the life of a solitary nudist living on the third floor of a building overlooking a train station and bus terminal -- it was often noisy on the balcony, but I had the best sleeps of my life during that week plus a view of the moon and stars, rare in Montreal --

I remember opening the balcony door and failing to close it, and that once a fly flew in, and Patrick became very upset. He said that people across the street could see into his place, although they couldn't -- the kitchen door was behind a large maple tree blocking anyone's view of the kitchen, and even a person standing on the balcony was basically invisible to passersby or peeping toms -- therefore I didn't fully grasp Patrick's fear of exposure and arrest for being nude in his own apartment, especially as every window was sealed and covered with opaque paper, blocking any view either in or out. And even then, his nearest neighbours were across the street, well out of peeping range --

I had just come back from Greece and was concerned about Patrick, that he so rarely went out, and that he seemed to be living in seclusion. The only phone calls he ever received were around suppertime, from telemarketers. He sat for hours at his computer -- I remember that rainy night when I slept on the carpet in the living room. Several times a night, from the next room, he would shout in his sleep: "No! Don't!" I asked him why did did that, nearly every night, often waking me from a deep sleep. He said it was Nothing. He said it was Entities. He didn't know what it was that was attacking him .It got too cool to sleep outside. Then I found work and left him alone for about a month.

I was concerned because opening a kitchen door on a hot August day did not seem like such a serious infraction to me -- and the fly also left of its own accord, leaving no trace of itself, bothering no one. I remember cooking Greek food and bringing wine for dinner, and conversations -- I had not seen Patrick in several months and there were always things to talk about. He made the best dahl, which he ate every day, so my cooking had to be a novelty. After he complained (bitterly, repeatedly) about the fly, I got a bit worried. I remember going out with a friend who knew P├Ątrick and describing these strange dynamics to him to make sure I wasnt crazy. Patrick was alone, most of the time, for those last years of his life and my being there for a few days, with all its annoyances and unwanted air-circulation, seemed like the best thing I could offer him. He needed company. Alone, he became depressed and somewhat obsessive. His behaviour in the kitchen, when I cooked, was sometimes unnerving -- he would seize things from my hands, e.g. a pot or a wooden spoon, as if he couldn't bear anyone handling his things.

In return for my being there, I bought him a new frying pan, a hand mixer, a coffee thermos, and a few other things that he said he appreciated. The last time, I brought him an espresso maker. He liked espresso in the morning. And rhubarb scones. And Spanakopita.

Now he's gone, and I can't quite believe it yet. I keep expecting him to message me on Facebook. I keep waiting for his next sardonic remark -- and in a few days I'll be arriving in Montreal to get a few things I left behind at his place. I was expecting to see him in September --

People, don't let your friends spend too much time alone. It can ruin and distort a life, and a friendship. Remember the good stuff, along with the irritating stuff -- the ways friends can challenge and bring out the best in one another.

And never stop loving them. Friends are so precious.