In Which E-mail Is Two-Edged

30 April 2003

The easy part first, I guess: a good, relaxed time with Liz yesterday. We ate Mexican food for lunch and watched "Real Genius" and talked. And over a decade of letter-writing has stood us in good stead and we actually do know each other pretty well. Which is nice. There are weird things I didn't have to think of before -- Liz is left-handed, for example. I think I would have known that if we'd met in person, for the very reason it came up this time (seating in a restaurant), but it's not like it was shocking and turned the conversation for the rest of the afternoon or anything like that.

I made Swedish meatballs, oven-roasted new potatoes, and a tomato-dill soup for dinner. Which turned out all right, but I think next time I'll cheesecloth the onions and just leave the chunks of tomato in, rather than putting the whole shebang through the strainer and winding up with a whole bunch of useless (? Suggestions?) bits of tomato and onion.

And then...well. E-mail is a two-edged sword. I got notice from a pair of friends that they're expecting a kid, which is good good news, both for us and for the gene pool in general. And I also got e-mail from another friend saying that his girlfriend, a wonderful woman in her 20s, died last night, in her sleep, of a heart condition nobody knew she had. He's shattered, and of course he would be. I'm going to try calling him today.

I don't know what to say to him, though, and I understand that that's not a reason not to call him and tell him how sorry I am to hear and how much we care about him. I just wish we could be there for him. When a friend and neighbor of mine died when I was in college, this is the friend who just hung on to me, just reached out and let me crumple on his shoulder, let me talk about it or just sit still and breathe. And I have the feeling that he'll need to just sit still and breathe, too, and I'm not there for him. All I can try is the phone approximation -- that, and visits later, when we're closer.

This young woman is in some sense not mine to grieve for. She wasn't someone I loved. She was someone I liked very much immediately, though. She brought us cookies and chuckled delightedly at my descriptions of Dwarf's Blood Mead -- there are a few fun bits in there that wouldn't be there if it wasn't for her, because I was elaborating on it as I talked, and she responded so well that I thought, well, can't get rid of that! I mouthed at my friend, "Keep her!" as they left the house when we met her this winter, and he nodded and mouthed back, "I will." I wrote e-mails to mutual friends about how great our friend's girlfriend was, how she was a keeper for sure, how they should try to meet her as soon as they could. Other people are mourning her more deeply than I can -- lots of them, from the sounds of it. But I can picture my friend's face right now, and it just tears at me not to be able to be there for him.

E-mail, as I said, is a two-edged sword. It let my friend share his grief and loss when he couldn't bear to make dozens of phone calls letting people know what had happened, rephrasing it over and over again. But I think if I tried to leave it to e-mail to tell him how sorry I am and to check up on how he's doing, it would fall woefully short. The distance that let him just send me the news would be too much to be any kind of support for him. Or even try. I don't know how much I'll be able to do, but sometimes trying is worth something.

The world is not a safe place. Nobody ever said it was. Hold your loved ones tight today, all right?

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