The Tragic Thing About the Miraculous M (Part II)

A great question…

I wish it were I that asked the question.It’s a good one, but my esteemed colleague always asks this particular question of our new acquaintances before I even think to. It is, by rights, his question. “So what’s a {strapping young man/ bright handsome man/clearly entertaining fellow} like you doing single?” Damn. Its such a good question and I’d forgotten to ask it again. I suppose I was still reeling from the news M had given us a couple minutes earlier.

A couple minutes earlier…

While entertaining us with his auto-biography, M also continued to visit the WC, consult the DJ and cavort with newly arrived patrons – crunching hands all the while -always trying for a laugh, or at least a smile. Meanwhile, I seemed to be lighting a continuos chain of cigarettes for him. He spoke so quickly and made so many references it became, at times, almost impossible to follow his train of thoughts. My esteemed colleague, however, is quicker than me and the conversation went on smoothly.

Turns out M didn’t have a card advertising his talents as a masseur. He didn’t need one, he was retired. But he was so young (around 40 by my estimate)… What did he do in his post retirement? How did he support himself? Well, he was currently planning to take a bunch of terminally ill children on a fantasy vacation to Disney world. But that was a volunteer position…

Wow. Imagine the good and giving spirit he must have. I was impressed. I tried to think of time alone with M. How selfish I would have to admit I was. How unworldly. How dull.

As if to answer each and every question hovering in the air between the three of us, he finally said, almost casually, “I’m terminal – got about a year to live. No its not the ‘big’A’ -terminal lung cancer.”
I was stunned. Fortunately I hide certain reactions very well. I preferred to allow for a pause -out of respect for the situation’s gravity – and for time to think of SOMETHING to say to this poor guy.

Then my esteemed colleague piped in with his perfect question. The timing was impeccable and M laughed ( I think he may have even hugged one of us, but I was still in shock). He liked my colleague’s reaction to his news, but he was less anxious to talk about being single.

After giving his number to us and fielding really dumb questions from me -“what about smoking? Are you sure you have only have a year?” M finally settled into the stool in front of us and told the tale of his failed relationship. It was a sad story, but not unique. My colleague even pointed out that I had endured a similar break-up. M was not to be stopped at this point, however. Fidelity, honesty and respect were all he required from a man.

Now you see the tragedy. Such a fine man and he was dying. He even managed to tell of the advantages of knowing the when of it all. One rarely meets a man of character, intelligence and integrity and I certainly never expect such people at the Eagle.

Driver: HOME!

I drive my esteemed colleague home from our evenings out. It’s part of the ritual. Driving can inspire reflection, I find. These reflections can sometimes be shocking or offensive to my passenger and even though I feel a sense of dread at sharing my thoughts, I can’t seem to help myself. So, as my colleague was reveling in the rarity of our evening I just blurted it out. All at once. To my surprise, my friend just listened and nodded.

You see after examining some facts, it seemed entirely possible our Miraculous M was making the whole thing up.

He didn’t look ill. He was constantly running around from place to place without losing a breath. He cheeks were full of healthy colour. He never coughed – not even while chain smoking. He showed no signs of fatigue or pain or even discomfort. He had all his hair and his energy level was off the charts.I have seen some terminally ill lung cancer victims. What I saw in them was the process of dying – of losing hair and skin and weight and control and energy and breath. It is possible M was ‘freed’ and even energized by reconciling himself with death. I’m sure many dying people are empowered by their unique knowledge. Nonetheless, the body dies and it shows.

Being gullible by nature, I’m always shocked to learn I’ve been duped and I find lies particularly injurious. While I have little time for lies, my esteemed colleague has none. He never lies. Imagine that? He NEVER lies. Not to anyone. But neither of us were yet convinced he was deceiving us. My colleague even called for a massage appointment, but M was never heard from again.

Death and beyond

But my doubts about M extended beyond his mortal coil. I was suspicious, as one quite naturally is after being lied to about everything he had said. As if the Big lie put in question his whole character – laid him bare to await my methodical dissection.

There were all these clues. But what did they add up to?

His minutely short attention span. His insistence on shaking every hand in the room. His rapid fire speech patterns. He inability to stay put. His inability to listen to others. His inability to rest or even pause. I recalled that he had asked no questions of either of us. Not one. That he was always center stage. That he never laughed at anyone else’s witticisms. That he was the Act and we were the audience.

Most troubling was the feeling I had that M did and said everything that night because he seemed compelled to. He had the anxious, tight, determined manor of a man who couldn’t stop himself.

Ever met a pathological liar? I’ve known two. They can be infuriating and, of course, unreliable. They can also be terribly kind, engaging and determined to see the people around them happy. Most importantly, they cannot stop themselves. M’s big lie brought the three much closer together and much more quickly than anything else we could have said or done . Think about it. We didn’t need to worry about AIDS and all the mourning that goes along with it. We were spared any real details of the ugly pain of Lung Cancer. Even his death was a year off, so we needn’t worry about that just now.

So maybe he’s not a pathological liar. Who am I to say? And maybe he really is dying. But more than wanting to punish him for his deception or even to save his life, I want for M to be able to STOP. I want to slay whatever it is that compels him to keep spinning through life like a tornado. Watching the storm at a safe distance was very entertaining. Being the storm might well be horrible.

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