Drop #93: Three Months

I got a call at work: ‘Hey, man; it’s Billy.’

‘Billy?’ I asked, in a businesslike tone.

‘Billy, from South Africa.’

I thought about people I might be doing business with in South Africa but couldn’t place this guy.

‘Yes, how can I help you?’ I asked.

‘It’s me, man. Billy Wilson, from South Africa!’

‘Oh, shit! Billy. Wow. Sorry, I didn’t recognize your voice.’

‘That’s OK,’ he said, perhaps a little hurt.

Billy, George and I had been best friends in South Africa as teenagers. We’d been an inseparable trio, getting into trouble together every weekend. I had my first cigarette and first got drunk with those two. We’d drink in the caravan, always parked beside George’s house since his family never took holidays together anymore. His folks would fight too much. So we’d sleep in there, get drunk on beer and whiskey, listen to Led Zeppelin and Metallica and The Police, and we’d make music too sometimes. I would sing cause I couldn’t play anything. The other two were decent on the bass and guitar respectively. George and I got on better with each other than either of us did with Billy, though. When I left for The States I heard they fought a lot. Once they went fisticuffs in the driveway and it got bloody. They didn’t speak for a while after that. George was pretty stubborn and he drank too much, but he was a brilliant guy. One of those moody, sarcastic guys that might be too smart for his own good. Billy was softer, a nice person, and pretty talented too, but he could get on your nerves.

After I left, I kept up sporadically with George by email etc., and I’d call both when I came home for visits every other year or so, but I hadn’t been in touch with either in months. Now, I felt embarrassed I’d been so short with Billy on the phone and treated him like a stranger. We’d shared a lot of life.

‘Shit, Billy. I’m sorry, man. What the hell is up?’

‘Jesus, man. You’re bloody impossible to find!’ His accent was so strong. ‘I finally got a hold of your dad’s number and he gave me this one. Been trying to reach you for months.’

‘Yeah, sorry.’

‘There’s something I have to tell you, man.’

‘OK.’

‘It’s about George.’

I knew what he was going to say, immediately, but I asked anyway: ‘What is it?’

‘He’s… he’s dead. Committed suicide.’

‘Shit,’ I said. It was all I could think of. ‘No.’

‘He did it in his garage, with gas.’

‘No, man.’

‘I know.’

‘Fuck, man! What the hell am I supposed to do now?’  I don’t know exactly what I meant, but that’s what I said.

‘I don’t know.’

‘When?’

‘Three months ago. I’ve been trying to find you since. I thought you should know.’

The rest of the call was short and businesslike. I think I told him to keep in touch, and that we would talk about this later.

It was early afternoon. I returned to my desk. George had been, without a doubt, my closest friend but I felt little emotion over the news I had just received. My thoughts were practical, curious: what had I been doing the day he died? Had I felt a twinge, an echo of some kind, the moment he passed on? What had I told him the last time we met? Why hadn’t I made any contact lately?

Three whole months. Jesus. I was living so far away.

I told my boss I had to leave. Told him why, straight up, starting to cry. I broke down when I called my wife. ‘George…is dead.’ I barely got it out. ‘Suicide.’ She said she’d come get me right away.

I met her in a bar down the street. We drank strong drinks while I cried uncontrollably for an hour. I had never cried like that before.

Of course, I still think of him often, but not with sadness. I spent it all: the regret, resentment, anger, guilt and grief that afternoon in the bar. All of it. A terrible equation, balanced at once, by the violence of a reaction.

I saw Billy only once since, when I was next back in South Africa. We talked openly about George’s death, and all the problems leading up to it, but we resolved nothing, managing only, sadly, to stir up old frustrations between us. The living, obviously, must still endure their conflicts.

What they say is true, though. Life does go on.

By E.M. Vireo

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About EM Vireo
flooding the world with fiction

2 Responses to Drop #93: Three Months

  1. Mariona says:

    So true this drop!! Nice one 🙂

  2. legionwriter says:

    Excellent emotional tapping. And you found a way to mention Zeppelin, which makes it a winner by default. 🙂

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