"Angels and demons dancing in my head
Lunatics and monsters underneath my bed..."-Rush
Perhaps the best place to start this story was a particularly craptastic day, in the waning days of winter, four years and ten days ago. My x-wife was getting married, so I was not getting my daughter for visitation. The vehicle I had at the time, the last one I would have whilst I lived in the city, decided to die on me. There was the matter of the female, I guess, I was involved with. She often preferred to stay home and either sleep or watch the telly than have anything to do with me. I think we phoned and, on rare as hen's teeth occasions, hung out, out of habit more than anything else. That particular crapastic day, we'd kicked around perhaps having a dinner together, but she either decided sleep or the telly was the more entertaining option.
So, I was already in a less-than-pleasant mood. This was back during a time when I had somehow found it okay to drink-often to excess-frequently. Sometimes for no other reason than the fact there was oxygen in the atmosphere. Having had a particularly craptastic day, I conspired to meet with some cats I was running with at the time at the Tiki Bar. I figured drinking several of the cheap redneck beers I was partial to at the time was in order. After the day I had, I rationalized that I earned it, figuring it couldn't get much worse.
What a fool I used to be...
The gypsy pulled me aside to talk almost before I had ordered my first beer, giving me a shot of whiskey. She told me how, because of certain paperwork, she was being sent back to her homeland for at least month. Maybe more. An exile of sorts. Of course, I found this devastating. We were pretty close, having swapped stories, poems, and drinks in the four years we had been acquainted. Be that as it may, that was the better of the bad news. The other aspect had to do with the archangel with a broken wing, Jibril.
"He's sick," she said.
"Fucking duh," I said. "I can smell it on him. I always have. The boy's got four kidneys in his body, and not a one of them works. Everybody knows that."
The gypsy seized my arm, quiet forcefully, causing me to growl at her. She locked her gaze with mine, not flinching despite my snarl and willingness to take her arm off at the shoulder. With a deep breath and pull of her drink, she released my arm before continuing.
"No," she said with a remarkable calm given both the situation at hand and the amount of drink she had consumed. "It's really bad."
And she proceeded to tell me just how bad really bad was. How much more toxins and other wastes were being drawn out by his dialysis. The way this left him-quite literally, in some ways-drained. She told me how the scent of sickness and decomposition I would sometimes get from him, a scent so strong I'd sometimes chain-smoke so I could handle the presence of my angelic friend, was the scent of him dying before our eyes.
She told me because, back then, I was dancing with the dead for money, triaging potential organ and tissue donors. By virtue of that, I could understand. She told me because Jibril was my friend and I admired him. She told me because she figured with my reptile zen, I could handle the news.
"Fucking perfect," I growled, downing that shot of whiskey like it was water, there was neither taste nor burn to it, which, when it comes to whiskey, is a rather sad state of affairs.
Perhaps it was because of the particularly craptastic day I'd already had, along with these new scraps of news, but zen was not something I really felt. In fact, I was off my fresh-fried lobster for the next few days following that day and night. I phoned the one female who preferred to sleep or watch the telly over having anything to do with me. That ghost of an ironic acquaintance, which our communications seemed to be more out of habit. I told her what the gypsy said about the archangel with a broken wing, my concern, and about the whisper in my ghost, telling me he'd either scrape his way out of it, or he'd not make it to that autumn, but I did not know which yet.
That female all but blew it off as if the gypsy was overreacting. Sure, it was possible. Everyone I've ever known has overreacted at least once. Whether that's an aspect of the human affliction or I've just had the strange luck to be related to and acquainted with a bunch of neurotic mutherfuckers is conjecture. And, in the context of this tale, was not appropriate.
So, I didn't really speak in much detail of my concern or the whispers in my ghost regarding Jibril to that female again. She didn't seem to care. It took me a little over another two months to finally work up the escape velocity from that situation, and the aftershocks lasted at least another half a year. But that is another story.
"He's going through tests to be put on the recipient's list,"the bruja of my acquaintance, who knew the archangel far longer than the gypsy and I combined, said in an effort to comfort me on the matter. "The results will tell how he's really doing, but he says he feels good enough to try and beat the strict lines of determination."
The whisper in my ghost persisted. By virtue of what I was doing for money, I found myself having nightmares. I wanted to find him a kidney to help him. I wanted him to prove my whisper wrong.
I suppose, in a way he did. He did make it to and through that autumn, finally venturing into the bardo on the very last day of that winter, a year and ten days from when the gypsy told me how bad really bad was. In a lot of ways, that's hardly a comfort. Dead is still dead, and you don't always get to walk away from that.
I'm not sure when exactly it was that I saw Jibril again. All I know is that is was an occasion. We embraced and I did my best not to notice the scent of sickness and decomposition that emanated from him. When we parted ways, he embraced me tightly again.
"Goodbye, my friend," he said to me.
For those of you playing the home game, you probably already know my feelings toward the term goodbye. But, for those you just tuning in, I am fine with bye, farewell, until next time, see you later or anything other than goodbye. Goodbye is what you say when it's the last time. Done and over. When you'll not speak to someone ever again. Forever.
And yet, Jibril, the archangel with a broken wing, that fucking moth, would say goodbye to me and I would see him again. There would be a next time. It was always an occasion. I would let him get away with saying goodbye to me, noticing, but not offended, not really understanding why until almost a half a year after he died.
For the next year, I didn't see him nearly as much as I would have liked, but ain't that always the way? The gypsy would sometimes relate to me stories of his condition. Sometimes, she would vent, if not lash out about the circumstance altogether. I can't say I really appreciated when I would sometimes find myself catching her frustration over what was happening to our beautiful friend, but I also knew why she did it. So it goes.
The last time I saw Jibril was at a redneck Marti Gras party tossed by a bike tribe of our mutual acquaintance on the eve of Losar for the year of the pig. As with any time I saw him, it was a pleasant surprise. It was an occasion.
Try as I might, I cannot recall the exact things we talked about that over cocktails and cigarettes. It's true, that night was the first time since I had stopped finding it okay to drink-often to excess-frequently that I allowed myself to get a little intoxicated. But that would be an excuse, and besides, there are those who say my memory can make an elephant cry. Be that as it may, there are limits. I just know we spoke of politics and le cinema and comic books and philosophy and religion and all the other things we'd talk about over cigarettes and either coffee or cocktails. The details of those conversations, however, is but mist over the memory of that last time.
When we prepared to part ways, I tried to get him to come with me to see the Losar celebrations in Little Asia, once the sun rose. It was something I felt was important and we could both enjoy. He declined, lighting a fag in that suave Jibril way of his.
"I probably will be going to bed when you're leaving to do that," he said. "And that's your thing."
He then reached over to give me a hug. The same tight embrace we'd been exchanging for nearly a year. That one that developed after I was told how bad really bad was.
"Goodbye, my friend," he said to me.
It was the last time I'd ever hear him say that...
A month and two days later, I was in the Confederacy. Along with my siblings, I had just helped my father put his mother in the ground. We were all eager to return to that place named for the Spanish way of saying colorful after having to deal the southern relatives and the blood drama there. I had just gotten off the phone with Sabina, when my phone rang again.
I answered with a cheerful lilt to my voice. It wasn't Sabina, but Madam Lung. Her voice was shaky.
"I'm sorry...I know you're busy with your family stuff..." she tried to say. "I don't know how to tell you this..."
And then, the words fell out amidst a flood of dragon's tears. Jibril was gone. Just like that.
All fall down...
Six months later, I was at a party with Madam Lung and Sabina. The dragon and I were standing out on the terrace talking, and the archangel with a broken wing came up in conversation. It seemed that happened a fair amount back then. The wounds were still oh so fresh and we are all oh so messy. I started talking about my viewpoint on the term goodbye and how he could somehow get away with saying it to me without offense, when the understanding finally hit me like a two-ton heavy thing.
"Muthafuka!" I hissed. "He knew there might not be a next time. It was always the last time!"
And I was moody the rest of that night and about half of the next day. Because, of course, that was going to make everything better. That was going to bring my friend back from the dead, in perfect health, no less.
I'm sure one can imagine my dismay and further moodiness, frustration, and melancholy when that didn't happen...
In the last three years, I have said goodbye to that fucking moth more times than I can count without removing clothing. After all, goodbye means done and over. Forever and the last time. I know this, feeling it down to marrow.
But perhaps that's why I tell these stories; because he was the exception that disproved the rule. Goodbye always meant the last time, but there seemed to be a fair amount of next times. Maybe I want to keep thinking Jibril has another next time left, despite the evidence to the country.