After several days of blistering, humid, drippy heatwave, today we have a break in the weather. It is sunny. It is breezy. It is comfortable and shining and lovely. And Suzi isn’t here to enjoy it.
In the autumn of 2001 I was in my third year of undergrad, and I needed a job. I found one in the Glebe, an upscale, somewhat trendy, totally yuppified area of Ottawa, at a housewares store. It was nifty and cool, and had fun staff. Including Suzi. She only worked Thursday and Friday evenings because she had a day job at Carleton, working in the office of the very department I attended,and she was cool and funny and thoughtful and smart and interested in the same sorts of things I was. She knew the profs I knew, and had been to parties with them on occasion, maybe sparked up with one or two in particular. She had a nice boyfriend who was a musician and in a band, and she frequented the Aloha room, a tiny bar on the Bank St. strip most weekends. I looked forward to seeing her on our shifts together. She was taking undergrad classes part-time at Carleton, as well, slowing earning a degree in Religion, and we commiserated about the oddities of the faculty, and the pomposity of writers like Mircea Eliade.
And four years later I left the store and got a better job, a series of better jobs, and never really went back because the manager and I didn’t really get along and I didn’t want to see her again, so I never saw Suzi again, either.
Just last week, I was thinking about how I should start making arrangements to get started on finishing the last two credits for my degree, and how I’ll have to call the department, and I wonder if Suzi is still their administrator, and did she ever finish up her degree, either?
Today I got a call from a dear friend whom I also know from working at that store, and she told me that Suzi has had cancer, and that she died on Tuesday at a hospice.
And it just isn’t fair, that she was only married a short time to James, the love of her life; and it isn’t fair that she never got to use all the knowledge she was gaining, all the wisdom she was cultivating. It isn’t fair that she was only a few years older than me and now she’s gone. It isn’t fair that her husband is widowed before he’s 30.
I wish I’d spent time with her, I wish I had made a point of getting in touch with her, but there’s only so much time in a given week, and how am I supposed to know which of my friends is going to die young? We always think there will be more time. That’s why people are stupid. We are really, really stupid, because we just don’t get it, we just can’t keep it in our heads that there is a finiteness to our time here, and we had better spend it the way we ought to, or we’re just wasting space.
I left work early, because I had to, and I walked the long way to the bus. Traveling east, out of the core of the city towards the canal, the long, narrow swath of dark water that runs through the city, I soaked up sunshine and breathed cool, dry, fresh air, and it was pretty. Across the footbridge that connects the east and west sides of the canal, I looked north to the heart of the city, to the very centre of our nation, and appreciated how beautiful this place is, and how lucky I really, truly am to live here, to see it every day. And I listened to Wilco, with Jeff Tweedy singing Woody Guthrie’s words, one song over and over again, because it felt like a song that Suzi liked, and it was simple and beautiful and uncomplicated, the way she was.
There’s a hole in the world, now. And I don’t know how to fill it up.