And all I ask of dying is to, go naturally, Lord... to go naturally.
It's confounding. The song has been stuck in my head all fucking afternoon. It won't go away.
"I'm an alcoholic, kid. I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of a lot of things, but dying isn't one of them. I'm afraid of getting called in by my boss. I'm afraid of my money running out. I'm scared to death of women, but dying? Not really."
That's what Bobby D said to me once, six or seven years ago when I met him. We were talking about getting drunk and doing really stupid things. I did my share. His stupid things made my stupid things look like rocket science. He lived to tell about them though. Until now... well... until pretty soon.
I got the call a couple days ago that Bobby was up in New York Presbyterian and things were starting to fail on him. That he didn't have much time to go. They'll be moving him out to hospice care soon. That's another thing he confided in me that he is most of afraid of. He told me he was scared of not being able to take care of himself. I've made the mistake a few times though of thinking there is always more time than I imagine and I procrastinate and people shamble off this planet before I've said goodbye. I wasn't going to do that again this time so I called in this morning and took the ride uptown to see Bobby. He did a lot for me early on when I was trying to get my shit together. He sat with me for hours down at the coffee spot just so I'd have someone to sit with. He was never short of advice and sometimes it was even the most terrible fucking advice I could ask for, but he was there. He answered 3 a.m. texts. He took phone calls.
He was there.
He can't take care of himself now. It may have been even more difficult for me than it was him, and how selfish is that of me? It was hard though. It seems I've found my greatest fear too, or one of them. We can't all go to sleep happy and just drift away before the morning. That's they way everyone wants to go though, if you ask them.
Ah man, Bobby.
Fucking Bobby D.
Old hard nut.
Old gangster. Maybe the original. Or maybe not. I'd like to think I know/knew the original and that we are/were friends.
We talked a little. People we know. People who had visited since he got sick. People that came that he would have preferred not to see.
"Fucking idiot. Can you believe it? I hate that fucking guy." And he laughed a little.
I helped him clean up a bit. I helped him take a leak. He was visibly embarrassed but joked about it.
"The nurses should thank you. Saves them seeing my old noodle at least once or twice."
Bobby fell asleep a few times and I sat and waited. He'd wake up and we would talk a bit more.
"You ever think about one last drink?" I couldn't look directly at him when I asked.
"I think about a lot of shit, kid. I think about playing baseball a lot. I think about getting a new car. I think about getting laid..." And he'd ramble into a story about one time or another in Atlantic City, and then he'd come back around to the point.
"Drinking? Nah. What's the fucking point? Wouldn't mind a smoke though."
So they move him to hospice care in the next few days. I might see him again. I might not. I should. I should try.
I left and walked out onto 1st Avenue with that stupid song stuck in my head. It followed me home like a stray mutt and it's still stuck there. But what to do with the feelings? I guess just feel them. It helps to write them down. I feel a bit lighter. The hospital smell is still stuck in my nostrils. It's a peculiar smell, some kind of cleanser that they must not use anywhere else in the world but no matter where you go in the world the hospitals smell like that. I can still see all the blue veins in Bobby's wrist. He held on to me so he could sit up a bit and piss. He's half the size he was.
I'm afraid. For both him and me really. We didn't talk about what comes next for him. He's the sort of guy that will tell you he believes in a higher power but he doesn't talk about it. He says it's personal and people should keep their ideas to themselves. I can't disagree.
I don't want him to go. Seems to be a lot of leaving lately anyway but I don't want him to go. I'll be selfish that way.