An old friend found me the other day.
Well, really, he found Child 1 on Facebook in one of those mad, modern connection things that seem to happen all over the place.
Hadn't seen him for years and years and it was obvious that he hadn't heard about Kirk. So I had to tell him the story and I realized how really, really bad at it I am.
It's not that it's difficult for me to tell it any more. I've said it so often now in so many different places that it's finally become something separate - it's the story, not the thing itself. So I can tell it without that horrible back-of-the-throat feeling that used to make me sick (well, almost always).
No, the problem now is telling the story to someone who has never heard it. Just a month or so ago I had to do it, for someone who had never known Kaj, never known me when I was married and that was difficult enough. Because people want to say something and no one knows what to say so their concern and bother and discomfort is nearly unbearable.
This was different. This guy knew Kaj, knew him well. He went through Russian school at DLI with him. We were in Texas together and a few months later he and his wife were stationed in Germany about an hour or so South of us. I stayed with his wife when their first child was born and he had been sent away for a few weeks. It was his unit that was sent to Iraq instead of Kirk's. We had come back to New Mexico to go to university; he had stayed in the army - he's in it still - and we had just lost touch.
Which left him frozen in time, stuck there as I knew him all that time ago. And we were the same I know. If he thought about us, about me and Kirk, it was just memories, just those paper-cut-out images of what we used to be.
So when he called I had to tell him the story, tell it at once before he said anything or asked anything that would make it even harder for him. So I did it, telling him that his friend, the friend he used to know, the one he didn't know at all anymore really, was gone. I did it quickly, and badly, as I always do.
And I was sorry.