Trilogy: Part I – Cut Short
There’s no protocol. It’s not a typical thing. When you know someone for a week and they die in a horrible, awful, violent way. When the guy you’ve been on two dates with gets decapitated in his office building elevator. He had cigarettes in his shirt pocket so officials determined he must have being going out for a smoke. All these years trying to quit I rolled my eyes at “smoking kills.” Apparently I was wrong.
His name was Dan Darcy. I liked the name. It’s a good name. Had a nice ring to it. When we met waiting for the R train at Lex and 59th and he asked for my phone number I said, “Okay, but only because you’ve got a good name.” He smiled and took my business card. I always thought chance meetings on subway platforms only happened in Hollywood movies. Apparently I was wrong about that, too. I started doodling his name on my calendar at work like a fourth grader.
We met on a Tuesday, he called me on a Thursday, we went out to lunch on Friday. Lunch went well, so we went on to have dinner Sunday, then I didn’t hear from him. I called my sister Lucy on Wednesday and said,
“Well I guess I’m not going to be Mrs. Darcy after all.”
“Jane Austen fucked us. That cunt.” Lucy said. She’s bitter from her divorce.
I shrugged, “I liked him, though.”
She paused for a moment, her struggle for optimism audible, and finally said, “It’s been what, two days? Maybe he’s busy.”
Turns out he didn’t call me because he was busy being dead. He died Tuesday at 3PM, almost exactly a week after we had met.
I was sitting on the subway and some woman next to me was reading one of those cheap, trashy New York papers and my eyes flickered over her shoulder to a headline in bold that said, “MAN DECAPITATED IN ELEVATOR ACCIDENT.” I was intrigued so I kept hovering. Then I saw it. His name. Daniel Darcy. It said, “The man, Daniel Darcy, 29…” I gasped. One of those dramatic gasps.
The woman gave me a look and said, “If you’re so interested, here.” And gave me the paper.
Despite being caught off guard by the news I was still offended by her rudeness, so I snapped back, “I knew him.”
She said, “Oh. Sorry.” Then got off at the next stop.
I read the whole article and then proceeded to vomit all over some businessman’s shoes.
When someone you’ve known for less than a week dies, you do a lot of what-if-ing. What if he didn’t die? Would we have gotten married? Would we have had children? A border collie? Would we have gotten a house on Long Island? What if he was going to be the love of my life? What if he and I didn’t work out? What if we got divorced? And then I wrote a bestselling novel documenting our devastating break up? What if I became a millionaire when my book was adapted into an Academy Award winning film? Or the Sundance darling?
I’m not completely insane. Dan Darcy and I probably would have dated for a few months and then fizzled out. He probably would have gone on to marry some ex-ballerina with a tiny waste and lactose intolerance. But I’ll never know for sure. And that’s bothersome.
I followed the story in the paper. His body (plus head, each sold separately) was sent back to his hometown in Indiana. That’s where the service was held. There’s no handbook, no guidelines…should you travel to Indiana for the funeral of someone you knew for a week? For someone you went on two dates with? Two good dates? Should you take off work? Should you buy a sympathy card for the family you never met that maybe possibly could have one day been your in-laws? I didn’t.
There were no pictures in the paper. I had no pictures of him, of us. I’ll never see his face again. And to think, I only ever saw it three times.
There is no Kubler-Ross: Abridged. I know. I googled.
Not to discredit the loss of a human life, but it almost feels like when you’re a kid and you win a goldfish at a Carnival. You give it a name (like Goldie if you were a really fucking creative kid like myself) and take it home, set it up in a bowl, feed it little fish flakes and watch it swim around as your parents shake their heads, bite their lips. A week later, you come down in the morning to discover it floating on top of the yellow water. You flush it down the toilet and cry about it for the rest of the day.
At dinner that night you ask for a puppy.
It’s an emotional taffy pull.
Well, I’d liken this to an emotional Medieval torture rack.
Dan’s favorite writer was F. Scott Fitzgerald. His favorite movie was ‘Jaws’. He used to vacation to Martha’s Vineyard and said he was always a little afraid of the water. He always kept an eye out for the remains of the Kitner boy. On our lunch date he ordered a turkey sandwich with American cheese and tomato and on our dinner date he ordered a steak with a baked potato and asparagus. He kissed me after our dinner date. His mouth tasted like spearmint and cigarettes. These are the things I know about Dan Darcy. Knew about him.
I knew I liked the way he said the word, “right.” I knew I liked the way he subtly checked his hair in the reflection of my sunglasses thinking I wouldn’t notice. I liked the potential. The possibility.
He seemed like a really nice guy. He didn’t deserve what happened to him. But I can’t really say, now, can I?
I haven’t experienced a lot of loss in my life. There was Goldie, of course. And there was my older half-sister, June. She hung herself in a garage. I’d only met her three times when I was a kid. We lived far away and she didn’t have much of an interest in getting to know me or Lucy. My mom said it’s because June’s mother poisoned her against us. Gossip gossip.
What’s strange is that I never had any what-ifs about June. I was certain nothing I could have done could have prevented her from offing herself. I was certain that even if she didn’t we would have never had a relationship. It was what it was. I didn’t even cry. Maybe it was because it was suicide.
I was away at school when it happened. I went to the library and researched death by hanging. I read all about what happens to the carotid arties, the jugular veins, I read about the cervical fracture. Maybe I was coping. Maybe I was curious. I put the book back and moved on.
But in the shadow of Dan’s decapitation I’m beginning to worry I’m a magnet for grisly death. At my office I begin to take the stairs. It was a freak accident, yes, but who knows? What if I’m bad luck? I avoid meeting new people. I avoid eye contact with strangers. I beg my family and my friends to drive safely, to look both ways before crossing the street, to use discretion. Please, I ask. Please.
The more time that goes by since his death the more the patience of those around me wears thin. They think I should be over it by now. They think, “Christ, she only knew him for a week. It was two dates!”
But what if I never meet anyone else? Or worse, what if I do, but they die in a freak escalator accident?
Smoking would probably calm my excessive anxiety, but, as we learned earlier, smoking kills. Apparently.
There’s no protocol. It’s not a typical thing. I’m sure it happens but there is no support group. No Someone-you-just-met-got-decapitated grief counseling. Lucy says I should see a therapist. From the divorcee who called Jane Austen a cunt.
It’s just something unfortunate. I suppose one day the what-ifs will die down. Pop into my head less frequently. Then maybe not for months at a time. Then maybe not at all. Maybe one day I won’t think about it anymore. Maybe one day I’ll forget.
I don’t know.
The absolute worst thing someone said to me was, “Everything happens for a reason.” I don’t think there’s any reason for someone to get their head cut off on a Tuesday at 3 PM. Especially someone I’d been on two whole dates with. Good dates.
If anything, it’s just made me realize life is short. And sometimes shitty. And that’s just it. That’ just life.
So savor your good dates.