"Before I was a Discordian, when I entered my room only to be reminded by its disarray that it was in a mess, I felt a sense of defeat. These days when that happens I just say, 'Hail Eris!' - our customary salute to any embodiment of chaos - and then I cheerfully carry on, secure in the thought that the constellations look no better."
~ Kerry Thornley
After we got to our destination, though deep indeed in Enemy Territory, Kerry discerned that it was a Safe Place. There were the three kind and gentle Discordians who lived there, and upon our arrival, we made five; thus was fulfilled the Ancient Eristic Law of Fives.
We bundled him in quilts and ensconced him on a folded-out futon in the middle of the room. He dozed off for awhile while we brewed him some mouth-soothing slippery elm herb tea. He was so weak at first, I held the cup up for him to drink, but after one cup like that, he perked up enough to sit up for a second cup, along with an oven-fresh biscuit and a bite of cheese. It was all he could eat for the day.
After a decent interval, we five were joined by five other young Discordians, who arrived one by one, bringing along their Principias to be autographed by the author. Mister Antithesis posed proudly displaying his tattoo of the Golden Kallisti Apple with the Sacred Chao.
And after we showed Kerry the website I had made for him, we showed him some of the other Discordian sites on the Web, including one of the entire Principia.
Frater Flat kept in touch by phone... he was posting bulletins to alt.discordia. When we finally got Kerry online, Flat convened an impromptu Discordian chat room with Kerry taking questions in his one and only live chat. We read the questions out loud to him and as he verbalized his replies, we keyed them in for him.
He rallied beautifully for the occasion. He was as gracious and charming as he could be at his best - lucid and funny with flashes of outrageous brilliance, dashes of obscure erudition, and splashes of unexpected beauty. It didn't last long but it was fine, and a portable tape recorder picked up most of it.
Kerry and I spent the night there together on that futon, and the next morning another generous Discordian grant paid for a taxi to take Kerry directly to the dialysis center, without having to deal with the strain and delay of bus-to-train-to-bus transfers. I accompanied him and waited four hours reading and writing, trying to stay warm.
After Kerry got out of dialysis, he was crankier than ever and we got into another huge row because I told him the Discordians had contributed $20, enough to pay for a taxi home from dialysis.
"Thanks for the money," he said, but he was just going to take the bus and walk because he needed the money to "buy some stuff." I knew exactly what "stuff" he was going to buy. Cat food.
While he had been in dialysis, I had arranged for him to go to a professor's apartment and just rest there for a while until Cara could come get him and drive him home. Oh, that infuriated him. He blasted away at me, at her, and at all humankind indiscriminately.
He told me he would be suicidal if he didn't have his cats. It was Molly that started it all. She was originally MY cat, but at one point I was unable to keep her and Kerry took her in. He had shaped his life around Molly, and increasingly, around every other stray cat he could find.
I was among those who had offered to house and care for Kerry, but the whole feline entourage was more than anyone could handle.
Kerry told me about studies proving that sick people who have pets get better and that old people with pets live longer. His cats made him happy, he said. I responded that he just didn't care at all for his own physical self, nor for the creative genius within him. The drafty room, the vermin, the allergens, the careless depositing of animal wastes, I argued that all this couldn't be good for his physical health. But their company was central to his mental health, he countered.
I asked him, "if you really are dying, what do you want to do or complete or take care of before you go?" And he said, "I just want to be sure my cats are taken care of."
"How about your writing? Your artwork? Your works in progress?"
"Oh I don't care about any of that stuff."
He wanted to know why I was crying. I told him it was not just because of him. I was already way over my limit - Joe O'Dell had been executed, I was watching the Death Machine have its way with Danny Rolling too.
"Yeah, I know how you feel," Kerry sympathized. "That was how I felt when that dog killed Billy...." and he went on and on and on about what a GREAT cat Billy had been. By this time, we had been wrestling with the cat issue for several days running and I just lost my discretion as I slammed my point home.
"Yeah, well, you know what? I'm glad that CAT is gone, because maybe now you'll notice the PEOPLE who LOVE YOU!"
I knew my friend was frightened and hurting, and he was only trying to push those who loved him away from him. But I was hurting too, eyeing that increasingly familiar specter of the Grim Reaper leering in the corner behind his back, and I was already reeling from other losses.
"All right, then - FINE! Have it your way!" I finally snapped. "Just go ahead and DIE, dammit, if that's what you want! You just go right ahead and take that train, and take that bus, and walk down that damn rocky road by yourself. And when you slip on the ice and twist your ankle and find yourself lying there freezing to death because nobody is gonna come down that way for DAYS... then I want you to remember ME! Remember I'm the one who got you the money so you could take a damn taxi! And remember that YOU are the one who said NO!"
"I'm not going to slip. I have good shoes. Exercise is good for kidney patients."
"I just don't want to leave you like this, Kerry."
"Then come spend the night with me again."
"No. I'm exhausted. It's freezing. I don't do weather. And I don't do walking. It costs $10 to get down there from the train station and another $10 to get back, and I already ran out of my own money and their money too."
"Well, all right, then." And he turned away.
And he just turned and walked away.
I stood there in the wind and the snow, bereft as any orphan, sobbing openly as I watched my dear dying friend walk out of my life..
I just could not let it end like that.
"Kerry!" I yelled, and "KERRY!!" but he kept walking. So I started running. He was walking so slow I caught up easily. I slipped up beside him and put my arm through his without a word.
Without looking up, he said, "You wanna come have a cup of coffee with me?"
I nodded and gulped, "Nn-hn."
"It's really good cappucino... they've got a machine at the Chevron station up there... you'll like it...."
Crying so hard I couldn't speak, I held his arm and struggled to compose myself as we walked to the Chevron station. While we stood inside drinking the vending-machine-brewed cappucino, our talk of death and separation was subdued. I told him I was sorry I had yelled at him.
"I was just afraid I'd never see you again."
He shrugged, knowing there was no answer.
After all our words expired in the moments shared over the warmth of the cappucino, we walked to the Midtown train station in silence, stopping out front one more time to face one another.
"I just want you to know I love you, Kerry."
"You too," he said with a slight rueful smile. He leaned towards me and we touched foreheads as I looked searchingly into his dark, mournful eyes. There was one last long hug.
Then I took the northbound train, and Kerry went south.
KERRY WENT SOUTH
You'll Get Better |
Kerry Walked |
Requiesquat in Pace |
In Memoriam |
The Poet Game
RUNCIBLE TALES |
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