I don't often think about these forces although I am sometimes aware of how they drive my responses to different stimuli, usually when people point out that I am behaving oddly. Usually at moments that could be described as extreme landmarks in our timelines.
I started a new job last week, though not one I hope to keep for much longer. It was the week of Halloween, and the first one celebrated in my house, so many of those memorable milestones existed already. On top of that, my former colleagues contacted me, proposing a reunion of sorts. We'd been calling and missing each other for the months since I returned from the boat trip, but a public holiday seemed a good excuse for the event to finally happen. A lunch was suggested, without needing to specify that drinks would be plentiful. I stated my availability, and it was agreed that those still at the company would discuss further arrangements on Monday at work for the Tuesday holiday.
I didn't hear anything further, and left a couple of messages. I guessed that they were swamped with work, and possibly even forced to work the public holiday, as we had precisely one year ago. This morning, while I was at my new job, my phone rang. I saw the name on the screen, Paulo, and smiled to myself. An explanation, perhaps, for the lack yesterday's lunch.
The call seemed routine. Familiar, even. 'How's it going?' The same greeting which I had heard from him for all the years of the tradition under which we were the two staff in the office who started early with the improbable goal of finishing early, and one which extended to the times when we started early by the crushing necessity of workload, when the response inevitably became 'Just doing the needful.' But, despite the harshening situation, the company was always appreciated. The conversation, even his tone, were the same as all those mornings. He explained that it wasn't work that had disrupted the intended plans for Tuesday, but each team member having a big Sunday and feeling disinclined to do any kind of needful. I smiled again, maybe recalling familiar Mondays with those people. Then.
'Well, I haven't called with good news.'
Thoughts flipped through my mind of things that could be considered bad. During our time working together, we'd shared bad news. Resignations, contracts lost, too many redundancies to count. I also wondered why he would be sharing these with me. Then he said, in that same usual tone, that Bryce had passed away over night. It was so far from anything I'd expected. I asked if it was his heart condition, and Paulo said that he believed so. Several months ago, Bryce had been found collapsed in the office he was working in, away from the CBD or any other sites with the rest of us. He was rushed to hospital, and after some time off, returned his usual self, with explanations of a heart condition that was still being investigated by doctors.
I asked Paulo how he was, and he said he was okay, though he planned to call Angela after me. I asked about the rest of the team, and was given mid-range assurances. I didn't really know what else to say, so we said goodbye, and oddly agreed that it would be strange to be catching up at a funeral.
I continued with work, and felt like I got a lot done. I left early - the new job was described to me as around two days per week, though it seems more practical to the workload to do more frequent, short days - and was surprised to find on the way home thoughts slamming into me of Bryce. I was listening to Ozma's Pasadena, and I thought about how, although Bryce was anything but a fighter, he would definitely be against The Darkness, then realised these were the rambling thoughts of the grieving. I did concede, when I realised Motorology... would play soon, that it would have inspired a debate about the merits and practicality of time travel with Bryce, and I smiled, and it lead me to thinking of some of those amazing late-night-style debates and discussions we had either at the middle of the night or a quick lunch break. I felt sorry we wouldn't have more. Other thoughts crept into my mind, thoughts of resentment - of how much he deserved to do amazing things, design innovative houses, and how maybe he was held back from doing so in some way - to a kind of stubborness, a feeling of wanting to rebel against some reality despite the impossibility. I suppose this is grieving, I've just never had to do it before.
I shouldn't be surprised though. Bryce was someone I admire immensely. Professionally, he set the benchmark of how I, and my colleagues, wanted to be. I get the feeling he knew it, though would never have stated it himself or held it against anyone, instead chosing to impart his knowledge in a way completely free of judgement. Personally, I just always enjoyed being in his company. He had no problem with anyone taking his time purely to dwell on the wonder of his mind, to help work through a challenge. It was enjoyable, even, to take problems to him to work through. With Bryce, the expression 'Getting there is half the fun' (which I may be misquoting) was usually true.
We literally travelled the world together. We pondered the big dilemmas, played giant Jenga, co-facilitated, climbed into a volcano and robbed a casino. Bryce was my colleague, my mentor, my friend. I'm feeling grateful for the weird series of coincidences that saw us meet and then work closely together, and sorry that I, nor anyone else, will have the opportunity to do so again.