Sunday, November 24, 2002

i realised that i still hold the childlike belief that no one that i know and care about will ever die.

death scares me.
the finality of it scares me.

the shock about nils being dead is still there, even though i am starting to grasp it. i wish i had a belief, a religion, anything that would give me rituals to do, prayers to say, just something to do to mark his passing.
heather mentioned that this is not only difficult because i found out about this in such an impersonal way, but also because all markings of mourning, a funeral, a memorial service (if something like that was held in the first place) passed without me.

when stephan died, 8 years ago (i had to calculate this, it seems like a century, he would have been 27 today - what would he have been doing? would he have had a partner? kids? what kind of job?), the mourning with our friends, the rituals, the mass, the funeral, the wake, as horrible as they were, as little as i remember specifics, helped.

now nils is dead and i missed it all, missed the news, missed the mourning.

i feel guilty.

we lost touch because we were never directly connected. i knew him through didi. all i ever was for him was didi's girlfriend. - and that was ok. their friendship had been longstanding and firm, and i wasn't important in that context. it was clear that no matter whether i would stay with didi or not, their friendship would remain and have precedence over my friendship with nils. an ex-girlfriend had once tried to utilise their friendship, and had failed.

i remember being excited about meeting nils for the first time.
there had been lots of built-up prior to it, didi had told me so many stories about him, about their adventures during their civil service at the bird watching station on fehmarn, about sharing a tiny flat in hamburg's st.georg district. didi loved him, to the point of idolisation sometimes.
nils was a lot that didi wasn't, and it showed sometimes, that didi wanted to measure up. he always said that the one man he could love was nils. yes, this comment made me wish for a threesome that never happened. he.

when i finally met him for the first time, it was at the backyard office of the publishing house he and his two mates had started a while back. i think didi was about to leave for his four month research trip to brasil, and wanted to say goodbye, i can't quite remember.
what i do remember though, is that nils and i, we liked each other immediately.

i was majorly attracted to him (and felt guilty about that, too). - but how could one not be attracted to him? he was tall and beautiful in a casual sort of way. he was easygoing and smart and daring and grande in his thoughts. he'd put on his smartest suit, ring the doorbell of hamburg's most exclusive private banks and after presenting an immaculately designed financial concept, leave with a loan in hand. once he travelled to namibia to convince a german authour living there to let him publish his autobiography about living in the namib desert during wwii.
he was living the high life, often in debt, but he didn't care. was he reliable? for his mates - always. he was always there for didi when he needed him, but in other regards, he was reckless: driving too fast, driving when drunk, which i found intolerable, unless i was so drunk i couldn't reject his offers of driving us somewhere.

nils was a firm believer that things would always work out somehow. and as long as i knew him, they always did.

that first time we met, he gave me a book they were co-distributing, a book called "tiger" by indonesian authour mochtar lubis, which i liked because of it's unusual imagery, so far removed from anything european i had ever read. every time we met, we'd talk about books and music and he'd recommend stuff and i'd borrow it from him, sometimes trite stuff, like a biography on billy joel. we clicked through books.
the last time we met, he made me a copy of serge gainsbourgs "coleur cafe", which i took down here, played to my then best friend, and for weeks, we'd be singing and dancing to that tape, and just that tape alone. this past friday night i put it on again, singing along, swaying my hips during "cha cha cha du loup" and mourning with serge during "les armours perdues".

the last time we met was a in march or april 1999, my relationship with didi would last another month and then slowly dwindle to an end.
that night, didi and i met nils at the publishing house again, tripped to his tiny (almost straight out of wallpaper) flat on elbchaussee after stopping at the petrol station to buy wine, listened to serge gainsbourg, and smoked and drank and talked. by then, he was already planning his move out of the publishing house, wanting to start up something alone, possibly distributing rare maps for bookshops, in the long run wanting to live in the carribean with his girlfriend.
later that night, we went go to a tiny italian bar in st.pauli where nils was welcomed by the maitre'd like a long lost son. it will sound corny, but as usual, all heads turned towards him as he entered the place. we spend the night working through several bottles of excellent red, ate pasta and smoked terrible amounts (back then, i smoked. unbelievable!) and talked.
nils wrote his email addie on a coaster - i looked for it yesterday, but couldn't find it. for once, the hoarder in me did not keep something but must have thrown it away some time ago.

that night, when we were done with the smoking and drinking, nils decided he had to drive didi and me home, to the opposite end of town, totally not his direction. yes, this was irresponsible and stupid on all our parts. it must have been past 2am when we arrived at home, i think, and didi and i just fell into bed, drunk and exhausted. nils, however, didn't get much sleep that night, because a few hundred metres from didi's house, he was caught by a booze bus, his car seized, his licence taken (and quite rightly so, never any excuses for drunk driving, ever), and he spend several hours at the nearby police station before he was allowed to go. he spend like 150 marks on a taxi back to his place, several hundred on the fine, the re-test, transport for his licence-less time. late the next day, he gave us a call to tell us what happened, but wasn't angry at all. we asked him why he hadn't just come to our place when he was released by the police, but he hadn't wanted to wake us up. geez. nils neither held a grudge about this nor accepted the money we offered to cover parts of the fine or a public transport ticket for the time he was license-less.

after my relationship with didi broke up, i never heard of nils again. no wonder, i wasn't even talking to didi, and hadn't heard anything directly from him until this past summer, when i emailed him from melbourne, sparked by a conversation with a mutual friend, who said he hadn't heard from him in years, either.

and now nils is dead.

i always thought i'd hear from him again in some way, cross paths with him. i always thought he would succeed, always expected him to make headlines one day. - i never thought i would never see him again. i had checked on him online a good long while ago, maybe 2 years or so, checking the website of the publishing house, discovering that he had indeed left completely by then.

and now i will -most likely- never see him again.

i should know, life ends, we'll all die, eventually. one moment people are there, the next they are not.

but i just can't handle it.

it scares me, nils's death.
not just because he, one of most beautiful people who ever crossed my paths, smart, intelligent, friendly, is gone, but also because knowing so little details makes this very sudden.
i don't know anything (yet) that might explain his death, might offer resolution, might relieve my fear and sudden realisation that anyone i know can die, despite their young age, anytime, just because.
did he have some undiscovered heart problems? myocarditis? had he been taking drugs?
of course i know that everyone i love might die, car crashes, diseases, they take the young.

but still.

no one should have a heart attack at 28.

this morning, while working out (of all things) my thoughts started to turn to nils's death, to the process of dying.
what was it like for him? did he have time to think "so this is dying"? was he scared? had he had any symptoms before it? any warning signs?
i hope it went by quickly, i hope he wasn't in pain, i hope he wasn't too scared, i hope he wasn't alone. i hope nils transitioned to a place as beautiful as his new found home on st.lucia.

i remember having similar thoughts with stephan, who died in his sleep. he had had nightly convulsions in the past and had told me he never noticed them until the next morning, when he was exhausted and had usually bitten his tongue or lips.
somehow, knowing that he hadn't felt these attacks in the past gave me hope he wasn't in pain or conscious when he died, ironically enough while he was wearing a 24-hour ecg that - had he had it earlier- might have helped in discovering the underlying reasons for his disease & death.

i hope life isn't just over, which i -in my agnostic moments- sometimes think.

i hope there is something good afterwards, of whatever kind. what a waste it would be if there wasn't, if all the beauty and intelligence and love that stephan and nils had just evaporated into nothing, leaving nothing but a faint imprint in the hearts and souls of those who knew them. but then - even if there is nothing afterwards - of course the imprints both of them left are far from faint.
but still. one day everyone who remembers them, remembers how shy and humble and loyal stephan was, or everyone who remembers nils, his beauty, his intelligence, his abilities, will be gone, too.

i wish i could believe, trust, rely on knowing nothing, no one, no one's memory was ever lost.

but i can't.