Early April, 2019: just finished viewing Afterlife, the short series by Gervais about a grieving widower who has given up on life, dragging himself around a meaningless routine. A lot of what he has done here rings true, and it is clear he did his homework on the suffering of survivors. Unfortunately, the atheism of his depressed character brought nothing positive to his photoplay. The arguments against God are tired and easily answered, or at least capable of intelligent exploration. But he can believe what he wants, and the character does find something positive to dwell on in the end – to heal yourself if possible and then make honest attempts to heal the suffering around you. That message came through.
Like others who have been through this experience, I saw myself in the same swamp of pain and how it shuts out the world. This happens because the world doesn’t want to suffer along, it has its own problems. When you miss the nail and hit your thumb with the hammer it is impossible at that moment to appreciate the suffering of the world, though you’ve just been given a valuable hint. Afterward, you can say that you know what that pain feels like, and you’ve got the scars to prove it, but it is still only your pain.
The reason I bring it up at all is that there was something spoken in the play that sounded like plagiarism. As if Gervais had been listening to Francine and I talk when we were so in love we couldn’t stand it. In the last episode, Gervais’ character is speaking with a wiser widow who acts as a type of oracle in the play. Within the dialogue, we hear her say, “I’d rather live missing him than he live missing me.”
There was a time when we were sitting together in Union Cemetery and a moment passed between us in which we realized our mortality and the fragile nature of our bond. Francine said, “I hope you die before I do.” We both smiled at the absurdity of such talk, and in the next breath, I repeated the sentiment. We knew exactly what each other meant. She knew fully how much I needed her, and how I could never be without her again. She knew it because I expressed it so clearly in word and deed, and sitting there under a tree in the cemetery, she loved me so much that she would rather take on the suffering of our separation than wish it on me. And of course, I wanted in on that contract. But in reality, though I would die for her, I never wanted to live without her.
It was my narcissism that wanted to believe I was capable of loving her more than she loved me. In my childishness, I still believe it, just as the suffering of others can’t be fully understood.
Well, that was a long time ago. Children dreaming and talking silly. That kind of crazy love fades, or rather evens out, as it spreads over the years. Changes. But like a Shakespearean couple, their words expressed their heart’s desire: to suffer, if necessary, for love. And that was never forgotten by either of us.
Nice hat, kid.
Relevant song: “Time” by Pink Floyd