I'm sitting and waiting for the meeting to start, still a little groggy. Someone pulls my ponytail - it's V, with whom interactions have been a little strained lately, but I'm too bleary to go there now. I stand up to hug her, she says hi, and then sort of stops. "Paul Y. is dead."
I blink. "Paul? Paulie?" Which is what I call him, thank you, Sopranos. "How? When? What happened?" She isn't sure - over the weekend, some kind of sudden aneurysm, very fast, boom, gone. She's going to the funeral home after the chairperson, who is celebrating her second anniversary, shares.
I nod and she goes to say hi to other people. I feel my eyes start to well up - Paul and I weren't that close, but I'd known him since I got clean and we were baseball antagonists (he a Yankees fan). A couple of people asked if I was okay and I said I'd just heard about Paul. One guy asked for more details and said he'd come with us. While this was going on my cell rang - it was the guy. I told him what was up and tried to have a conversation with him while talking to someone else...confusion, frustration, wondering if it was too soon to joke about one less Yankee fan. I go in, sit down, and start that thing where you think you see someone you know can't be there out of the corner of your eye.
So once the celebrant is finished sharing, the four of us stand up (along with a few others going to smoke or get more coffee), go out to the parking lot, and caravan to the funeral home. V. thinks she knows where she's going. We get there, find parking on the streets of the neighborhood, and go inside.
I look towards the front of the room, and I see Paul. Talking to someone. No, it's not just someone who looks like him - it's the person I expected to never see again. I look at V. and try to speak. "Bu- Paul's righ- what?"
V. looks at me strangely. "Paul's father died."
I just stood there. "I thought you said Paul died."
"What are you - high?" And in that moment I felt like I was. I wasn't quite making contact with anything; neurons were firing but not aimed anywhere in particular. I stood there, dazed, as Paul worked his way back to us. I hugged him in turn and tried to fade into the wallpaper. Oh, god. How many people did I tell that Paul was dead? Oh, god.
V. made the rounds and came back. She looked at me and put her arm around me. "Poor Tal. I can't imagine what that must've felt like. You know I'd've been way more upset if it had been Paulie." Well, no, V., you aren't the most demonstrative person when it comes to your emotions, but I certainly wasn't feeling like I had any firm ground to stand on. I was embarrassed, I was relieved, I was confused.
So I stayed for an acceptable length of time - the guy who'd followed us had left as soon as he found out that Paul was, in fact, alive - and then walked out to my car, alone. There was a text message on my phone. The guy, saying how truly sorry he was for my loss. "Funny story..." I texted him back, knowing it would be funny eventually.