The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Appointment in Samarra

I don't often share about personal matters on this blog, but I've found out tonight that the daughter of a very good friend--one of those rarities, someone who one meets after youth who becomes as close as the friends of youth--died last night, of an overdose.

Her father, my dear friend, and his wife--also a very close friend, but one I've known longer (she sold me many of my favorite books, decades ago, when she ran a lovely used book shop near my law school, where I blew an unconscionable amount of what money I had--are both members of a twelve step program, survivors of addiction.

That's where, after many years of not seeing my old friend, I met her again. And her then fiancé, who completes a circle with my beloved wife--one of those quartets who grow together, spend time and sometimes make what Kurt Vonnegut called a karass.

We are all of us sober, one day at a time.

My karass has suffered a grievous loss, a young lady who was funny, brash and warm. Her father and(non-evil) stepmother are--I nearly wrote "gutted", and that would be true, but in another sense, it isn't. They want to share her story in the hope that it might help another suffering alcoholic or addict. That someone might become ready through hearing this story.

Which makes me reflect a little about my own sobriety. We really are reprieved, one day at a time, never fully cured.

You know the story of the appointment in Samarra? It goes like this, as told by W. Somerset Maugham:
The speaker is Death

There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threating getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
All of us have that appointment; addicts rush toward it.

Sobriety gives us a daily postponement.

It's only an adjournment, of course; we all must eventually keep our appointment. But the miracle is that daily we get to heed the admonition of Oliver Wendell Holmes (translating Vergil): "Death plucks my ear and says: Live - I am coming." We get to live until we die. We win the sweepstakes.

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