You Have One New Death

by Sarah Beuhler

Now we find out when a friend dies because another friend joins a Facebook group called “Remembering R.A.”

As far as we know, R. A. is alive and well in South America, getting hammered every night at hostels and making friends, so we click on a link and see that somebody made a group for people to reminisce and post pictures about R.A.

This group now serves as a notification that a 25-year-old has died.

Now we frantically scan his Facebook page to see what his last post was, but he wasn’t a big Facebook user and the last thing he posted was an August 13 album called “Nueva Camera,” and a status update joking about how Lima was the foggiest place he’d ever seen. It is now August 20. He has been dead for one day.

Now we send a message of condolence to his girlfriend in Budapest offering the kind of well-meaning and empty support we can offer when we’re in Canada and she’s in Hungary.

She replies that although the separation has been hard that they’ll see each other in Melbourne in three months and asks how life is in Canada after being in Central America for six months, and do we miss the hotel we were managing down there.

Now we realize that she doesn’t know.

Now we dance nervously around our apartment in Canada covering our face with our hands, not wanting to be the one to tell her, not wanting to be that person again.

Now it’s three o’clock in the morning and we’re just home from work, with tears and snot running down our face while we cry quietly so the neighbors don’t wake up, but wanting the neighbours to hear and know that we’re in pain. And it’s not even our own pain. It’s hers and she’s in Budapest.

It’s ours because when we were 19 someone called us in a resort town while we were working at a deli to tell us that the boy we were in love with three months ago had died in a car wreck and drugs had been involved.

It’s ours because when we were 16 our casual friend in English class died of liver cancer and they announced it on the PA but our best friend missed the announcement and we had to tell her, and it was the worst feeling we’d ever had.

It’s ours because in 2004 our uncle called our mother at midnight to tell us that our dad had killed himself and there was no booze in the house.

It’s ours because we just broke the goddamn news somehow over Facebook.

Now we urgently tell her to call his parents.

Now we find the girl who started the damned group in the first place, who keeps posting pictures of her and R. last year — were they dating? Were they in love? On top of all this did R. have two girlfriends? Should we send her a message and ask?

None of this is our business.

Now the lines are all blurry.

Now we get the number of his mum in Melbourne and tell her to call it before she does anything else.

Now we can do nothing else.

Now we realize it’s always about us.

Now we feel relieved and then guilty that there’s nothing else we can do.

Now we get a message in our inbox the next day when we’re working. It’s just a link to a short article from a newspaper in Peru that shows a picture of an ambulance and a group of concerned Peruvians craning their necks somewhere to the back of it.

Turista muere en piscina.

Sarah Beuhler just got back from Guatemala and writes in Vancouver.

Photo via Travelpod