In the car yesterday, my wife and I drifted again into reflecting on how we still find it impossible to believe Kam is gone. If you’re a regular visitor, you may know our friend had died suddenly back on February 2, and that her loss has gutted us. She had only turned 45 in November.
Sixteen years ago, Kam was the first girlfriend of my (future) wife’s I’d met. She behaved towards me initially rather like the sidekick in late 1990s Brit romance-comedy films: the no-nonsense pal who isn’t too sure about this American guy who’s clearly after her best friend. All these years later, I still remember the skeptical looks and careful questions. Fortunately, I passed muster.
A British-born Sikh, Kam had boyfriends at various times. There were some English guys. I remember an Irish rugby player. There was even an Italian. Her parents had also “introduced” her to various “marriageable” men in the Sikh community, including one from Canada.
On that latter, Londoner and European that she was, I recall her moaning softly, “He’s okay. But I don’t want to live in Ontario.” Obviously she had never found the guy she apparently wanted to marry (or one who had wanted to marry her also). She had told us she was free to marry anyone she wanted, Sikh or not. In arranging “meetings,” she said, her parents were only trying to help; what mattered was only what she wanted.
While we drove, as we finished our latest reminiscences about her, my wife abruptly revealed this to me:
“I never told you this. Kam and I agreed years ago that if I died, she would’ve married you.”
I was so stunned, I laughed. But then I realized my wife wasn’t kidding. I had been party sorta to an “arranged second marriage” someday, although no one had ever bothered to tell me.
It was tremendously flattering. It was also jaw-dropping to discover that she had been that fond of me. I had always believed Kam and I had gotten on well, yet her usually somewhat formal, unemotional and subtle manner had always also left me feeling a bit unable to gauge what was really going on inside her head.
Several weeks after Kam died, her sister told us that in her last hours in hospital Kam had instructed her to tell us goodbye and that she had loved us. When I heard that, it took everything I had to hold myself together. I almost fell apart on the spot.
I had never before fully appreciated how as a married man the death of an unmarried woman friend can seem so difficult to characterize properly and awkward to mourn. As time has moved on, I have realized Kam’s death has upset me more than the loss of anyone I have ever known. The only ones that might have “rivaled” it to date were perhaps (when I was much younger) those of my grandparents; but the loss of grandparents is of a vastly different life order than the death of a close contemporary of course.
Men and women as just friends? Is it really possible? Kam’s death has led to that theme increasingly slipping into the writing of the sequel. Does there always have to be an unsaid undercurrent of something more than friendship?
You may know by now one of my characters is partly based on Kam. Her personality, style and attitudes, help underpin Valérie. Indeed I’m having to temper my writing: since February, missing Kam, I’m finding Valérie’s role just keeps getting bigger and bigger….