brni (brni) wrote,

i wear a smile like a leather glove

woke up this morning thinking about death, and about kim ryan. kim was a big guy, plumber's hands, probably one of the most powerful people i've known, and yet he could be tremendously gentle and caring. he was one of the black belts at my karate school. he organized the yearly picnic and demonstration. in 1995 or 96 he got knifed in the back while trying to break up a bar fight on st patrick's day.

he was gone for a while after that, and when he came back he told us that he was sick. there had been problems healing after the stabbing, and the doctors did some tests and discovered that he had a rare form of cancer whose name i don't remember. linda and i looked it up and discovered that his chances of survival were very slim. the picture above was taken after he'd already been diagnosed for a year or so. he only broke 5 boards that day because of his weakened state.

one day in class, he and i were paired up for "ki training" - basically, grappling, judo style. somehow he got scratched and started bleeding, and got blood all over himself and me. i remember him looking at the blood on his hands in horror.

"it's not a problem," i told him, "unless you have HIV or hepatitis, in which case i expect you'd tell me."

he didn't. it was maybe a year before he finally told me that he had AIDS. by that time he'd developed symptoms that were simply not consistent with cancer, and we were wondering. i got tested right away and spent a nervous couple weeks waiting for results.

we never talked about that day when he'd bled all over me before he died, although it was on both of our minds. i think he was trying to atone for it until he died, in his own way. he took to buying me lunch a lot, for reasons I didn't understand for a long time. he'd found god somewhere along the line, and tried hard to get us to come to his bible studies, bought us books on jesus. linda's and my salvation seemed very important to him.

forgiveness and redemption: we fumbled around it, circled it like sharks drawn to blood, approaching tangentially, but never arriving.

i can forgive the events that put me at risk. shit happens. let it go. but i can't forgive putting linda at risk. i'm still angry about that.

and i shouldn't be, because i don't know if, in his place, i'd have acted any differently.
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