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A Literate Weirdo

I must admit I was a little bit envious when I first met him. "You must be a very spiritual person," I told her, "to be affected like that by a book." "I read many books and never experienced what he's going through." She wasn't impressed. "I think he's a weirdo," she said. "A literate weirdo ."

I met him about a month after the event that 'changed his life,' as he used to say. It was in the summer of '88 at a four-week summer camp in the north. We were both assigned a group of third graders and spent most of those four weeks together. On the third night, he told me the story. It was a little after midnight and we were sitting next to the fire, exhausted after a long day of chasing restless, energetic 9-year-olds.

"It happened one evening, about a month ago" he said. The light from the fire was getting dimmer and I could hardly see him. "I was alone in the house. My parents were abroad and I was bored to death. I zapped through the channels for two hours but there was nothing interesting on. I had no one to call. I had broke up with my girlfriend the week before, and most of my friends had joined the army already, so for the first time in my life I was really bored. I thought of reading something, but I had already read the newspaper that morning, and I had no new books. Then I remembered that among the things we brought over from my grandfather's house was a big brown box full of his books. He had died the previous winter and we had to clear his apartment. And there it was...," his voice was trembling a bit "the first book on top." "You see -" he said, and I could tell he was looking in my direction, "nothing is coincidental in life. Everything happens for a reason," "I was alone that evening for a reason, I took the book on top of the pack for a reason," "We're even having this conversation now for a reason" he added when he heard my doubting snort. It was spooky, I must admit. The darkness, the dying fire and the thought that it was all happening for a reason. Everything. Even this insignificant spontaneous moment.

It was already late and we had to wake up early the following morning, so we covered the remains of the fire with sand and headed toward the lodges.

I never really understood what fascinated him so much about that story. A few months later when I tried to remember the details, when I was desperately seeking for clues in what he had said that night, hints that might explain the tragic events that followed, I realized that I didn't remember much. He learned from the book about an ancient belief that is common to several cultures. About an angel that touches us, just before we are born, and with his touch erases our memories. "Hundreds of years of experience, emotions and knowledge erased with a slight touch," I remember him saying.

We kept in touch for a while after the summer camp was over. A phone call every now and then. The last time I spoke with him he told me that he finally got a draft date. February 9th.

It was early morning, February 19th, when I saw his picture in the paper. He had shot himself the night before. A Few lines and a picture of him smiling. There was a long article about him in the Fridays' edition. There was so much about him that I didn't know. His friends described a quick deterioration. The stress attendant to graduating high school, the death of his beloved grandfather, the constant fights and disagreements with his rich, aloof parents, the looming military service and probably, most of all, the breakup from his long-time girlfriend. He was slowly disconnecting from reality. "Wasn't making sense anymore."

No one mentioned the book and the story with the angel. Sometimes I think that I may be the only one who ever heard the story from him. And maybe he was right after all. Maybe we were there for a reason. For this story to be told...

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