December 26th – “Be the first one to bring up a taboo topic now.”

One of the worst places to have small talk with strangers are at hospitals, especially animals hospitals. Aside from the annual check-up, many pet owners take their pets to the vet only when there is something wrong.

Today, a woman came in with a little coughing dog. Another pet owner casually asked her what they were doing there and she responded matter of factly, “He has to be put to sleep.”

The room fell silent. The receptionist looked like she was going to start crying. I paid for my cat food and left quietly.

***

A few hours later, I learned that a friend passed away on social media. This is not the first time I’ve gotten news of people passing on Facebook, but it was the first one that actually mattered to me.

I last communicated with Robert in September when I started this blog. I considered him a good friend even though we didn’t spend very much time together. I could talk to him honestly without having to censor any part of myself. Robert was open, intelligent, and had integrity. He was a really nice guy. I knew that he was someone I could trust and rely on, even if we only talked to each other every few months.

We were strangers 9 winters ago until I started a conversation with him at my local coffee shop. I was working on a paper and needed a break. Aside from me, he was the only other colored person in the place, so I felt inclined to meet him. Little did I know that this stranger would become someone I would call a friend.

We spent many days at the coffee shops together in Boston, eating Malaysian food in New York, and even touring Beijing.  I didn’t have any bad days with him. Robert was a positive spirit who made me forget my pessimism. He listened without judgment and challenged me without criticizing. He accepted me for all the ways that I was different from him. Robert valued his time and I was honored that he thought that I was worthy of his friendship.

I hope that we can meet again in my next lifetime.

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