I can’t say we were exactly sad, at least not in the traditional sense, when we heard about his death. We were a little sad that that’s the way the world works, I suppose. Sad that he met his destiny and never had a chance to become a dad or go to grad school or run a marathon or anything like that. But sad in the grieving way where you cry and all that? Not really.
It’s like when a hundred-year-old man dies and you think, well, that’s too bad, I guess, but he was a hundred years old, what do you expect? Our family member was killed by Jack Bauer just as we all knew he would be. He even knew it. “I wonder if it will be this season,” he often said, kind of wistfully. “I wonder if I’ll be guarding the hideout or attempting a roadside ambush when Jack Bauer shoots me to death.”
We always knew he was different, of course. To begin with, no one in the family remembers how he came to live with us in the first place. Was he born to us? Did he wander into the house one day? And when did that happen? Was he a baby or a teenager or what? There was no backstory, no compelling episode or development. He was just sort of there. In the flesh but not fleshed out. Does that make sense?
It’s even hard to remember anything about him. Months, years even, would go by without anyone noticing him. He would mostly stand around the entrances to our house as if waiting for someone to come bursting in (Jack Bauer, we later realized), and he would never have anything to say. He nodded a lot, but that’s not the same as talking. It was as if he knew he wasn’t the star of the family. If I had to pick my favorite quality of his, I guess it would be his helpfulness. You could always say, “We’re out of milk,” and boom, he’d be off to the store. Or if there was a strange dog outside, he would rush outside. Oddly, he wouldn’t really do anything about the dog. He’d just stand there, looking menacing. Just waiting for further instructions, I guess. But, still, it was nice of him.
I suppose it would be easier to have fond memories of him if he’d had a name. It sounds terrible, but it’s as if his character never really rose to the level of a name. Sometimes we’d try out “Viktor” or “Omar” or “Diego” or “Steven” or something, but nothing ever stuck. All the same, he’d respond to anything .We could have called him “Stick” and it would have been fine. Bear in mind, this is not unusual in our country. Many of us are nameless. I mean, the country itself doesn’t have a name, after all. How screwed up is that? We’re not Syria, we’re not Russia, we’re not any of the “Stans” or Mexico. What kind of country doesn’t even name itself? Pretty lazy country, if you ask me. Oh sure, everyone’s happy to hijack nuclear weapons and practice their icy glares and recruit secret U.S.-government accomplices, but no one can be bothered to name the country. Can anyone find us on a map? Take an afternoon, brainstorm, name the country, design a flag. Not that hard, you’d think.
Anyway, when he moved out to take a job as a henchman, we wished him well, knowing we’d never see him again, honestly not all that broken up about it. It’s nice when someone finds work in their life’s calling, I guess. We sort of hoped he would at least have an ideological motivation behind his terrorism, maybe something related to religion or economic issues or historical retribution or something, but he said it was just time to go work for the Russians or the Muslims or the Chinese or whoever it was that was hiring. There always seemed to be work available. “Well, we hope your fiendish plot works,” we said, you know, just to be nice. He chuckled a little and said, “Oh, of course it won’t. We’ll get close, but then Jack Bauer will stop us at the last minute. And, in the process, Jack Bauer will shoot me to death.”
Why even bother, then? If you know your efforts will amount to nothing and you’ll be killed, why go? Why not stay home, find a more pleasant job, make something of yourself, and perhaps even settle on a proper name? When we got the news of his death, we considered holding a service or something, but then I think Prison Break was on, and we’ve really gotten into that show lately.