Drift Away


It was just a tiny piece in the metro section of the Washington Post. Three lines to be exact. I was surprised that my wife had noticed it. "Look at this," she said.

Dentist Is Feared Drowned

It seems he was driving in Warren County during heavy rains a couple of weeks ago. What was he doing there? Who knows? Out for a drive...

Wherever he was going, he must have been in a hurry. He decided to take a bridge which had been closed by VDOT because of high water. Probably was driving a tough vehicle - a truck that could go anywhere. Or maybe just a Toyota with a wild burr up his ass. Risk taker.

Whatever, two feet of water took him out, swept him away down the mighty Shenandoah River. All rivers are mighty.

Two feet of water. It must be a terrifying way to meet your end. In my imagination, there is so much time to struggle. I see a lot of cinema, cars folding inside, no exit.

He was my old dentist -
Eugene C****.  I knew the name immediately, but it took a while to conjure a face. I lived in Crystal City when I first went to his office. It was local and convenient.

It's shocking - the small amount of information that makes up his life as can be gleaned from the obituary. He lived in Alexandria. He graduated from a couple of good schools. He married and divorced. He served in the Army. He remarried. He died in a river. He was survived. A seven-fact man.

He didn't talk much, at least to his patients. This was something I liked about him. He didn't try to make happy talk while drilling. He didn't need to be intimate just because he was being intimate. Just told you what he needed to tell you. Not unpleasant, just distant. Like I was with him.

He didn't wear gloves, even though Aids was a hot topic by the time of our professional relationship. This was something I didn't like about him. There came a time when I could no longer take the naked fingers in my mouth. The gloves are there to protect the doctor as well as the patient, but the doctor is at the greater danger. Risk taker.

Two more facts in a seven-fact life. Two feet of water.

Stand in awe of the ways in which people leave this world.

 

2003, Mark Hoback