We cycled to warm up at the crack of dawn and greeted
the sunrise together for the first time on our journey. The brilliance an
electrifying orange, sudden and assertive in the cold morning air. We came to a
gray sign that read:
WELCOME TO QUEBEC
Man-made inlets were carved into the shoreline every
couple of hundred metres, houses built in clusters, remnants of the
infrastructure from the Habitant days attracting pioneers with arable land
backing out from the river. We passed old and new locks, some decrepit and some
in use, the road barren, chipped and bumpy and hard to ride. We crossed the
elongated bridge to the island of Montreal, past Beaconsfield and then Point
Claire and Dorval. The homes beautiful beside the white-capped river flowing
towards the Atlantic. There were only a few cyclists and a few walkers along
the path where we stopped. It was there that Doppel saw the full extent of my
pain. I hobbled to a bench where he sat, choosing not to hide anything anymore
from him. I had become an old man.
"We're almost there. There's the Champlain Bridge," he
said, pointing. Brave not to infringe or inquire. My ailments, my business.
"I'm afraid I have some bad news for
you Edward. I'm ill. I have something similar to your Reiter's Syndrome but
it's a little heavier I think." Doppel's empathetic, expected something. "It is
a fatal disease that affects the limbs. My cells are dying and my limbs and
then organs will hardened with scar tissue until my death within two years.
There's no treatment and they don't know what causes it. I'm sorry I didn't
tell you earlier but I couldn't find the right time. I actually flew to Taiwan
to tell you but our time there was so wicked I didn't want to wreck it.
"As I said to you my biggest regret
is that we didn't spend more time together as adults. Always thought we'd have
the time. I suppose that's why I asked you to take this final road trip with
me. It really meant a lot to me."
"I've accepted it. I mean, I
wrestled with the ‘why' but I'm past that now. I just don't want you to have a
bird or anything. But I must say, your ideas on time were right on. I've
changed a heck of a lot in my life since my diagnosis a year ago. Time, or the
awareness of its limited amount, totally changed the way I see the world, make
decisions and engineer my day. It really has been amazing hearing your ideas
and seeing the passion you have. I mean you've taken it farther than I ever did
by far. And I'm proud of you man. Really, a dying man doesn't lie!" No smile.
"And I wanted to say I'm sorry about a few things." He addressed past fights
and misunderstandings that had been left untouched, timelines he wanted to fix
before he left for good.
"If there's anything I didn't
address it means that whatever it is was not important to me or that I've
forgotten - because it didn't bother me. I don't want you to be devastated by
this because I know I would react if you told me these words. So be comforted
that I'm at peace with you and the world. I wish we had had this handbook
discussion twenty years ago because I certainly would've chosen different paths
and done different things. I hope you write it all down for others to learn and
be inspired by your work, your diligence and sacrifice. Expand the handbook to
a book for humanity." I looked at him but his eyes were dark and stormy.
"'Cause if you don't, I will. If I had known what you've told me these last two
road trips I would have become a different person, done the things that needed
to be before I met my end. I didn't respect time. That's the bottom line.
"Only Mom knows about my illness.
It's called Lupus. It's been around for thousands of years and no one has ever
found a cure. So I mean, it's one of those thins you don't have any control
over. It's just happened. I will have half the years I thought I'd have. I thought
you would be the first to leave. Your recklessness and your natural inclination
to open the door and find out for yourself rather than trust others who have
told you. I mean you've traveled and seen the world while I was sitting in
Toronto going out with the same guys and watching the same hockey team that
never won. You went out there and became a man. I stayed and remained a boy. I
read what you read twenty-five years ago and it's been lost. Apathy. Ignored
initiative. The works.
"So it's almost serendipitous that I
had the experience to be taught and be enlightened by someone who has done
those things that needed to be done and verified the ideas you had read about
to see if they worked. When I asked you what you would change in your life if
you found out you were going die within a year, and you said nothing, that was
the thing I couldn't say. I'm living the life I should have lived before the
news. Your half-life could be equal to my ninety years of living. You've
probably lived an entire lifetime to the average man reaching old age but I
would be half and only getting half the time. Think of the tragedy of that.
Think of all those fields I'll never get to go. Sensations I never explored. A
certain level of qualia never reached. I've been up at bat but looking down to
first base missing the pitches. My one at bat and I daydream. That's loss.
That's unforgivable. It's embarrassing. Never left the nest. Never
tree-planted. I never rode motorcycles in countries like Vietnam and India but
somehow you found the time. I always wanted to go to St. Petersburg. And
Ireland. You've probably been there too.
"I wonder too if knowing I'm going
to die within twelve months has given me some perspective that I otherwise
wouldn't have had if I was killed for example in a bus accident, not knowing
until the final moment. Things left unsaid and beefs never addressed. Papers
not in order. Time for harvest from reflection, time earned from labors put in.
The playing filed has been halved. There's only four minutes left in the first
half, which is all the time I'm going to have. Been pulled for the second half.
Shame too ‘cause I was just getting into my groove."
"Yeah, and maybe that's a good thing
before I go in case there's an afterlife."
"Oh there is an afterlife Schöngait.
I've said that before but you still don't see."
"I will be seeing soon. But let me
put it this way, the door's still open on that one. I'm open-minded on that
question. It's a wait-and-see number. I'm hoping you're right. Wouldn't be the
"Is there anything I can do, or
anything you'd like me to do for you? Just ask if there is."
I stoked my beard and there was only
one thing that popped in.
"I would like for you to make me a
promise. That's what I'd like."
"And what's that?"
"That you write down all that stuff
you were talking about, your extended philosophy studies. Autodidact gone mad.
In a book form. Your Viking-Poet ethics and your Kantian epistemology. Can you
promise me that?" Doppel scratched his beard and mulled.
"No, I can't. I know why. ‘cause I
just cracked it. Put into words a comprehensive life view, a momentary
breakthrough which, now learned, would not motivate me to write it all down
organized and crisp. I know myself too well. It's been conquered so it's time
to move on. So I'm sorry Stüffle but I honestly cannot make that promise."
Thrilled to hear the blunt honesty.
"Okay but what about if, in my last days, I find the time to write it down from
memory, our two trips and the ideas we discussed, into a completed book, would
you promise to publish it?"
"Yes, I promise to do that. If you
have a completed manuscript then I'll have it published."
"And do you promise not to touch a word in the
"No problem bro."
"You know that's your expertise. That's what God gave
you to take with and run. And you did! It behooves you to hand off your
digested knowledge and to share your wisdom just as you did with me. In Taiwan
riding during all those aftershocks was my classroom for my philosophy tutorial.
Learned more during that week riding to Puli than I did in all my classes at
university. It's like you crystallized it all into one comprehensive edifice
based on and footnoted to the Biggies who came before you. All the more reason
to write it up. Or is it just for me? The point is that I'm going to use zeitqualia
everyday and try to maximize my qualia and utilize my time in a respectful
flow, not because it came from you, but because it's the wisest thing to do.
Too many people sitting around just waiting to die. Not I. One never
knows, there could be a few more exploits rustled up from the basement. And I'm
always in for a wingman."
disease, Lupus, took its course and ended his life 13 months after this bike
trip took place. I saw Stüffle only twice after this trip knowing that he
wanted to spend time with me before he died. I couldn't see him deteriorate
like that, hardening into wood, hands like claws, eyelids half-closed. I wanted
to remember him from this day in Montreal before we saw Dad and Grandpa, when
he told me about his fatal illness. I resisted sullying what was perfect. A
time that could not be bettered.
When I saw my twin brother last he
was bedridden and close to dying but determined to hand me his completed manuscript
and confirm my promise was "still in play."
In fact I write these words as part
of the Epilogue having just finished reading the book. How vivid he captured
the action and the ideas. I don't remember being that sharp.
I was living in Ecuador when my twin
graduated to the spirit world so I had the manuscript translated into Spanish
and published 200 copies first run. Knocked on doors to almost every bookstore
in Quito and sold them fast after I had it reviewed in one of the respected
Spanish newspapers here. Her review stirred a tempest, making me a de facto
publisher of a book that is still selling.
There's a strange symmetry that has
occurred between us. Stüffle writing the book from my ranting and my efforts to
have it published in an unorthodox manner, it has become one of the top selling
books in the last decade in South America, having touched a nerve in the
population, likely connected to the motorcycling culture. I also must give
mention to Dale who was chosen to translate for making an effort to thoroughly
understand the material before he translated. Being a great man and character I
thought he would be able to relate and transcribe the same ethos as the
brothers in the story, a certain nomenclature that might have encouraged the
unexpected response from the reading public.
Also, Stüffle didn't once that he
was writing the book until the day he handed it to me. Kept it to himself and
didn't have any questions. I regard it now as his chance to make something of
his life, to leave something behind, to repent for wasting time and seek
redemption through a sincere effort. And I honestly believed that zeitqualia
helped him enjoy his last year living. It was always on his mind.
"Doppel" van Normann, Nov 27, 2003