'After the first death,' Dylan Thomas wrote, 'there is no other.' I know what he is getting at, I suppose, but it isn't true, at least not for me. I have had other deaths, but the death last month of my friend Michael Rogin was a shock. It's not that we had, in recent years, spent much time together. I left Berkeley, where we taught together on the faculty of the University of California, in the mid-1990s, and almost immediately lost touch with most of my network of friends. That sudden dropping away of a whole world is strange, but, though it feels like a personal failing, I cannot be the only one for whom or to whom it has happened. People I saw every few days, people who constituted my social medium, people with whom I shared jokes and work and secrets, were gone, utterly vanished. Of course, it was I who was gone, having moved three thousand miles away, but though it was my own choice and a happy one at that, it felt irrationally like an expulsion. I tried to stay in contact through e-mail and phone calls, and with a few intimate friends it worked. But most simply disappeared from my life, as if they meant no more to me than the person who took my toll on the Bay Bridge.
LRB 3 January 2002 | PDF Download