The person who tells me is crying. "He was my friend," he says.
I can't say the same, but I saw Brad almost every day I was at the station. He smiled when he said hello, and sometimes we talked, about things that you talk about with people you don't know that well: the weather, fires that were going on, nothing that really matters. I don't have a part in this story, but I will put my arms around my friends and hear theirs.
I've stopped reading the comments on the news stories. When did we become such a society of victim blamers? "Stay out of the woods," one person wrote. "He should have had a gun," someone else typed (because guns solve everything, apparently). I doubt some of these people have ever been on a hiking trail, and probably none of them have ever been close to a grizzly bear and seen how fast it can move, how much power it carries.
"Sometimes your number is up," C. says. I briefly argue, but give up. It probably makes him feel better to believe this, but I can't. I can't handle the idea that we move in a predetermined lockstep, our lives and deaths already plotted and programmed before we are even born.
Here's what I think the truth is. I think you can do everything right, and one day get on your bike like you have many times before, expecting to come home and see the people you love and go to work the next day. Maybe at that moment you are thinking how warm the sun is and how good it feels to be moving. Maybe you feel glad to be alive on such a glorious afternoon. And then there is a bear, and the bear is just being a bear, not malicious or predatory, just a bear that is scared. And then everything changes.
I think in almost everyone's life there is a bear at some point, something so big and unexpected that all your preparations don't mean anything. You're just out there living your life, and you come around a corner and there it is. It's not fate or destiny. It just is.
Rest in peace, Brad. I wish I had known you better.