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友谊天长日久

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核心提示:Tom Davis was my first real friend in China. I met him within the first week of moving here, at a welcome coffee in our compound clubhouse. I hesitated to attend the event, certain that I would be the only man there. But as soon as I walked in, the


    Tom Davis was my first real friend in China. I met him within the first week of moving here, at a welcome coffee in our compound clubhouse. I hesitated to attend the event, certain that I would be the only man there. But as soon as I walked in, the chipper Australian chairwoman of the welcome committee grabbed me by the arm and dragged me across the room, triumphantly introducing me to Tom. She had correctly guessed we would be happy to see one another.

    Tom had also quit his job to move to Beijing when his wife Cathy received a promotion. We were thrown together by circumstance -- the only two male trailing spouses anyone knew about -- and my initial impression was I didn't have much more in common with this dry, quiet former insurance underwriter from Montana. But we exchanged numbers and talked about studying Chinese together. A couple of weeks later, we enrolled at a downtown language school, and during our regular commute we realized that we shared many of the same passions: American history, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the mountains of the American West and fatherhood.

    We were both brimming with excitement about all the things we wanted to see and do in China but little did we know then what was soon to befall Tom and his family. No sooner did we meet and become close friends -- things happen fast in expat land -- than his wife took ill and things took a turn for the tragic. The experience served as a reminder that along with the benefits of being an expat come significant disadvantages, particularly when you are in a developing country and things go awry.

    Tom and Cathy had two daughters, Shealyn, then five, and Sudha, four. They adopted the latter from India knowing that a birth defect necessitated the amputation of both of her feet, and had already begun the process of adopting a disabled Chinese child. I thought this elevated them to sainthood, so I wasn't surprised that Tom was everything you could ask of a friend -- patient, empathetic and concerned -- when I learned that my father had bladder cancer. Yet weeks went by before Tom told me that he was increasingly worried about Cathy's health.

    A dedicated athlete, she started having bad back pain on her regular runs. It didn't go away after repeated rests, so she visited a doctor, who diagnosed joint inflammation. Test after test came back negative but Cathy kept feeling worse and worse.

    Tom and I had left the school and were taking twice-weekly lessons with Yechen at my house and we often chatted afterwards. The conversations turned more and more to the health of my father and Cathy. A concerned Tom was urging Cathy -- who was still traveling around China for her job with a Fortune 500 company -- to return for an American checkup. Her company's gatekeeper doctor back home refused to authorize such travel, patronizingly telling her that she was under a lot of stress and should take some time off. When that failed to get her back on her feet, her supervisor cooked up an excuse to send her home for a conference.

    The day after she left, Tom was driving me home on a frigid December afternoon when Cathy called from the hospital. The news wasn't good. Imaging showed that her lungs were filled with spots, she had a huge tumor on her spine, which had been the source of her original back pain, and there were indications that her cancer had spread throughout her organs. I had been expecting bad news, but this was stunning.

    Cathy had advanced small-cell lung cancer, and there was no cure. The illness does, however, respond to aggressive chemotherapy and an earlier diagnosis may well have extended if not saved her life. I was haunted by this. As part of receiving a long-term Chinese visa you have to undergo a thorough medical screening, including a chest X-ray. Cathy had had hers while on a 'look-see' visit to China. It seemed clear that nobody really read that X-ray; if they had, the disease likely would have been picked up and Tom and Cathy never would have moved here. Once arrived, they were at the mercy of her employer and available medical care. By the time it became obvious that she needed immediate and dramatic help -- help in America -- it was too late.

    One of the things I liked best about Tom and Cathy was their whole-hearted love of China and the expat life, another passion we shared. While others seemed to seek out things to complain about, from the speed of Internet connections to the cleanliness of public toilets, Tom and Cathy enjoyed every minute of their adventure. But having moved to China a couple of months before her illness took hold put Tom in an extra perilous situation, as he was now homeless and jobless while facing the possibility of becoming a far-too-young widower and single father of two. It felt extra cruel to me that the new life that Tom and Cathy had embraced so heartily was making a horrible situation even worse.

    Tom quickly made plans to return home with the girls and I kept him company the next day as he packed a few bags. A Christmas tree hung with ornaments Tom and Cathy had picked up over the course of their 18-year relationship sat in the corner. The next day, I stopped by again to hug my friend goodbye and give the girls meager gifts of Skittles and coloring books.

    I thought of Tom often and my Chinese classes became melancholy events. After a few months, he called to say he was coming to Beijing to empty out the house. They had officially signed papers saying they weren't coming back and the company wanted the house off the books. It seemed to me a cold-blooded request, but I was selfishly happy to see my friend again. Tom tried to be optimistic, but the situation was grim.

    A couple of days later I hugged Tom goodbye again and left with a heavy heart on a planned family vacation to Hong Kong and Shanghai, which I had pushed back a few days to see him. A week later, on our first morning back, I walked outside to take the kids to school only to find our friend
Theo running up our walk with a tear trickling down her cheek.

    'Cathy's dead,' she blurted, before breaking into sobs.

    I was stunned. Tom had barely made it back to his wife's bedside.

    When I called, Cathy's mother answered and I said I was calling from Beijing, we had heard the news, and Cathy was loved and missed here. Tom got on the phone and I told him how much I was thinking of him and would do anything I could for him. We both knew there was nothing I could do.

    I only met Cathy four or five times and we shared a single meal; Tom and I only hung out together for four months and we probably spent less total time together than most people see their officemates in two weeks. But we met at an intense moment in our lives and shared a real bond that I think will last forever. My first friend in Beijing may well end up being the best one I ever make here.

    In the past six months I have been in closer touch with Tom, who is back in Butte, Montana. He finally feels ready to deal with things China-related -- it had just been too painful before. We already have plans to meet in Pittsburgh for a Steelers game in the fall of 2009. It is one of the few things about repatriation that I am looking forward to.

    汤姆•戴维斯(Tom Davis)是我来华后结识的第一位真正的朋友。在我来到北京的第一周,我就在小区会馆内举办的一次欢迎茶会上认识了他。当时我还犹豫要不要参加,因为我以为除我之外参加欢迎会的都是清一色女性。不过在我刚步入会场时,那位开朗的“迎新委员会”澳大利亚女主持就拉着我的手把我拖进去,并一脸喜气给我介绍了汤姆。如她所料,我俩都很高兴能见到“同类”。

    汤姆跟我的情况一样,他的妻子凯茜(Cathy)得到升迁并被派到中国,而他则辞去了工作搬到北京生活。据了解,我俩是这个圈子中仅有的两名随配偶到北京生活的男性。特殊的环境让我们俩成了一类人,不过当时我的第一感觉是,这位朴素、斯文的蒙大拿前保险商与我没有太多相似之处。在欢迎会上,我们互留下电话号码,并商量一起去学中文。几周后,我俩进入了一所市内的学校。在不断交流中,我俩认识到我们有许多的共同爱好,例如我们都喜欢读美国历史,都是“匹兹堡钢人队”(Pittsburgh Steelers)的球迷,都迷恋美国西部的崇山峻岭,也都当上了爸爸。

    我们对在中国所见所做的事情都激动不已,但却没有料到不久之后灾难将降临汤姆和他的家庭。就在我俩相识并成了铁哥们后不久(在国外,事情总是发生的很快),汤姆的妻子生了病,悲剧便由此发生了。经验告诉我们,在国外生活有利有弊,特别是当身处于发展中国家并且又遭了难的时候。
广告汤姆和凯茜有两个女儿,大女儿希琳(Shealyn)当时五岁,二女儿素哈(Sudha)四岁。二女儿是他们收养的一个印度小孩,她因为先天问题而不得不双腿截肢。此外,戴维斯夫妇还在办理手续收养一名中国残疾儿童。我觉得这说明他们俩是有大慈悲心肠的人,所以当我获悉父亲得上膀胱癌时,汤姆给了我作为一位朋友所能给予的一切关怀就并不让人感到意外了。但是几周之后,汤姆就告诉我他越来越担心凯茜的身体。

    凯茜是位喜欢运动的人。事情一开始是她在每天的跑步锻炼时感到背疼。她再三停止运动,但疼痛并未因此消失。于是她去看了医生,而诊断结果是关节炎。虽然各项检查结果都呈阴性,但她却感觉情况越来越糟糕。

    后来汤姆和我都不去那家学校了,而是每周在我家上两次叶琛(音)教的中文课,而下课后我俩经常会闲聊,而谈话内容越来越多的集中在我父亲与凯茜的健康状况上。焦急的汤姆不断催促凯茜尽快回美国检查身体,而此时凯茜仍奔波在中国各地为她效力的那家全球500强企业卖命。然而他们公司负责初诊的医生却拒绝让她回国,并以一副施恩于人的样子告诉凯茜她不过是压力太大,应该休息一段时间。在看到凯茜始终无法好起来后,她的上司编了一个回国开会的理由才将她送回美国。

    凯茜回国后,在前年12月一个寒冷的下午从医院打来电话,当时汤姆正开车送我回家。她情况并不好。照片显示她的肺部有很多阴影,脊骨上有一个很大的肿瘤,正是这个肿瘤让她感到背部疼痛。而且有迹象显示癌细胞已经转移。虽然在此之前我已料到是坏消息,但没想到会如此令人震惊。

    凯茜得的是小细胞肺癌,而且已经到晚期,可以说无药可治。如果能早一点诊断出来,并积极地进行化疗,或许还能大大延长甚至是挽救她的生命。此事让我感到非常难过。按规定,申请中国的长期签证必须要经过仔细的健康检查,其中包括胸透。之前凯茜对中国进行某次考察时就做过这类检查。很明显当时没有人真正认真看过她的X光照片,如果有人仔细看过,就很可能会发现病情,汤姆和凯茜也就不会再搬到北京来。一旦来了中国,他们的性命就只能取决于老板的仁慈和可用的医疗资源了。当病情发展到她明显需要立即得到救助,而且是在美国得到救助时,一切都已经太晚了。

    汤姆和凯茜让我最欣赏的地方在于他们是全身心的热爱中国和在国外的生活,这也是我与他们的另一个共同之处。当其他在华外国人整天只知道抱怨网速太慢或公厕不卫生等事情时,戴维斯夫妇却珍惜这段生活的点点滴滴。但情况是他们家搬到北京好几个月后凯茜的病情才显露端倪,这让汤姆陷入了非常被动的境地。他现在赋闲在家无事可做,弄不好就要年纪轻轻孤身一人,还要抚养两个小孩。现实是如此残酷,这种汤姆和凯茜曾经如此真心热爱的生活却让他们的可怕处境更加雪上加霜。

    接到消息后汤姆立即决定携女儿回国陪伴妻子,第二天我陪他收拾了行李。这时候,一棵圣诞树还立在他家的房角里,上面挂满了这18年来他俩收集的各种小饰品。次日我又来到他家与汤姆道别,还带来了给他女儿的小礼物,有彩色书还有小玩具。

    自汤姆走后我经常想起他,我的中文课成了让人伤感的事情。几个月后汤姆来电说他就要回北京收拾屋子。他们已经签了协议称不会再回北京,因此公司希望把房子腾出来。我觉得这个要求真是够冷血的,但我的自私也让我为能再见到朋友感到高兴。虽然汤姆强作欢笑,但其实情况非常严峻。

    几天之后我再次与他道别,然后带着沉重的心情到香港和上海度假。为了见他,我已经将日期推迟了好几天。一周之后,在我们回到北京的头一天早上,当我走出家门准备送小孩去学校,我们的朋友西奥(Theo)满含热泪向我走来。

    “凯茜走了”,她说道,接着便哭了起来。

    这一噩耗如晴天霹雳,汤姆差一点没能在最后时刻守在妻子身边。

    于是我给汤姆电话,接电话的是凯茜的母亲。我告诉她我是戴维斯夫妇在北京的朋友,我们已经知道凯茜过世的消息,我们深爱着凯茜,大家都很怀念她。后来汤姆接了电话,于是我告诉他自己很惦记他,并愿意提供任何力所能及的帮助。但我们都知道,我帮不上什么忙。

    在此之前我只见过凯茜四到五次,跟她吃过一次饭。汤姆与我相处也只有4个月,也许我们在一起的总时间还不到大多数人与同事相处半个月的时间。但我与他是在我们生活中的重要时期相识,并形成了真正的友谊,我想这种友谊会存在一辈子。我在北京认识的这第一个朋友可能也会是我在这遇到的最好的朋友。

    过去6个月来我与汤姆一直保持着联系。他现在已经回到蒙大拿州的布特市。现在他终于觉得自己能够处理与中国有关的事情,这的确是一段不堪回首的痛苦经历。我们还约好在2009年秋季一起去看匹兹堡钢人队的比赛。这是我在回国后打算做的事情之一。我正盼着能有这一天。

 

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关键词: 友谊 天长 日久
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