Those of you who have known me for the last six years will recall the Cuba trip I took in July 2008.

…Okay, you got me. That was a very silly opening line. I don’t think anyone who knew me in 2008 reads this thing, and even if anyone did I doubt they’d remember my Cuba trip in 2008.

So. I went to Cuba in 2008. It was an absolutely glorious trip. Life-altering, even. During that week I befriended people from the four corners of the world who, on the surface, I had very little in common with. And it taught me just how great a situation like that could be. In a way, it foreshadowed Floor 12 – coincidentally, two of my best friends in Cuba were from Argentina and Wales.

During my time in Cuba I met also met a British lad named Johnny. From Yorkshire. He was the first British person my age that I’d ever spoken to. He introduced me to the concept of saying “Alright mate?” as a greeting, and the first person to try to explain to me the difference between an English accent and a Welsh accent. He did not succeed. But he was a swell guy and we had a number of good times and good chats during that week.

I think what stuck with me most is that he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up. It had been his dream ever since he was very young. I thought that was a wonderful thing – a lot of us abandon those childhood dreams, but Johnny had embraced his. And when he mentioned flying, his eyes lit up and you could see the passion. Five years later I don’t remember too many details about Johnny, but I remember that one very clearly.

Following this trip we added each other on Facebook. I saw his excitement when he was accepted to pilot’s school, and occasionally saw him post pictures of himself grinning in the cockpit of an aircraft. He looked happy.

We slowly lost touch. When there’s an ocean between you, a single week of shared experiences usually won’t be enough to sustain a friendship.

Nearly two years passed. And then in April 2010 I saw a Facebook group appear. Rooting for Johnny.

I clicked the link to the group to see what it was about. And I turned white.

Johnny had lost all feeling in his legs one day and collapsed. Doctors confirmed that it was a spinal bleed, and that they’d caught it just in time. They were able to save his life. But he would have to spend the next six months in hospital and it was questionable as to whether or not he’d ever be able to walk again. I was horrified. I immediately sent him a message to show my support.

The months passed, and I kept up with Johnny’s condition via the group. By September he was able to go home, but there was no indication that he’d regained use of his legs. And that to me was the cruelest cut of all because it meant that he would never become a pilot.

Imagine that. To have something that you’ve worked for your entire life snatched away from you out of nowhere. To feel that you’re on the verge of achieving your greatest passion – your destiny, even – only to wake up in a hospital bed and be told otherwise. I can’t fathom it.

It shouldn’t happen. Healthy twenty year-old guys don’t just collapse.

And yet, they do.

 

The reason I’m posting this today is that I realized that Johnny and I are no longer Facebook friends. This made me sad, but in fairness we hadn’t actually spoken in years. 

But then I tried to look for his profile, and it was nowhere to be seen. I spent a good half hour (which I should have spent studying) searching for him, but to no avail.

And now I’m left wondering about the epilogue to this story. What happened to Johnny? Was he ever able to walk again? Was he able to return to pilot school?

I think that the answers to those questions are tremendously important, but I’m afraid to go digging for them in case they’re not the answers I want to hear.

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