Shared Memories: James Truong

Caia was the first person to speak to me on the first day of the first year of the legendary "AG" classes at Gloucester High School. We already knew each other peripherally from middle school. She said hello, and then told me, "Your grays clash." To this day, I look carefully at any gray clothing I put on. As a result, I am marginally better dressed.

During undergrad, I went to Ottawa U while Caia and some others ended up in Waterloo. We would still get together, though, during the holidays in Ottawa. I can't remember whether I introduced "them" to Magic: the Gathering or vice versa. I'd like to take credit and seem like a leader and a trendsetter, but then again, that might then make me responsible for the thousands of dollars our group then spent over the next decade on...cardboard. In any case, I have a strong mental picture of Caia, asleep on the floor of Ron's cottage one New Year's eve, surrounded by the shredded plastic remnants of dozens of Arabian Nights Booster Packs. To the uninitiated, I should point out that this kind of behavior would now be considered the Geek equivalent of a falling unconscious from a cocaine overdose in the middle of a stack of gold bullion. Even at that point, I had no idea Caia had ever been sick; she hid it from most people for the longest time. Instead, she spent most of that weekend trying to trade Magic cards with me in order to get a full set of Kaja (yes, pronounced the same way) Foglio illustrations. I kept trying to tell her that it didn't matter what each card looked like; it only mattered how useful it was. She didn't see it that way, exactly.

After having been apart for "The Waterloo Years" after high school, I became reacquainted with Caia in the winter of 1994. It was then then that I learned that she had been sick. This was between my first and second years of med school and she was between her first and second livers. I wanted to do something to cheer her up, once she was out of the worst of it. Neither of us knew any better at that point, so I had invited her to go snowboarding for the first time. It didn't occur to me at all that this might be a Bad Idea in any way; we had only studied hearts, genitals and nerves at that point. It also didn't ever occur to me that Caia might turn me down; saying no to new experiences was never her Thing. In any case, we ended up on the slopes of Mt. Tremblant and we quickly learned that beginners' snowboarding lessons involve a lot of bum-versus-snow. We had a great time. I was a bit disappointed, at the time, that Caia only managed about three runs before needing to retire back to the chalet to rest. She was tired. Imagine that...after a liver transplant. Who knew? Certainly not me (as we hadn't done our block in surgery yet...). Maybe it was better, though, that I was clueless and she was gung-ho about it all and we went. At the time, I sort of felt like I had wasted her money, dragging her all the way out to this hill for only such a short bit of enjoyment. In retrospect, it has become one of many fond memories of her, and serves as yet another anecdote wherein she reminds me that you can have fun wherever you are, with whatever you've got, if you try hard enough.

12 April 2007