Henri is back from the dead.
I didn't believe it at first. Surely, I was being catfished. But after an extensive Google search, it was clear. Henri wasn't in the grave; he was in Bogota, Colombia.
It started with a simple Facebook message to one of our old roommates. He wished her a belated happy new year. She responded with elation and surprise to the message and tagged the rest of us so we, too, could view the "best wishes" statement from the beyond. Then, secretly, all of us messaged one another, warily wondering what could possibly be going on. This isn't real, right?
Perhaps I shouldn't say all of us. There had been seven roommates representing four different countries in that disgusting house on top of a hill in northern New South Wales, Australia. Renting the house a few doors down was another hodgepodge of internationals looking for adventure where the rainforest meets the sea. Between these scattered homes of trekkers, I can recall folks from 11 countries. Most of us are no longer in contact. It was a time before Facebook and social media could keep us all together while being oceans apart. We lost touch with some because they changed their email addresses. We lost touch with others because they changed their last names. And we lost touch with Henri because Henri had died.
But Henri wasn't dead. He was in Bogota.
As the four of us roommates who had kept in touch secretly chatted about whether or not Henri had actually returned from the dead, none of us could remember how we had first heard he died. It was well over a decade ago that we had heard the news — soon after our time living in the disgusting, bug-filled quarters that we lovingly referred to as the Castle. I thought I remembered being told it had been a car accident. Another roommate heard it had been an illness. No one could recall who had told whom the news. We just knew that at the time, it had been devastating.
Unlike the rest of us, Henri had been living in Australia to get his doctorate. He was introspective, with a streak of sad and a righteous laugh. He loved to make home-brew beer. He would run 12 miles a day and eat nothing but Snickers bars. He had a girl in South America, whom he loved, but her family wouldn't allow them to be together. He had vowed that one day, he would find a way. He was becoming a doctor to prove his worth. When she cut off communication with him because it hurt too much, he quit the university, bought a van and left the Castle, opting to live life as a beach bum instead. For a while, he would come back to the Castle. Until he didn't. And I never saw Henri again.
And never would, because Henri had died.
But Henri wasn't dead. He was in Bogota. Which I found to, in fact, be true. Google stalking showed that he is a professor and has young children with a woman whom I thought looked familiar — as if I had once seen her portrait poorly taped to the dirty walls on the inside of our shared home.
He never responded to our ecstatic responses on Facebook. Never wrote back. Never engaged with us. I can't say why. Perhaps he disappeared all those years ago on purpose. Perhaps this is how he needs to live in order to live. And that is fine. Because Henri is back from the dead.
Henri came back to this world right before 17 people were taken from it at a high school in Florida.
Did that seem to come out of nowhere? I bet it did for them, too.
I certainly hope to never feel the pain these parents are experiencing. And I hope with all my soul that no parent in this country will have the pain of losing a child to violence at school ever again. But I have to imagine that if I were one of these parents, every once in a while I would engage in the fantasy that my baby might be a Henri — living a secret life somewhere so he could live the life of his dreams.
But neither these children nor the other 121 people who have died in school shootings in the five years since Sandy Hook are coming back.
We can't lose any more.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.