We'd met when I was 20 or so. I've talked of it here.
He of the leather jacket and black T shirts and engineer boots. He of the coffee and cloves and the stories of ghosts in the valley. His eyes, so much depth there. He shunned television, he read constantly, consuming words. Cars, music, books. Women, trouble.
When I got my first computer job, it was he that I called to join me. I helped create a technician in him, helped him get his legs in the field. When I moved to a new job, he moved with me. When I fucked off to California, it was he who drove with me. Whenever I needed a spine, it was he who supplied it.
I counted on him, on his laughter and honesty and capability. But when my wife and I moved away, we moved away. We cut off. And we saw him, he visited and we visited, but it was different. His horizon expanded. We both moved on, keeping in touch but not the day to day. He had a job working from home. This isolation proved dangerous. He moved from New Mexico to Colorado and back, different towns, different routines. Got married, got divorced, got remarried.
We stayed in touch but lost the connection. Maybe it was that we couldn't maintain that energy. For a few years there he and I and my friend Mike were all one organism. We were three brothers, created by choice and pain and joy.
Back in September of this year, just after my grandmother died, he emailed. He needed to talk. Drink and depression were destroying him and his second marriage. His life had taken a dark turn. Despite the sheer number of friends, close friends that would give him their blood, he felt adrift, alone, and lost.
He called. Things were very, very bad. I could barely understand him, his speech was so off, so alien. I basically begged him to get help, to talk to his wife about it. He called again, and was worse. She'd left after arguing, he was incapable of talking to her. Some dark evil thing was in him. It was not him talking to me. It was this thing, this alien thing. I said something about, we can't just give in. He said, I guess I should take the bullets out of the gun then? At that point I realized it wasn't him, and that he was close to the edge, and I had no words.
I am good with words, at times. It's what I do. But I was in no place to save him; I had no idea what to say. I'd end up begging and crying. Instead, I asked if I could have my friend, a counselor, call him. He agreed. My friend called him, talked to him, then talked to his wife. Gordon set out to find help. Bad things happened, 72 hours passed, and he finally checked into detox.
But then, once out, he did not follow up. By now we were in Europe for a vacation. He relapsed, was fired from work, was in very very rough shape. On return, I heard from his wife, he was steps away from police and forcible commitment but decided to check himself into rehab. We start talking very often on the phone, and very often by email. I heard from him every couple of days.
Finally, he started to see what needed to be done. His wife, though, was done for now; she asked him to move out by December 1. He got counselling, started going to AA daily (complained bitterly about the God aspect) and found a psychiatrist. He found a place to live. He found a job almost immediately. He started sounding like himself, though with much regret. Despite that, he knew what was required. He continued to fight and work hard. The last I spoke to him, we talked of the trip to California, we talked about the future, of us visiting for the holidays and of him coming here. He knew there was hard work ahead, but he knew it was worth it. I felt, finally, that he was on the right track. So much hard work to get there. He checked in with me at least every two days. He told me how things were going. He was working the steps, he was getting on meds, he had a great counselor. We talked and I told him I'd do whatever it took. We talked about him coming out here, staying with us. We talked about the future.
Some time between December 12th and December 17th, 2012, he killed himself. This after months of frantic work to get better. Alcohol, depression, bipolar disorder. He'd long been capable of highs and lows the likes of which I'd never seen. I distinctly remember one night in 1994 or so, out in front of my wife's parent's house...well before she and I were married, when we were all just friends...and he was so far down. So goddamn far down. And I spent hours, hours talking him back, challenging him, letting him know how much we needed him. Hours of words, thousands of spells cast. It had worked then.
Not this time. This time, some alien goddamn thing infected him, some alien goddamn darkness had killed him. It was not him that pulled the trigger. Our mutual friend Ryan called me Monday night...we, a number of us, had been trying to reach him, knew it was odd that he hadn't called anyone, thought maybe he was just busy at work. Hoped he was just busy at work. Finally one of our friends had the police do a welfare check. Ryan called me, and he just said, it's bad news. And he and I both fell apart. And Laurea, poor Laurea...she's known him since the 9th grade. She and I just dissolved. In my life, I have never felt so completely destroyed by death. In my life, I have never wanted more for something to be false. I kept expecting him to call and say, hey, just joking! As it stands, I still cannot go to work, I cannot function properly. I can write. I cannot speak. I keep getting nailed by these waves of grief so huge that they consume me.
When someone commits suicide, you go through all of these phases where you're angry at them, and you're crushed to think how much pain they must have been in, and I'm trying so very hard not to imagine any of that last minute of his life.
I still email him. I've sent him pages of emails, trying to scream him back to life. Begging him to not be dead. Bargaining with that alien thing that killed him. Apologizing for not doing more, not having the right combination of words. I still have all this shit to tell him. I still have all this stuff to say. He can't just be gone like that. Not like that. Not him.
I'm crushed, gutted, hollow. It hurts like hell. I can't imagine what his last few minutes were, but some part of my brain tortures me with them. Knowing the medical facts, the details of how these things work. And I want to scream. I want to just scream his name and invoke him here, safe, secure.
Waves crashing over head. Those first few hours, I thought I'd drown.
It's been better today. I can sort of breathe. I'm not completely adrift. We, all of his friends, we're finding him in all of these years of history, and we're finding ourselves. I'm learning, I need to reach out more. I have a fraction of what he had, his life was rich. I need to live up to his standard. We all do. We all do.
I think of his laugh. I think of him in the dashboard lit passenger seat, cigarette glowing, 3am cool dark night slipping by at 4 cylinder rhythm, I think of him saving my ass so many times, and of me trying to save him, and mostly? Mostly I think of what was, and what will never be. And it fills me with a sweet sadness, and I know this:
The universe is constant. You cannot subtract energy from it, you cannot add energy to it. And when we die, we simply become part of every thing.
Find fire, make way.
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