I got news last week that an old friend had died unexpectedly, and in somewhat mysterious circumstances. I hadn’t talked to him in at least a decade — we lost touch awhile after I moved to the States, following the death of a mutual friend who was good at making sure everyone was checking in on each other — but his death has shaken me, left me pondering my own mortality and thinking about our shared past.
He was younger than me, although in my head that’s far more true than reality; he’s locked at the age he was when we spent most of our time together, when we were both studying for our post-graduate degrees. I know, intellectually, that he was actually in his early 40s and working in the art school we both studied in, but to me, he’s still the early 20s kid he was back then, making his death somehow even more tragic.
He was, back then at least, astonishingly kind and effortlessly selfless — to a fault, almost. He wouldn’t think twice about trying to do whatever it took to help out, even if it was inconvenient or downright difficult to him; it was something his parents had ingrained in him. I met them a few times, and they were the same — kind, loving even, to a relative stranger they’d only just met. Apparently, he was living in their old home at the time he died, a detail that felt unsettling to discover; I can remember eating dinner there, talking to all three of them together. All dead now.
We spent a lot of time together, during that intense post-graduate year — it was one of those courses where you do two years’ worth of study in a compressed 12-month period, and it wasn’t uncommon to work late nights, or all through the night entirely. I think of the nights where the school was empty except for us, and we’d be playing music loud as we tried to express whatever the hell was in our heads at the time. He’d be goofy, silly, enthusiastic about his random obsessions — Chris Morris, the Pixies, movie opening titles — and I like to think he was still like that to the end.
But then I think about the fact that there was an end, and I hope that he was, at the very least, happy.