I recently found out that my best friend has passed away. I know that he had struggled with mental health problems and substance abuse issues for years, and they finally ended his life. While part of me wants to find solace in that he has finally found peace, an even larger part of me is angry that the world has been cheated out of what this bright, sweet, funny young man had to offer.
We first met working in the same restaurant. He had a Fargo accent so thick that I initially thought English was not his first language. When he was washing dishes he put on the Sex Pistols, and I was the only one who totally dug his choice. From there, we would bond over books and music. If you’re a Kerouac reader, you know how unusual it is to find anyone who has read anything besides On the Road, and we had both already read the Dharma Bums. George Harrison was our favorite Beatle, and we agreed that Chrissie Hynde was the overlooked Queen of Rock ‘n Roll. We believed that John Lydon’s memoir, ROTTEN: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, should be required reading.
When I began to try my hand at writing professionally, a Google search revealed that my given name was so similar to an already successful author that a pseudonym was in order. I told my friend about this while we watched Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He suggested I should start calling myself “Tracy of Lockesley” since I was always crabbing about our society evolving into a corporate fiefdom.
I eventually learned was that I met him during a more lucid period. He’d been clean for about year, and remained so for the first year of our friendship. He had the worst luck when it came to his romantic relationships, and was something of a magnet for women who would mistake him for a punching bag. I don’t know for sure that any of these relationships triggered a relapse, but they certainly didn’t help. Once he left for college, he appeared to be on a persistent decline. On the outset, he appeared to be developing into an alcoholic. When I discussed the matter with his father, I learned of my friend’s earlier drug use.
One of the things that’s very difficult about loving an addict is that at some point, you have to resign yourself to the prospect that each time you see them, it may be your last. My friend spent the last years of his life bouncing around, incapable of holding down a job, and couch-surfing on a good day. I think he spent the last two years of his life living on the streets. He somehow managed to visit with me for my birthday last year, and appeared to have been clean for a few weeks. And yet, after we said our good-byes, I couldn’t escape a fatalistic feeling that that may very well be the last time I’d see him alive. And it was.
Of all the difficult things about this, I don’t know what more I could have done for him. As his friend, I had no way of having him committed. I had a standing offer to his parents that if they ever needed me for an intervention, I would be there. He was happiest living in California, and I’m very content to remain in Chicago, so geography was rarely on the side of our friendship.
Even in his passing, geography isn’t on our side. His memorial service is out of state, and I can’t make it. So I’d like to pay tribute to my friend by celebrating the time we had together. Below is a playlist of some of his favorite songs. There’s nothing I would love more than to hit the dance floor with him one last time.