Slice of Life 2:
We were sitting in Lindsay’s basement. Yellow Christmas lights hung loosely from the ceiling and dimly illuminated the crowded room… the small room adorned with Rat Pack posters and a life size cut out of Marilyn Monroe. Justin’s drum set sat in the center. It was July. Chris and I sat on the deflated pale couch- our view of the room obstructed from the teeming sea of our friends and acquaintances. Their shadows loomed over us. Smoke lingered and flooded the room. We sipped on our cans of Bud Lite, and we spoke of the lost art of letter writing. Isn’t it sad no one writes letters anymore? It’s such a great feeling to receive a letter in the mail. It makes your day. Who doesn’t want their day made? Let’s write letters to each other. Hold on. Give me your address. Hold on. Let me get something to write on. I ripped out the silver lining of our cigarette packs as Chris searched for something to write with. He came back with a blue colored pencil.
Seven days later, I received a letter. It had my name on it. My address. He was so right. It made my day. I smiled and quickly ripped open the flimsy envelope. Painting. Writing. His mom. Our friends. One last remark, Keep writing. Write it down. You’ll get a kick out of how you viewed the world when you look back on it in years to come.
We wrote back and forth to each other for the following year. In the days of the pocket gripping beepers, we didn’t phone often. We would see each other out and not even mention the fact that we were strange secret letter companions.
The love of art bonded us. It bonded us with impromptu photo shoots on Chicago city streets. Taking chalk up to North Avenue on a random Friday night to dust the silver concrete with our idealistic dreams. Gigantic neon portraits. It followed us to Yellowstone Park in the summer of ’99 where we hitchhiked the sandy roads encircled by wilderness holding up a sad cardboard sign, “Employees of the park!” We worked at the Canyon resort. Making Salads. Jumping off cliffs. Swimming under waterfalls. Through hot springs. Exploring caverns nestled deep in the Earth and soaking in the awe inspiring light show of shooting stars across the midnight sky.
Oh. He was such a good friend. Not even in the standard sense. He was critical. Rude. Short. Sarcastic. Obsessive and so unbelievably, brutally honest. It often hurt. I sometimes questioned if he hated me. Others despised him. I stayed ambivalent, recognizing his spark and sensing his earnest zest just to understand.
We explored the continental U.S. in a Toyota that belonged to Eric from Florida.
It was in that car that I cried one night as he spoke about his father. It was in that car that I realized the amazing love I had for this person. Not even in the standard sense. In the most inexplicable sense. Platonic and reverent. When someone shows you something about yourself… something about the world… in a completely unintended, unpretentious way. We were kindred in our search. In our respect for art. And in the hilarity of how we saw the backwards world operating around us.
It was November 17th that I got an email on Facebook. On Facebook. It was composed to me- and sixteen others. I did not feel special. I read the words sitting at my dining room table while eating a bowl of spaghetti. The blow came quick. My heart began to slowly splinter like fractured glass. . It sank and I gasped. Grabbed my chest and held onto my shirt as if it should provide some sort of comfort. Frozen as the memories raced and flooded me.
Joe Chap wrote, “There’s no good way to say news like this, so I guess I’ll just say it. Our friend Chris passed away suddenly this morning.”
Passed away. My friend was gone. He was gone. Chris was not on Earth anymore. He didn’t exist in this place any longer. His zest. His spark. Where was he? In his letters? In his art? In my memories.
Did he know? Was he watching my heart break- even though we hadn’t seen each other’s faces in ten years? Did he sit with me on that cold November night, and witness that shooting star?
Oh. He was such a good friend. In the most inexplicable, permanent sense. When my mind drifts to thoughts of him I am overwhelmed. I am overcome with gratefulness and love. When someone touches you and holds the power to alter the way you view the world- alter and transform your spirit… Well. There are no words- even in a letter- to express such gratitude.
“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” -Kerouac
His fire still illuminates.