A Letter, Redacted

You may never see this sad attempt to reach out, much less have the incentive to write back once you’ve read this. I’m a friend of his—at one point I was even a very close one—and I think it’s important that I at least try to get in touch.

I read the commemoration you wrote about him. In a way, your piece almost reads like something straight out the fathomless depths of his own Word Doc folder that his derelict laptop may have held. As if he himself was writing, but writing about someone else entirely—however, that wasn’t the case at all, you were writing about him. You were writing about the person who we all wanted him to be, the abstraction and the personality; but you also wrote about the person who he was, and the person he thought himself to be. Most people invoke a Manichean deontology when talking about him, focusing on either the abstraction or the tragic. And that’s why, with a grotesque, Thomas Pynchonian incisiveness, your piece sounded almost more autobiographical than commemorative. As if he ushered me into his own manic, narcissistic self-consciousness, and line-by-line, walked me through just how alien he was to this world—how desolate this place was to him, how little he felt at home. Exposing at once a beauty with a gut-wrenching kind of solitude, and a priestly analysis of cultural woes via the coordinates of an individual’s marred psychology, your piece, like a Rembrandt masterpiece, painted the most poignant and loving portrait of my friend that has never been seen before. And I thank you so much for that.

Over the course of the last couple of years, he and I had a contentious relationship—in fact, he hated me, and I don’t blame him. As your piece expertly exposes, even in his greatest insanity, he reserved no sympathies for the normative delusions and collective optimism that our cultural parameters abet. I never had to traffic the guts of society for as long as he did, and I think he factored that into his own alterity. That’s not to say I’m a clean slate—the initial reason he and I bonded back in high school orbited the logic of alcoholism and mental illness—but I did, however, take a different path. Eventually, his company became more of a liability than the blessing it had once been, and I felt I had to cut ties. Moreover, once we were no longer close, a schism in ideology and experience fell apparent. Any further interaction we had seemed troubled by that schism, and eventually, he hated me for what I’d become: another myopic speck in the field runoff of life, drifting course lazily. He had no illusions for who I was, he knew what I fell into—moreover, who I had been the entire time. Because of this, I felt only disdain for his existence. I’m assured, nonetheless, that feeling was mutual. 

In my mind, who the fuck did this kid think he was?—the genius I wish I could be; the post-structural Bukowski without the lit-bro cult following, substituting heroin foil, a muddied Greyhound bus seat, and a trap phone for a typewriter, boilermaker vomit, and a book deal; the kid who I once dropped off at our local middle school to judge a debate tournament after a meth bender, the previous twelve hours spent hitching around Oceanside and Vista mumbling about fiat currency and the object of desire. He could’ve been anything. Right? As you mentioned in your piece, he was a comet who ‘existed in’ his ‘own cosmically bent magnetic field,’ and he remained that way until the end. But a comet can’t be anything other than what it is. I couldn’t accept that. I couldn’t do what you had so lovingly and courageously done: I couldn’t accept him for who he was. I wanted the abstraction, the idealization—the young Versace Beach God, massacring waves as easily as he massacred these lame ass hoes with his witty, madcap bars. I didn’t want the homeless, gut-punched, long-haired dope fiend muttering about Aja and Cincinnati like it was some new kind of heaven. 

What ultimately stuck out to me about your words was the unadulterated level of acceptance you had for who he was. Your love transcended your poetic, oneiric prose and shone a new light on the type of friend he craved in this world—the type of friend he was denied around every corner. I couldn’t be that friend to him, as hard as I tried and the cruel God knows I tried. The reason I thought your commemoration sounded ‘almost’ autobiographical is that he also invoked that same deontological Manicheism when focusing on himself—either a paranoid, id-driven self-righteousness or a desolate, barren kind of self-hatred. But that wasn’t your piece. You didn’t shy away from the dirty, nor did you dribble on in onastic positive appraisal. You just laid bare who he was in all his glary scum and beauty.

I wished I loved him and knew him as you did—as so many others seemed to do as well. But that wasn’t the case. At the end, I hated him, just as he did me. Some people have tried to tell me, that deep down, he knew what I did was out of love. Even so, the well of resentment was dug at the onset of our perspective difference. And now, I’ll never be able to make that right. 

What offers me solace, regardless, is that—as he was roaming the oblivion of this earth—he had a friend like you. He had a brother like his. Had a companion like so many others who I can’t mention right now. I loved him and he had a wordless impact on me I couldn’t explain if I tried. But life and its relationships are not always linear and bold. They are chaotic, tectonic, troubling things; and he knew that more than most. He took and took and took, up to the point he knew he couldn’t take any longer—but even that was too much most times. And then he’d try to give back. I’m not sure if he ever realized, what he gave back could not match what he took. Even then, what he gave back to me is self-evidently incalculable. And now, from beyond this life, he gave me the solace that he had a friend like you.

Published by Pale Sulter


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