The Dying Time, Redux

I predicted even before the macarenavirus troubles began that a dying time was coming. As you know, gentle reader, my aunt and godmother died on Thanksgiving. Her illness and the age of the previous generation led me to my unhappy musings.

Yesterday, the best man at my wedding died of a drug overdose.

I had met Mike in high school where he was a year behind me. We had a Spanish class for a year and got to be acquaintances. When I went away to the university, Mike was one of the people to whom I wrote (letters, not emails, as I am far older than most people who use We shared an interest in poetry and exchanged poems (printed on computer paper as we did have computers back then, you damn kids, but not the Internet, really). When I came back on break my senior year, we did coffee house open mic nights and poetry slams together, and we did that throughout the middle 1990s along with some roleplaying games and trips to GenCon.

We started parting ways toward the end of the 1990s. I got a girlfriend, and he got married, and although the house I rented with my new bride was only a couple blocks from his, we didn’t see each other as much because we were married men or something. He wasn’t even my first choice for best man; I think I slotted him for second runner up or usher, but when my first choice for best man decided he could not, in good conscience, stand at my wedding (and another groom’s man stopped talking to me), I gave him a battlefield promotion to best man. And he did it well.

We didn’t drift apart after that; sometime after I moved out to Casinoport, he stopped returning my phone calls. The last time I reached out to him was November 2000, when I left a message in Spanish on his machine (voice mail was on tape recorders or locally hosted computer chips back then, gentle reader) to invite him to go see Bedazzled. He never called back.

Although I would have called him my best friend back then, in retrospect I’m not sure how good of a friend he really was. He was, erm, good with the ladies. He was handsome, smart, athletic, and appeared to have self-confidence in bunches. So, yeah, he was with a lot of ladies, including a number of women in whom I was interested and told him so. He used drugs and kept that hidden from me because he knew I would disapprove. He definitely showed me what he thought I would approve of, so I’m not sure who he was.

He called me up in early 2008. A mutual friend, the other of my groom’s men who bailed on me over a philosophical argument of some sort, had reached out to him after a decade, which prompted him to call me to apologize for the break in our friendship. He told me that, back in the day, I was such an ass that he would have to tell other people before meeting me that I was an ass and that he got tired of having to warn people about me. He told me a bit of what he was up to, but he never asked me anything about how I was or what I was doing. I was an executive downtown, and we had a baby, and I lived in Old Trees, not far from one of his obsessive flames and one of my crushes (two different people) that he slept with lived. I was bursting to tell him if he asked or if he even seemed interested, but the call was about him, not me.

So the fellow who was to be my groom’s man but stormed off after the philosophical argument reached out to me yesterday to let me know that Mike had passed. I understand he had substance abuse and mental health issues that followed him into middle age. That he pushed away most of his remaining friends. I was just talking about him with my wife not long ago, but I hadn’t felt compelled to reach out to him.

The service is on Thursday night, but it’s in St. Louis, so I won’t make it. It’s funny, for someone I haven’t talked to in a long time how this has affected me. Perhaps because I thought we were such good friends once, but I was later not sure (so, Brian J., why don’t you trust anyone, including your own judgment in people?). Maybe because he was a peer and one of the first of my youth cohort to die that I’m aware of. I don’t know.

Sadly, so many of these death posts are about how I feel about it and not a roaring tribute to the deceased. But I am an egotist and a recovering ass, so it’s par for the course.

(Link for seen today on Friar’s Fires and Neatorama.)

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