I don’t remember when I first saw you. But I remember where. On that old, worn-out stage in the park, in the middle of town. The stage, even then, had seen better days and was just a hang-out place for kids.
You stood out in many ways but mostly it was your Mohican, your worn out leather jacket, and your thick, round glasses. I then noticed that storming energy of yours and that terrific, attention-arresting laugh.
We quickly became close friends and on the surface you seemed happy. You wore you mask well, but I knew you were as a clown, only laughing on the outside to hide the wounds within. You were a sensitive soul and despite coming across as a little scary, deep down you were just a teddy bear.
We hung around together. We lived it up, went to concerts, festivals, laughed together, cried together. You were always there for me when I needed you. In time, however, your inner demons began to grow and when things hurt too much, you’d disappear into that bottle of yours. When you drank, you cried and I cried with you. Innocence darkened, and your bottle was soon the only one who understood you.
I tried to reach you, to touch your pain. I talked, I pleaded, I yelled, I threatened. Sometimes it worked and I could reach your inner room and we would take one step forward. But soon, you’d fall away again. As Mauro Scocco sings, “You know I’ve hit rock bottom, a lonely place for a man.” And in your suffering, you were indeed all alone.
You were so talented, with so many gifts. You could have done whatever you wanted. You would have soared. But your soul was vulnerable and you self-image, weak.
I sat with you every weekend to keep you off the booze. We talked, we wished, we dreamed and we lied. But most of all, we fought. We fought a demon we couldn’t see. We fought for a better life. We fought for something to feel real. I watched over you. But when I had to leave, your demon entered and you two danced, and the bottle delivered promises written in the sand.
Years later, I was watching an episode of the tv-series Grey’s Anatomy. Izzie, one of the main characters, lay collapsed on a toilet floor in her wedding dress, having received news that her husband-to-be had just died during a heart transplantation, a heart she had secured for him through lies and the breaking of her Hippocratic oath.
I had never been so touched by a scene before. I couldn’t understand why it gripped me so savagely (many years later, it shocks me still). But then I heard the lyrics of the background song and it hit me like a freight train. Had not we told one other the same thing, as we lay side-by-side, thinking that the sky would shatter over us:
”We’ll do it all
On our own
We don’t need
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me
And just forget the world?
I don’t quite know
how to say
How I feel
Those three words
Are said too much
They’re not enough”
25 years later you come back into my life. Not in the same way but you’re happy now. I lived so many years with the feeling that I should have done more. I should have been there more. But I realize now that I did what I could. Your choice was yours to make. I can beat myself up for not stopping you, but the truth is that your actions were yours alone.
I miss you.
At your funeral, your family and friends wanted to celebrate you and screw convention. Instead of hymns, they played Eva Dahlgren and Ebba Grön. Half the mourners wore long black hair and leather jacket, batik-colour patterns and scarves. Not quite society’s crème de la crème, but there was such love.
My life went on. Memories of you began to fade. Life on earth, and all the triviality that entails, took over. Until one day… when I met a man name Terry who suddenly reminded me of you. And he said, “Do you remember a friend who left too soon, who took his life… He’s here…”
Linn A. Maddern