I can't write much about Demitri, I didn't know him well. I knew him in high school when he was a boy, climbing trees, writing and painting. I met him again a few times at parties and gatherings of friends, his face all sharp angles and he was a man.
I went to sit on my brother's steps with our friend who was close to this man, and bear witness to his grief. Then, when it was time to go I gave him a ride home, because he lives almost right across the street from me. His plan, which wasn't his plan at all, was to ride out that night with friends. To drive eight hours through the night to go to the wake in North Carolina.
I suggested we go to the grocery store to get him food for the road. The grocery store was bright and surreal and I remembered a trip I took there at night right after my Aunt Lynn died. I knew I had to get food, I didn't want to be there but I wanted to be home and well stocked and so I had to go. I remember I put things in my basket but I don't remember what those things were. I was hyper aware that every one is in their own world, that you never know what people are going through. Their faces seemed painfully alien to me. I saw one person I knew and I grabbed on to him, pushing my face in his shirt saying "My aunt is dead".
Togi was in shock as we walked the aisles, both of us getting a few things. I had to keep saying, "Would you like to put that in the basket?" because he seemed to forget the items were in his hands the moment he picked them up.
We drove to his apartment and I parked around back, eventually turning off my car to sit and talk and smoke awhile. Togi and I have the most wonderful conversations. There is something about him that lets me say anything, that puts me at peace and allows my true thoughts to come out. I am not afraid of what he will think of me, and I am always curious to know what is on his mind.
We didn't talk about Demitri in concrete terms much. Mostly we talked about life, alcoholism, and death. Not necessarily in that order. He shared two death stories with me, one in which the person was old and in pain and was able to die when she was ready, and one in which the person was young and alcoholic and died horribly, kicking and screaming and saying he was not ready. He told me that he thinks that we live relatively long lives so that we can gradually let go of our egos and then, when it is time, we have very little to give up and we are ready to go. I hadn't thought about it that way and I liked it. I told him I would have to think on that some more.
We talked about alcoholism, and is that any better or different than shooting yourself in the head. The idea of it being that when we are using we are killing ourselves slowly. I suppose the difference is awareness, and the struggle. I brought up people who eat two double cheeseburgers everyday and die of heart attacks when they are 55. I reminded him that, other than the alcoholism and the smoking, he and I are very healthy people who exercise and are vegetarian, and that to live a life that does not hasten your death at all would be a very ascetic life. And besides, I said, the end result is the same. It's what you do before you die, the loving and the living.
We talked about a lot of things and then at one point he said, "All this is true, but it doesn't help." It doesn't help. It doesn't help when your best friend shoots himself in the head. It just doesn't.
I had a moment a couple of weeks ago when I was walking down the road where I all of a sudden desperately felt death so close. It wasn't a feeling that I would die soon or that someone I love would die soon, but a feeling of the inevitability of it, and it was so sharp I thought, "Get Off The Road". Not the physical road that I was walking on, I was on the sidewalk actually, but it was the thought I had when I'd been hit by the car back in the way back and I knew with absolute certainty that if I did not get off the road I would die and I was not ready to die. Then, after I had that thought, it was like a wrenching in my guts, a whirling away from death. Not to run away from death, that would be futile, but to face and to fight my loved ones as they marched toward it. It was a funny thought, me with my back to death, battering back my friends and family, and it snapped me out of the desperation I was feeling but the image stayed with me.
When I was talking with Togi I remembered that, and I didn't bring it up but I tried to tell him that the rest of us left would not leave him. That we would hang on.
Another thing he said was that each death was different, just like how you love people is different for each person. That there is no way to prepare for how you will feel.
I couldn't feel what he was feeling. I could be true but I could not help. I watched the emotions wash over his beautiful face and I thought that the only thing I can do, the only thing any of us can do to help the ones we love is to stay alive for as long as we can. To be careful with ourselves. To keep living our lives, no matter how hard it may seem or how unfair or frustrating. Watching the cavern open up in him, I don't want to cause that rift in anyone else.
When you love someone, their life gets in you and becomes part of your life. When you love someone you are taking an awful gamble. When you let people love you, your life is no longer wholly your own.
I don't blame those that take their lives. For them, it must be a more terrible thing to live, and that is very sad. I suppose that our friend was ready to go, even if we were not ready to let him go. We can never be prepared for how we will feel.
I am thankful to Togi for letting me sit and talk to him. He helped me more I think than I helped him. It's easy to walk around with blinders on and do our work and eat our food and forget what the end result will be. Last year when my friend Jarryd died, he had just that day told me he was happy, that he'd been swimming naked with pretty ladies and spending time with friends. He understood that life was in the living and loving, and that you never know what may happen. I wish I did not have to be reminded of that, but I do, and I am.
I am loving you, you people I love. I am loving your life. I am living for you. I am living and loving you.