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Tribute to a friend. Daily story · 12 January, 2013
  • Dear Stephen,

    Your mother sang "Let there be peace on earth" at the top of her lungs at your funeral and wore large dark glasses like a movie star who didn’t want to be recognized. The local county sheriff came and kindly prevented any of your enemies, including our boss, from entering the church. I must have been on the guest list because despite my affiliation with the magazine they let me in, reluctantly at first. I drove out through Westchester in the convertible of that handsome guy from the business department with my expensive tortoise shell sunglasses on and the cd player on and the sun blazing down on the beautiful lush tress of Westchester County. We were so happy to be free from the office on a summer’s day, even if for a funeral. Happy to be alive, unlike you, who could find no joy in this superficial world where we were. You grew up in a beautiful part of New York. I don’t think you ever belonged in the city. You belonged where the tall trees were dense, near here where you decided to die. We pulled up a few hundred yards from the church and stopped the car, and put the top on the car, turned the stereo down and drove solemnly in to the gravel church parking lot.

    I knew that you were in trouble. We brought you Krispy Kreme doughnuts one morning after you had been out for weeks, starving yourself, thinking about suicide. Your pants were falling off your ass you were so skinny, and your graciousness upon receiving the doughnuts made us feel like we were big and we had helped you and showed you we care. And we went on and forgot about you within seconds, wisecracking our way through the day over in the editorial wing, completely unaware of the rest of the operation of our business, like a bunch of privileged adolescents at our own little exclusive boarding school or something. We went on with our sort of happy lives, eating in nice restaurants, going to the beach on the weekend, working hung over, disdaining the boss, walking home up Fifth Avenue among the sea of Tiffany-wearing Saks Fifth Avenue-smelling ridiculous flaunting of beauty and wealth. I knew that you were in trouble, but those of us who remain living seldom allow ourselves to imagine making the kind of decision you made to go deliberately into the forest, after much thought, and take away your life.

    People stood up from folding metal chairs and told stories in the brightly lit cafeteria of the church with its macramé blessings hanging on the cinderblock walls. You on an ice boat flying across a great big frozen lake, a beautiful golden curly haired child. You ballroom dancing, a big oaf of a guy. "I love the way he made my mother laugh," one of your friends said, a woman who maybe you had been in love with once. I wonder if you knew how you had touched them. "Steve taught me, whatever you accuse others of, you need to learn yourself," one of your friends said, someone who really did know you. "There are people in this room with great education and people in this room who can’t even spell three words," he went on. We knew who we were. "He touched all of you. He told me once, 'I keep all my friends on a shelf.' It looks like that shelf broke and you all landed here."
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