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  • On Wednesday night, before I turned in for the night, I decided - out of the blue - to take a look at Facebook. There, I saw that one of my friends from Glimmerglass Opera Days had died. Justin was gone, almost six months to the day before his fortieth birthday.

    For the two years I worked there and for a year after, my Glimmerglass friends were my world. My job there was the first since I'd unceremoniously left graduate school and worked in a gift shop and then as a nanny. It was my first "real" job, and I didn't really have any friends back in Utica at the time, so it was kind of a big deal.

    When I met Justin, he was dating one of my friends - someone with whom I'm still in touch and consider a friend. They split up. Justin drank too much, and as much as she tried to help him, he wouldn't get sober. She couldn't live like that; how many can?

    Through other mutual friends, Justin and I spent more time together and grew to enjoy each other's company. After-work trips to Banana Dan's for ice cream. Going to see Austin Powers: Goldmember and being stuck in the front row. Throwing my keys at him to, "just take my car, for god's sake!" when he was parked in. Talking about our large, fucked-up families and having parents who were often mistaken for grandparents. And let's not forget the parties that only unsupervised twenty-somethings on the shores of a beautiful lake can have.

    Those three summers marched on, and at some point, I got settled in Utica, Justin's ex moved back to North Carolina, my favorite couple moved from California to New York City for year-round gigs. We were taking root all over the country and the days of "Sunny Camp Glimmerglass" were behind us.

    I thought about Justin over the years. A lot, actually. I tried to find him on Facebook and LinkedIn, but he didn't have a presence that I could find. If I hadn't been so fucking lazy, I could have gotten back in touch, but I figured that it wouldn't matter to him whether or not I did; I think that a lot. So I didn't.

    Then, a few nights ago, a status update wishing him peace crushed me. I wondered if he'd still been drinking. In an email the next day, the official word was renal failure. I emailed his ex to see how she was doing; I should have her phone number, but we've maintained our friendship via email and social media, so why would I need it? I wished I'd had her number to call her. She wrote back that she was numb, and that last she knew, he was still drinking heavily. During the day on Thursday, another email came...this one more blunt.

    At a friend's urging, Justin moved to the southeast to try to dry out. He'd lost a lot in California and wasn't doing well. His talent couldn't cover his alcoholism any more and he had lost his apartment. On the 25th, he said his stomach hurt, but he'd be fine and yes, his friend should go to work and not worry. She came home and found him dead on the bathroom floor, in a pool of what turned out to be 2/3 of his blood. He was briefly revived, but the bleed out from a GI rupture was too much. The cirrhosis was too much. The renal damage was too much.

    It was all too much. He couldn't stop drinking, and the drinking couldn't stop killing him.

    And I'm so sorry that I didn't do more after those three summers, which is selfish because I know that the chances of me making a difference would have been slim to none. The only difference it would have made would be me feeling like less of an asshole right now. Maybe it would have made it so that I don't see him on the bathroom floor every time I'm not occupied. Maybe not.

    I don't know the point of writing this. Anyone who reads it has a similar story to tell. I guess maybe I just want it out there: I'm sorry, Justin. You were dear to me. I always thought of you. I'm sorry that I can't tell you that, and that you'll never know I was in your corner.

    I'm sorry.
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