I have no idea if you died in your bedroom. I haven’t been around much lately.
The last few times I was home, we missed each other narrowly. I had an obligation that brought me back to the city sooner than expected. Or you weren’t feeling up to it. I never could have dreamed of holding it against you, but I remember feeling half disappointed and half relieved.
I wrote you emails, but you couldn’t respond because you were too sick. That made sense to me. I kept writing you anyway. Our one-sided correspondence was more sporadic than I would have liked. But just thinking about you lying in some bed, half watching a soccer match on a big screen high def tv, weak and pale and wheezing and coughing, well, it made me hurt. I have always been a coward in this way.
I wrote you a letter last May when I found out you were going off your meds. It turned out to be premature. When I reread it, I feel embarrassed. The language and content is colored by a naive honesty bestowed on people who will soon die.
I can count the memories I have on my two hands. A departmental bowling event. A day at the mall buying sweaters. A car ride or two from the office to my parent’s house. The time you showed up in Brooklyn to see my band play. Cafeteria lunches that blend together into one long cafeteria lunch. A Decemberists show. A night at a local Jersey dive bar. The first election of Barack Obama. Drinking tea with you at that tea shop in Montclair that has since closed down. Meetings with publishers where you brilliantly insulted everyone in a way that made us love you more. The time before you got your new lungs. The day when you reached the top of the transplant list. And the precarious time after. The time you missed my wedding because you were too sick to come and I was so bummed about it.
We knew you would die. Hell, you knew you would die. The knowledge of your impending death is partially what made you you, what made you a fearless and pissed off, dark, sarcastic genius. What made you focused on the right things.
We knew you would die, but we weren’t prepared for your death. When it finally caught up with us last night, we were still magical thinking. We woke up this morning, not knowing how to respond. I don’t think anyone thought you’d last this long, so it didn’t seem unreasonable to believe that you might last longer, that you might last forever.
I’d like to think that, in some way, we do last forever. Don’t rest in peace, Chris. Peace was never your thing.