I'm tired, and I have a headache, but I can't sleep. I've been fighting off a cold and smoking too many cigarettes, but that isn't why I am awake at this hour, when I only have five more to go before returning to work and class and the rest of it.
We hardly ever have a chance to really look and our lives and tell the story of us. We aren't famous movie stars, politicians, or imminent scientists, we haven't changed the world and the world isn't too interested in us anyways. Most of the time, often the only time, we think about a life is after death has ended it. And in that loss, we want our lives to suddenly have meaning, some great divine purpose or value. My old friend—actually, my young friend, Paul, has died. And it wasn't a noble death, a great death, one that we can easily cry over and then sigh, shake our heads, and feel better about. My friend Paul overdosed and died.
The first things I thought about when I found out were all the fuck ups, all the failures, of Paul's life. And the drugs. I thought a lot about the drugs.
I can't even remember the last time I saw Paul or what we might have talked about. I'm pretty sure it was at least five years ago, maybe longer. And those past five years have been big ones, filled with the kind of things that change people significantly. When I first met him I was maybe fifteen, sixteen years old. Ten years passed since then. After all this time, I wasn't really sure his death meant anything to me, except in the dim way of having to face the non-existence of someone I once knew.
But then, all of a sudden, I saw his face. Right in front of me, there it was, every detail of his face. It was so clearly, so amazingly Paul. And I remembered him.
I remembered that Paul was nice. He was nice. It's such a simple word, and so easily forgotten, but looking at his face again I could see it—Paul was nice. I met Paul through AP, they grew up together, at one point he fell in love with her but he also let her be the person she really was and didn't hold that against her. He was kind. He was easy going and yet constantly running from one thing to the next. He was vibrant, alive, and able to get an entire room of people to pay attention to him and to enjoy themselves while doing it. He had that kind of bright boyish charm that drove me insane and also, made me laugh. Paul made me laugh.
Paul was always in trouble and he was always kind too. Paul was high and he was nice too. Paul made me laugh. He kissed me before he left for the Army. He wrote me letters and called me once, high on roofies. He stood up for his friends—even to other friends—with a ferocity that only comes from the kind of deep loyalty that thinking about now, takes my breath away. He went to jail. He went to college. I think he even got married, at some point. He died.
His nice, kind, funny face. The way it felt to kiss him. To get in his car, late at night, and drive too fast with the music too loud. To get high or drunk and hang out in his basement with the black light on and all my friends stoned and happy too. Paul wasn't anyone very special to the rest of the world, but he made me laugh.
I cannot regret that I never had the chance to say these things to him while he was alive. So many things would have had to be completely different during those five years, to bring us together in the kind of way that would have engendered this kind of conversation. Frankly, I like my life how it has turned out. I wish his had gone better, for his sake, for my dear friend AP's sake, for his family too. But I will not regret Paul's life either, it wasn't anything great or easy to reconcile with, but it was his life. I will celebrate the fact that in this world, Paul was there, with success and with failure. And he made me laugh.