In August 2010 I was starting my senior year of art school. In many ways I was the “it girl” of that whole scene- the life of the party, the drugs, the drinking, the drama, the many men, but I also always maintained my dominant love for my art of writing. Despite binge drinking 5 nights a week and pulling all nighters for absurdly named classes, I ate books whole. I’ve always been consumed with everything from Bukowski and Keruoac to Camus and Hesse.
I was heavily into my Hemingway phase when I ran into an acquaintance, M, on the street one day. We had shared classes and joints at random parties over the years but we had never actually spent time alone. We somehow ended up skipping class to smoke bongs in my apartment and instantly bonded over every shared and disputed interests. He made fun of my hippie taste and I called him a hipster- we became inseparable after that, I don’t think he spent a single night in his own bed.
M was interesting and quirky- he had a thousand pearly white teeth and a ridiculous taste in music. The main thing I remember most about our time together was laughter and exploration. He opened my eyes to new authors, crazy indie films, and subsequently, heroin. We didn’t turn into two junkies- at the risk of sounding delusional and in denial, we were creating our own little world together of happiness consisting of art and literature, my love of music and his love of baseball, and our newfound friend in dope. We never injected anything- rather we’d lay in my bed writing poetry, drinking beers, and sniffing lines. I always felt warm with Mike, like I was home.
As the year wore down we were faced the inevitable truth that I would soon be moving back home to New York, something we never discussed, it simply wasn’t our style. I went to M’s parents house in Delaware for his graduation party- his family loved me as much as he did, although no one knew our secret.
It was then that he gave me his copy of “Story of My Life”- I read it in two hours. It was the story of a jaded, sexually explorative, party girl looking for love in all the wrong places; it was no War and Peace. The book itself was shallow and the main character was a coked out, female version of Holden Caulfield but yet it rang true for me. In the gifting of this one seemingly ridiculous book, I realized that Mike understood me better than most people. He looked for no reasoning, demanded no explanations.
I don’t remember our last encounter- I moved back to NY that summer and although M and I continued to speak and share ideas daily, in my heart I knew I’d never see him again. It was time to grow up. I’d hear from M every few months or so- he was working on a film in Texas or flying out to California. I received a Facebook message from him one day asking about my current relationship status, I told him I was married now and a few months pregnant. While he expressed genuine happiness for me (he truly was a kind hearted person) he also let me know that he still loved me, that he wished it was him. When my daughter was born in December 2012 M sent me a beautiful message and well wishes which lead me to the dreadful act of Facebook stalking. I didn’t even recognize M in his pictures- he was covered in tattoos now, hanging out with a heavy punk crowd and had a girlfriend who had gotten divorced a month earlier. A part of me was sad to see the old M that I knew and loved had changed so much but I guess he could’ve said the same about me; my pictures were now of an infant and family life.
On April 1st, 2013 I found out that M had killed himself early that morning. I sat on my couch in my beautiful little home with my baby daughter napping in the next room and sobbed for hours. I pondered all the questions you have when anyone takes their own life, I pored through photographs of us from our graduation night and Phillies games, I replayed our last conversation over and over again in my mind. I re-read the book that M had given me, it had a completely different meaning and effect on me this time but it still evoked the notion that ironically M was one of the big pushes I needed to change my life. Underneath the partying and bad decisions, M brought out the best in me. Like the main character in the story, he saw through my bullshit and into my heart; I will forever remember him as the guy that gave me the story of my life.