A friend of mine killed himself recently. Sorry not to sugar-coat or soften the statement with "passed-on" or even "ended his own life", but in my head this is the only way I hear it. Its always a tragic and inexplicable thing when a person decides to die and I don't think the profundity of their being gone forever is lessend when its someone you haven't seen in years. But its such a complex issue - not to sound trite - I find my feelings on the subject vary dramatically each time I ponder it. And "ponder" is right the word for it, "weighing in the mind with thoughtfulness and care" is definitely what I've been doing for the last couple months.
This friend (isn't it funny who in retrospect become our friends?) was really a friend of my brother's when we were in high school. I was just a Freshman, they were Seniors, which made them infinitely cooler and more interesting than I was. Well, maybe not so much my brother since an older brother can only hope to attain a certain level of coolness in the eyes of the younger sister he spent his youth convincing her cute little ski-jump nose would continue to turn up as she grew until she was left with a pig-nose and everywhere she went people would greet her with oinking (true story).
But Anil was definitely cool and interesting by anyone's standards. He wore all black, all the time, and had big poofy Robert Smith hair that he was always encouraging to stand-up even more than it naturally did. He had a preternatural disdain for everything mainstream, or "plebian". Top 40 80s music, sports, muscle cars, monster-trucks, almost anything everyone else liked was simply out of the question. And smart! Anil is probably the most intelligent person I've ever known, and the last person you ever wanted to verbally spar with. I remember my brother saying he'd only seen Anil ever shut-down in an arguement by one person, and I would still love to know what Tracy Reim had on him that made him shut up when she threatened to tell everyone about it. He loved to argue and come up with particularly biting things to say - I remember he once handed someone a dictionary before proceeding to tell the person off and with Anil's command of the language I'm sure it was necessary.
Does he sound unpleasant? Does he sound like someone that you would've hated? Trust me, you wouldn't. I write all of this with a smile on my face and a deep admiration for him that borders on hero-worship. Because with all of his cynisim and biting wit, he was incredibly charming and funny. He was so handsome in spite of all his alternative aversion to the mainstream and had a smile so big that at full flower it threatend to take over his face. His laugh was really more of a giggle you couldn't help joining when you heard, and Anil laughed a lot. He was also someone who invited his friend's kid-sister on their adventures in spite of her being a chubby and insecure 15 with no redeeming sophistication or extrodinary intelligence. And as my brother virtually never asked me to come along with any of his other friends, I'm quite certain my inclusion was largely Anil's doing and I still have no idea why.
In all of high school I never felt so cool as when Rick and Anil invited me along with them. I went to my first show in Seattle with them (The Posies at the OK Hotel), my first Bumbershoot (if you're not from Seattle, look it up), my first dance club, my first coffee house (B&O Espresso, milkway mochas). The first time I ever heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was in the back of Anil's beige Volvo (I never merited shotgun) on our way to Bumbershoot, my discovery of Nirvana being quite formative for my late-teen self. What narrow young horizons I had were broadened by my time with those two. If it hadn't been for Anil and Rick I would've ended up in pastels and spraying my bangs straight up listening to Poison and Warrant instead of favoring long black shirts New Order and Depeche Mode, and for that I am forever grateful.
Every outing with them was an adventure, maybe not so much for them as for me but there is that "making me feel cool" factor again. A trip to the Southcenter Mall where we somehow got lost in the industrial streets of Tukwila. Periodically we could see the mall, but could never quite get there. Steaks Rick and Anil bought at the store without any idea how to cook and the ensuing argument of what to do with them - thank goodness for the Frugal Gormet cookbook, cries of "Jeff Smith is the MAN!!" rang through the kitchen. There was an excursion to the underage club The Omni, where none of us could get up the courage to hit the dance floor. Eventually we deemed the music unacceptable to even listen to let alone dance. The female puppy we found and Anil immediately dubbed "Chuck". And a night the three of us climbed over the gate at Dash Point St. Park and sat on the beach under the stars and saw the lights of a submarine go by under the water before being scolded by a park ranger for trespassing (I think he was so shocked to find three teenagers not drinking or smoking he didn't bother to give us tickets).
Somehow the simplest activities never were; and usually ended up in hilarious arguments between Rick and Anil who squabbled like brothers (and maybe a little like an old married couple). Even watching TV was a struggle since both of them wanted the good chair, and usually whoever had it didn't have the remote. It was not uncommon to find them both pouting in the family room with figure-skating or NASCAR blaring from the TV while the one in the chair shouted, "C'mon!! Change it!!" while the other responded, "Give me the chair back!" I don't think I ever laughed as long or as hard when I was with the two of them.
It has been years since I've seen Anil, but that doesn't mean I didn't think about him often. Everytime I hear Michael Penn's "No Myth" I can hear Anil singing, "what if I was Romeo in black sheep!" (that's not how the song really goes) And everytime I hear something referred to as faux, I flashback to the misunderstanding that caused Rick and Anil to exclaim, "I bet they took Spanish" when they thought I'd said something that was complete nonsense. ~Now that I've written that out I realize there is no way to make it sound right unless I explain. One evening I was telling Rick and Anil how someone had asked a friend of mine whethere her backpack was leather and she'd said, "Oh yes, genuine FAUX leather." And the guy had been really impressed - which we all found very funny; but I thought, in all fairness, since FAUX is French for forgery the guy wouldn't know this since he took Spanish at school. But that's not what came out. What I said as was, "I think he takes Spanish," which without all of the rest of the internal monologue doesn't make much sense in the context of the conversation. They laughed so hard and for so long each time I tried to explain what I was thinking that it was literally years before I got the full story out, at which time they had to admit it actually made sense.
When I first heard Anil had killed himself the only thing I could think was that it didn't sound like him. It was too common, too fraught with mediocrity to be something he'd do. The Anil I knew would've scorned the baseness of it, would've been way too above that sort of thing, would've considered it beneath him. But however he did it, I'm sure it was with certainty and without a hint of hesitation because he would've hated the wishy-washy-ness of a half-hearted cry-for-help attempt even more than the act itself. I miss him now. And that may seem odd since its been close to 15 years since I've seen him, but I miss the idea of him. I miss knowing Anil is out there and waiting to see what he'd do in this world because he was capable of such greatness, or at the very least of such interestingness (yes its a word, look it up).
When he died my brother and I kept asking eachother, "What the hell happend to him?", by which we mean how could he have changed so much. But I understand. And I wish (there are always wishes when someone dies) I could've told him so. I wish I could've told him that the hopelessness and screaming shame and failure are just parlor tricks your brain plays on you. They're only the smoke and mirrors the chemicals in your head betray you with, but they aren't real. It wasn't Anil who killed himself. Whoever it was that decided to give up and give in to the despair; that could be so illogical as to truly believe things would never be any better, it wasn't Anil.