Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Get off of my bench.

Dear Chris,
Tomorrow is your funeral and I have no idea what to wear. I hate this. I'm so angry that we didn't meet up at Rick's to chat, I wanted to talk to you about my little "button", and all the changes that it's bringing. I wanted you to call me back at work to solve a frustrating supportive home care issue that I thought you'd have insight into, or at least you'd sympathize with me.

I've been thinking about this letter in my head for the past week, ever since I heard the news. I've been thinking about how we met. It was maybe 1994? We both caught the KU bus right near Louise's West, I was back in school trying to get my shit together that semester. I don't think I successfully managed to do that. But I chatted with you occasionally on the bus, and something told me we were going to be friends. I left you a note on your car telling you to meet me inside Louise's for a beer one day, because I knew you'd be coming on the next bus. We drank schooners and chatted more, and I told you that I had these weird "box tickets" in some VIP room for the Royal's Game that night, and did you want to go with us? I remember that we hit a liquor store, and met up with my roommate who was driving. I introduced you to Scott and Ivo, the driver and front seat passenger, and we crammed ourselves in the back of Scott's little white Saturn, and we were off. Remember how we were in that suite, and it was cool, but it wasn't stocked. Ivo couldn't find anything to drink, so we gave him some of our vodka, which he promptly mixed with BBQ sauce packets and pronounced it a "Bloody Mary". You must have thought we were so odd. And we were.

From that moment on we were pals. We hung out a lot, drinking, talking, joking around, eventually discussing politics, our families, social issues, movies, music, everything. You were so articulate and intelligent. You should have been an attorney. Once you had your mind made up, that was it... you were usually able to convince anyone of your point, and if you couldn't get them to agree with you, they at least had to see the value in what you were saying. You had a way with words. We argued occasionally, and you usually won. ( I let you. I just didn't have the stamina to keep going.) You introduced me to the wonders of a 40 of St. Ides. What were you thinking? You had the goofiest sense of humor. You called me "Red" for years, even when I stopped (intentionally) dying my hair red. You seemed to get a kick out of it, even though I was clearly BLOND by then. I was relieved when you met and fell in love with your own beautiful red-head, but it didn't really matter. You called me whatever you felt like anyway.

Did you know that I always admired your grace with stupid people? I was constantly amazed when I started hanging out with you at how completely rude people could be. "You sure are tall." "How's the weather up there?" "Do you play basketball?" Etc. etc. etc. It was inevitable. And you were NICE! Always. Even when people wanted to talk about deeply personal stuff they knew about you. You tolerated some shit. And not surprisingly, your version of publicly known events was quite different from the versions the press portrayed. Even when you died it was crazy how much people wanted to talk about it. I was grateful when the cause of death was known... an enlarged heart. How ironic, Chris, that you'd die of a big heart. Again, not really that surprising.

Did you know that you were one of the very first people who talked to me about religion that I actually listened to and considered seriously... not in a "wacko jesus-freak" kind of way? I wasn't on the same page as you spiritually, you were fairly traditional in your faith... I'm all new-age about it, but it was a point of conversation through the years that has always stuck with me as I've explored my own sense of spirituality and found my own path. I don't think I ever really told you that. We talked about it in a very general way toward the latter part of my illness... and you assured me that although we hadn't talked much during that time, you were keeping me in your prayers. I hope I remembered to thank you for that. I don't know if you realize how very seriously I take that now, and how much I appreciate those prayers from you and everyone else that carried me through my illness.

Life got in the way the past couple of years and we didn't talk as often as we once did. You were working, settled, part of a happy couple and happy home life. I was drunk, then suddenly sober, and then fighting for my life, and then just trying to get back to living. We talked a couple of weeks ago and I told you to call me. I told you I wanted you to let me know the next time you'd be down at Rick's with Maggie... I wanted to join you and talk about life. The day after I talked to you last I learned I was pregnant. I talked to Angie within the next week, and she asked me if it was okay to tell you my news. I said "Of course." Selfishly, a few days after the news spread like wildfire of your demise, I had to ask her. "Ang, did you tell Chris my news?" She told me she had. Still, I really really really need to talk to you. I want to tell you the crazy aspects of this. I want to know what you'd think about a lot of this.

I can't even begin the imagine what Angie is going through right now. I try and try to put myself in that position mentally, and I just can't. She's strong, but my god... how much can one person take? You're leaving a big hole, Chris. It's not fair. I remember the night you guys met... It was Becky's 30th birthday party out at Margaret's. There was an awful storm just after dark. Lightning, thunder, heavy wind. Everyone scattered and went into town or wherever. Except for you and Angie. You silly people sat in that blue tent and talked all night or something. It was crazy. You guys were both so private, so it was interesting to hear a bit of info here and there alluding to the development of your relationship. But it was such a happy thing. I could not imagine two more articulate, intelligent, and opinionated people getting together. It made sense, but I wondered if ya'll might kill each other. Obviously not. Nearly 10 years later and all seemed right in your world.

I could go on and on here, but I gotta go find something to wear. I called your cell phone yesterday and listened to your voice mail. You can't get to the phone right now. The strangest things make me laugh and cry when I think of you. Remember the August that you accidentally dropped a crawfish carcus between the seats of your car, and couldn't find it for a couple of weeks? Remember "GET OFF OF MY BENCH!!" ? Remember Oatmeal Cookie Shots? And Thursday night Jagermeister/Friends/Seinfeld at my house with Emily and Friday? Remember how Friday loved you and would "high five" for you better than for anyone else?

Okay, I'm really going to stop now. I miss you already. I can't delete your number out of my phone. I don't want to see your parents and your family and Angie tomorrow, it's going to hurt. You know how I hate crying in public. I'll call your cell phone when I'm done at the funeral tomorrow. Even though, as usual, you're not going to call me back.


Rikki said...

I didn't delete my mother's email address until I quit my job and cleaned up my computer, 3 1/2 years after she died. There's something permanent about delete.

I'm really sorry about Chris. He was one of the good guys.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Chris well but enjoyed hanging with him at Rick's. I loved Maggie.
He was such a gentle person. He will be missed.


Meg Moran said...

What an amazing letter and tribute to a friend. Thank you for sharing your pain and letting us see him through your memories. Be gentle with yourself while you grieve.

"I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time . Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult." --E.B. White