TW: *A note. I thought a lot about whether I would use this person’s real name and I feel that it wold be disingenuous to the person he was to not be totally honest. It is not my intention to speak for the dead; I’m trying to make peace with living.
Five years ago in June 2011 a friend of mine committed suicide in the most gruesome way. It wasn’t until a week or so later that I became privy to this fact through a mutual friend. The information came as a shock and it took moments, days really, for the full realization of what had happened to settle in.
We weren’t close, not in the way folks imagine but he was a constant in my life from high school onward; until there wasn’t an onward.
Vinny and I were born the same year, mere hours apart. His birthday, the day before mine, served as constant. When we found each other as teenagers we were both miscreants. He and I oscillated in circles where kids wore a lot of black and felt a lot of dark feelings. From our initial encounters in the high school hallways our friendship developed. We had a friendship based on common interests, and it never really occurred to me that our friendship was anything more than platonic even at a moment when assumed otherwise.
I went off to college but managed to spend my first year at home like a lost puppy. Vinny and I would meet up sporadically around town since we went to schools in the same city. We’d drive to stoner metal shows
or walks near Fenway Park. Many New England days were spent sitting on park benches talking philosophy, religion, and music. At that point he was studying photography, his camera a second heartbeat against his chest, a smile across his face covered with a think black beard.
It never really occurred to me that there wouldn’t be a time when we would find physical space and time to catch up; until there wasn’t . As our visits grew sparse, the occasional Facebook message was a touch point where I would reach out and he would respond; until he didn’t.
Entering adulthood can be a time of great uncertainty. Entering adulthood during the worst Recession in American history since the ‘Great Depression’ was unsettling.
After college I focused on surviving- navigating the ever-growing number of part-time jobs, loans, my first time living with a significant other. My life was just rough. I spent the year hustling and though the correspondence between Vinny and I were short, they were real. Simple moments where even if we disagreed about something or misunderstanding emerged we could always talk to each other.
A month before he died he sent me a message where he apologized for something benign. Vinny had found God somehow along the way and even wished me a blessing. It felt simple, a small comment in a sea of friendship missteps; it didn’t mean anything at the time. I hadn’t put anything together, it didn’t click that maybe that was goodbye.
It never really registered that there were messages about time, about an end that meant a fissure in a friendship I had grown both accustomed to and comfortable in. And then he became digitally memorialized; a moment, a life, gone just as quickly as it was thrust into mine.The full stop of our relationship coming into my purview.
Vinny’s life stopped at an age where things weren’t great, where there was so much uncertainty, where the world is so less forgiving about mistakes, where you’re trying to catch a break and just can’t.
Every year since I became a sentient being (or at about 16) I write a list of goals on November 12th for the coming year. This list has always acted as a dumping group for resolution type things; the whims and wishes of someone who expects to see 365 days around the sun. The first year after Vinny died, I was inconsolable, confused and genuinely sad, I wasn’t sure how to process. Each year sense, as we hit Halloween I start thinking about Vinny. Each time I think if he had just waited… but who am I to say how his life could have been different. I don’t get to say.
Vinny taught me a lot about what it means to care for someone, what loss feels like from afar. I could have been Vinny at numerous points in my early life. I’m sure that people who know me now don’t know this fact, that I could have not waited. But I’m so grateful that I’m here. That each November 12th I’m reminded how truly amazing it is to have an opportunity to review and reflect on a year past and a year to come.
So happy birthday Vinny, I miss you. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for reminding me that forward is another word for tomorrow and what a gift it is to take the next step.
| If you know anyone struggling with depression and suicidal ideation, direct them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) where counselors are available to talk 24/7.|