An old friend of mine messaged me earlier this week to ask if I knew anything about the death of a mutual acquaintance we knew from college. Another friend of ours had been in touch with the news of his passing, which she’d seen in our class notes.
This was all news to me. The friend in question is someone I deliberately cut out of my life about 10 years ago when it became clear to me that he was not going to overcome his mental health issues on my watch. And that’s all I could do – watch him disintegrate and obsess and transform into someone I didn’t even recognize.
I loved him a little. Then I became frustrated with his constant need to argue with and antagonize me and others. Eventually, he stopped leaving the house entirely. When he came to believe that the NSA had staked out his parents’ house to monitor his activities (especially his Wikipedia edit wars), I knew things were pretty bad. It was exhausting talking to him and I was exhausted. So I stopped, periodically wondering if he was maybe doing better. Maybe someone else was helping him. Maybe his family. Maybe a therapist. Maybe not.
I hunted down that class notes update and discovered that although it was posted this year, he actually died last summer. Whomever sent in the update waited a whole year. There’s no information that I could find about his death. No obituary, no articles. It’s like he never existed. I found an old thread on the school’s CS forum with his email and found his FB page (which I’d also blocked), but I didn’t know any of the people who had posted there, and the most recent posts were for his birthday – two or more years ago. How well did those people know him? Well enough to know that something was wrong? I’m hesitant to message any of them and be the bearer of bad news. But, still I wonder if any of them knows what happened.
The night before I’d heard about any of this, I had a dream about him – not anything that brought back any good memories (I do have some), but one that just emphasized how fucked up things were between us when we stopped talking. When I stopped talking. It’s a weird coincidence. Not related to his actual death, clearly, since he died last year, but to this announcement. I feel a little haunted by all of it.
I don’t know if there’s any good way to die when you’re still young enough to crawl out of whatever dark pit you’ve been lost in. I hope he did make it out. I’m not sure it matters. It’s tragic if he did and then lost his life, and tragic if he didn’t because he failed to find it. Maybe not knowing what happened is better.