Pest’s Letters: To My Friend Who Died of an Overdose

Artwork by Brian Jocks
Artwork by Brian Jocks

Dear B,

They found your body on the floor of your house last week. I don’t know any details, but the cause was an overdose…surprising few if any.

You were my best friend in high school. We’d complement each other using quotes from Friends (especially from Phoebe), our shared love of movies and deep conversations, and our strange crush on Joan of Arcadia. Our friendship in high school was not  predictable – you were a few years older than me and known as partier, while I was a geeky guy known by adults as a “fine young man.” So, boring.

Maybe what bonded us most was our shared view of religion, and what that meant. Both attendees of a Catholic school since kindergarten, we were unsatisfied that the religious attitude of our upbringing seemed brittle at the ideas of philosophy we toyed with without really understanding. We were like moths flittering aimlessly around a chandelier. We both yearned for objectivity, not something that falls apart depending on what you read.

Though I’m not sure why, neither of us left Christian belief. Baby Jesus didn’t get thrown out with the bathwater; we both just posited  – alone, and together – how we could balance both our deepening worldview and the shallow surface of Christianity we’d skimmed across. That led us to a fork in the road: I battened down my hatches and sought within the Catholic Church for meaning, and you sought meaning outside of it.

Our paths soon separated in more than ecclesial preference. I moved from our hometown for college, and you stayed, slowly giving up hope in yourself. You bounced from mediocre job to mediocre job, among rumors of heavy drug usage. A few people were discouraged that you borrowed money from them without returning it, so they wrote you off. So I wrote you off.

But then you took a job as a fireman. And I was proud. No, I wasn’t in your life in any way that mattered at this point, but small-town gossip let me know you had the job. I thought this may be what you were looking for – that a service-oriented job like this one may fulfill the existential longing in your faith, in your life.

You were fired a year or so into your job as a fireman. Small-town rumor is they found you seated on the floor at Walgreen’s, dazed and delusional from too much drugs. You were fired right away and for the last three years or so, I haven’t heard anything from you, aside from you working a sparse amount of small-time jobs. You managed to slip even small-town rumors. And whether for good or for ill, that is a feat.

You were found dead last week. And I’m struggling to understand how I feel about it. Maybe not sad and torn up – we hadn’t spoken in so long, and you continually chose a dark lifestyle of self-harm –

I can’t even type that without hearing you calling me “Selfish Jackass” – and I love you for that. I know that no one chooses a life of addiction, to steal from others to feed their need, to ostracize those who love them most. Understanding that isn’t as easy as telling myself it was your choice.

The truth is, we were so close, so similar in our perceptions, in our lonely faith. I see myself easily in your shoes. We chose different paths, and mine didn’t kill me…yet – not because I was better – maybe only because safety and boredom were easier choices for me.

See B, in you, I see myself. And maybe I see how easily we could be in each other’s position.

So as I hash out my hazy feelings about all of this, just know this: I love you, homie. Thanks for being an important figure in my life, especially for letting me know I wasn’t alone in looking beyond my simple understanding of faith. You were a brother to me. Maybe that’s all. Maybe that’s enough.

 

Love,
Matt AKA (by you especially) Pest

*****

B
April 16, 1982 – June 7, 2017

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