When Nick got out of rehab April 2016 I was elated. Over the course of our friendship our paths crossed many times, each time burning up each other’s lives with significance, then drifting apart again like flotsam.
The night he got out of rehab I embraced him, fed him, took him for a jog around University Heights and listened to him shred. For months I knew he’d been struggling with heroin addiction. His girlfriend had left him. He had no money. Here, he was at his most introspective: he wanted to stop, but knew he was still addicted; he wanted to do something he loved, but hadn’t finished college. Jobless, friendless, penniless, he descended into the cruelest thing of all: boredom.
Nick cut a striking figure-- physically and intellectually. He had big thick lips and pale eyes and looked like one of those dogs with layers of fat padded over by rolls of muscle. He loved cars and worshipped Van Halen. He could-- and did-- critique modern psychology; dabbled in amateur aeronautics; taught himself advanced pharmacology. He was good with his hands. After getting a flat on the way home from Buffalo Wild Wings, you can hear his mildly goofy, easygoing nature in a Vine from 2013. In it, he’s gently chastising: “If you’re in the car with your girlfriend, you cant be like, “I’m gonna die.””
Over the summer the bond that kept us together since high school took on an urgent, melancholic importance. His body rebelled against the drugs in his bloodstream. He worked hard when he could, doing landscaping gigs, scraping by enough to cop cigs and smack now and then — vomiting violently, aching in misery when he couldn’t.
When he began to shoot up in front of me, taking the little needle to the veins in his hands, I told him not to speak to me until he took his recovery seriously. That was the middle of July. Four months later he was dead.
I think about Nick every day. Rather, I feel about him. First confusion, then disbelief, then fear. A snowball to the face. Something between realizing you left the stove on and seeing your ex at the market. Then a dull, hot pain at the back of the throat. Suddenly, tears.
But what I feel most viscerally is an angry pain. A shake-your-fists-at-the-heavens pain. Because although Nick had a heart full of grace and a brain full of smarts, what got him in the end wasn’t the drugs. It was his own insecurity, his lack of confidence and direction, his depression — all of which we discussed, once upon a time, and which I cannot write about now without soaking my keyboard full of tears.
As I scroll through our messages, hours and hours and hours of texts, I laugh and cry and hurt from missing you. It was your birthday yesterday. Happy 25th, my brother. Thank you for your friendship, your love, your gentleness.
Until we meet again.