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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dear Steve -- It was twenty years ago this September
that we first met, when you were the music director of our college radio
station. I remember you got sick not long after we met, and there was that
one day that, I think, Jake, Kelly, Craig and I came to visit you. You had
a huge tube in your chest and looked pretty damned uncomfortable. If I recall
correctly, though, you did tell Kelly that now that she had seen your
nipples, fair was fair, and she should reciprocate. A comment made
even funnier for the fact that, at the time, we all hardly knew each

We were all students in the broadcasting class at Adirondack Community
College. From that hospital room to the college's classrooms to your
living room and many of the bars and restaurants in the area over the
next few years, we were good friends. Craig, and very shortly
thereafter Jay, and a few other people were all part of a circle of
friends united in an interest in all of our hoped-for radio careers,
although only a handful – including you and I, ever actually got jobs
in radio. So far as I know, only Jake and I still have them, and I
haven't seen him in many years.

How do we all scatter to the wind? And how is it that we ask ourselves
that so rarely, and only at a time like this?

It was just last night, Steve, that I found out you had died. I had
e-mailed Jay about something I thought he'd be interested in, and he
mentioned in his reply how hard your passing had hit him. I was so
shocked by this casual mention of your death, that I was not even
certain he was talking about you, although, of course he was. We
always knew – you, me, your mom, all of us – that you were living on
borrowed time. Hell, in college I looked up information about your
illness and discovered the life expectancy was in the early 20s. That
you made it to nearly 40 is a genuine triumph. That you died last
December is, frankly, a kick in the head that I am having a hard time
getting past.

There's no one to blame but me for my not knowing. I allowed us to
fall out of contact with each other years ago, and at the time you
died my personal circumstances took me even further away from any kind
of communication with the person most likely to let me know what was
happening, our good and mutual friend Joe. So much has happened
between Joe and I over the past year, none of it really the fault of
either of us, but it's been hard, at times, to talk to him. Hard not
to hate him, despite the fact that ultimately all that's happened is
not his fault.

Shit, Steve, this is about you and me. And the fact is, I'm the only
one to blame for the way our lives split off from each other. For
years I loved you like a brother, and respected you mightily for being
the only person I knew who so very clearly was both smarter and
funnier than me. I often say my friend and creative partner Chris
Allen is who I want to be when I grow up, but Steve, before I met him,
that person was you. I wanted to be as funny as you, I wanted to be as
smart as you, and most importantly, I wanted to be as decent as you.

You were the best kind of friend someone like me could have – you
never pulled your punches, and you always called bullshit on me. I
never could get away with anything with you. And best of all, you
stayed loyal no matter what. I'm sure every friend you ever had knew
what I knew then and know now – there could be no better or more loyal
friend than Steve Cole.

I'm sorry for the way things turned out between us, and I take full,
100% responsibility. I always thought that, since both of us were
still friends with Jay, and friends with Joe, that somehow when enough
time had passed we'd find ourselves in a conversation together, and
the years would fall away. I thought you had found a strength and
power to defeat your illness, and I thought there'd be all the time in
the world.

Funnily enough, I have an incurable illness, now, too, although it's
nowhere as devastating yet as yours was to you. I know now, having
lived with diabetes for seven years, how you came to live with your
own illness as just a part of your life. You were sick to one degree
or another for the entirety of the time I knew you, but you never let
the sickness blot out your passion, your humour, or your life. Hell,
looking back, as confused as we were in our early 20s, you still
managed to be one of the most alive and vital people I knew. I know
you had your doubts and fears, but please know that I always looked to
you as someone who seemed to have it together in ways that I could
never hope to figure out.

I don't know what else to say, my friend. Too many years got between
us, and I lost one of the very best friends I ever had. I'm sorry I
let our friendship fall away. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, but
I'm glad to know that Jay was. My only excuse for all this is that I
really, truly thought there'd be more time, and now there's none. But
I remember the years we were friends, and all the funny and tragic
crap that only young men in their 20s can believe is the most
important thing in the world. Approaching 40, I know that friendship
and shared experience is one of the most important things that anyone
can ever have, and I'm profoundly grateful for the time that we had,
as friends, as colleagues at the college radio station, as two
young men, one of whom always thought there'd be more time, and the
other who probably knew there would never be enough. I'm glad you got
as many years as you did, Steve, but I wish you'd gotten a little
more. Selfishly, I wish you'd gotten enough time for me to call you
up, one more time, and say hello. And to say I'm sorry. And to say
that I've missed your friendship, and I now, I always will.




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29 July, 2005 12:41  

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