I had a friend. And he was magical. Actually, he was kind of a dork. But so am I. He cracked inappropriate jokes CONSTANLY. I never knew if he was trying to be un-PC on PURPOSE, or if he just didn't have a bullshit bone or something. Whatever the reason, he said what he thought, even if it wasn't popular.
And he was good. He loved everyone. He could, of course, be stirred to anger (and could get pretty hot about stuff that really pissed him off), but most of the time, he was just really cool. I wouldn't say he was laid back (though, that's what you'd think if you didn't know him), because he shook so much. Even as we chain smoked on "tabacco island" (the sort of unofficial designated smoking area in front of our residence hall), the cigarette trembled at the end of his fingers.
He rarely smoked alone. In fact, he mostly smoked with me. He bummed cigarettes from me constantly (I doubt he ever bought his own pack while we were hanging out together), but it never bothered me. For one, he was the one who almost always went to the store to get my smokes. Not because I couldn't walk. Not because I wasn't old enough. But just because I was busy and he liked to do shit for me. We would finish a pack and he'd say, "Want me to run get another pack?" He was the only one besides myself and Sam who knew my debit card PIN.
I'd come home late at night after getting schnockered with Ryan (Uncle Ryan... not my kid obviously) and my friend would come into my room for the nightly re-cap. He would take my debit card to the gas station and buy me two bags of this specific white cheddar cheese popcorn and a humongous thing of Lemon-Lime Gatorade (sometimes two) and bring them back so I could get a head start at fighting off the hangover.
And the next morning, when I was up early (per my habit) and hungry for breakfast, I could call him (even on weekend mornings) and he'd get up and go to breakfast with me at the dining hall downstairs. He'd say, "Let me wash my face" and minutes later he'd be at my door, ready to go.
I had this cushion chair thingy in my room. It was black and white stripes and everybody called it the Flip-and-fuck, you know, because it was one of those foam rubber chairs that turns into a sleeping bag sized mattress. He would come in and sit on the Flip-n-fuck and talk to me. Every day. For hours. Sometimes, he'd just come in and hang out while I studied (I studied a lot). I asked him why and he said it just soothed him to be around me. Like I said, underneathe it all, he was very nervous. He told me that he felt like he was supposed to protect me. And it wasn't in that weird Hollywood stalker way either. It's not like he ever tried to touch me, or brush my hair, for example (that one was for you Bran)... Actually, he probably did brush my hair a couple of times, but that was a common hobby of my friends who hung out in my room. (Love you Emmy!) Anyway, he would actually come in when he knew I was going to take a nap and "watch over me" while I slept. Sometimes, he would end up falling asleep, too. But not often.
The way we loved each other was beyond anything I've ever felt. It was like a twin. It wasn't in any way romantic. We rarely talked about it, but when we did, we said that it was like we were soul siblings. And it wasn't a COGNITIVE love either. It wasn't like we even thought about it. And, well, it wasn't the kind of love that you FEEL, per se. It wasn't like I was ever overcome with emotions or butterflies or warm fuzzies... It was like he was a body part. Like an elbow or earlobe or big toe... one you take for grated but which plays a big part in your everyday life.
Speaking of toes... he was so outrageous that, one time, he picked up a clipped toenail that had fallen on the floor and was playing with it. Poking himself. I was like, "Dude, that's gross! Throw that away!" Get this... he ATE it. Put my toenail in his mouth, chewed it and swallowed it. I shrieked. He said, "Aw, it's not that big of a deal. It was yours. I wouldn't have done it if it was someone else's" and then he went on to talk about how it was a part of me and we were siblings and blah blah blah. *eye roll* Frickin' weirdo. Cannibal.
He always greeted people in this funny way. With their name. He wouldn't say, "Hi, Joelie!" He would say, "Joelie Key." But he would stretch out the key. "Joooow-lee Keeeeeeeey." Sometimes it was your whole name. Sometimes it was your first name (depending on how many syllables were there).
He was going to come to my wedding. I don't remember now why he didn't. Maybe he couldn't afford it? But it felt like there was a piece missing.
I majored in French. He had taken it in high school (and then maybe a little big in college?). He always walked around singing that song "Champs Elysees" with a HORRIBLE hick American accent. He did it on purpose because he knew that it was like sandpaper on my nerves. He said I was cute when I was pissed off.
Oh, shons eleezay!
Oh, shons eleezay!
Oh solay soo lah plwee
Ah meedee ooo ah meenwee
Il ee ah tooos ka voo vooolay
oh, shons eleezay!
He called me "cat eyes." I have this weird skin thing going on around the inner corners of my eyes. You'll have to look closely next time you see me because I wear my glasses a lot more than I did back then (when I wore my contacts a lot). Anyway, he said that my eyes were like cat eyes. He said that from the middle of my nose up, I looked like Jennifer Anniston. Yeah right. *eye roll* Whatever!
When I graduated, he told me that he probably wouldn't write. He wasn't much into email and cell phones and, well, long-distance communication of any kind, really. He was more of a "I'll see ya when I see ya" kind of guy. I gave him my address anyway. He didn't write.
Sam and I went back to Springfield, like, almost a year after I had graduated. The whole gang was there (because there was a good dozen of people who used to hang out in my room all the time... I didn't have a roommate, I always had my door open, and I would always put down my books to talk to anyone who came over (and I usually talked them into brushing my hair, LOL!). So, we went back to Ryan's for a sort of "reunion" party. We did jello shots and played board games (even TANYA for crying out loud... insert watch check here) and then the next day, we all went out to George's for breakfast. George's is one of the last greasy spoons left on the planet. One of those, open all night coffee houses where you can go to drink a bottomless cup of coffee served to you by a sexually ambiguous waitress. You could sit there all fucking night long on the same $.60 cup of coffee. Or you could splurge and order yourself a plate of double bacon as it was my habit. I never had money for much more. It was where low lifes went after a night of drinking (because, WE reserved that honor for Steak-N-Shake, thank you very much), and we should know because we sat there trying to study while they distracted us with their guffaws and profanity. At George's you could study, drink coffee and chain smoke. And my friend was always up for this. He was a regular. And sometimes, he didn't even have anything to study. Sometimes he would just take a book or a piece of paper (he liked to write) and dick around while we did our "serious" stuff.
I remember one night, this drunk bitch was glaring at him and mumbling profanities under her breath. Without warning, she turned to him and said, "I know who you are, you Nazi sonofabitch!" (He was completely bald... I mean, shaved and shiny.) We almost laughed our coffee out of our noses.
So, that time, after the jello shot party, we went to breakfast for George's. It was a respectable place during the day... something we weren't used to... I remember that. Like it was a secretary during the day but moonlighted as a seedy stripper at night. As we were leaving, he gave me a hug (he always hugged me so hard I thought he'd break a rib... I loved it). This hug lingered even though my new husband was standing right there. He said, "You're going to be alright, Joelie. Sam's a good guy. He can watch over you now."
I asked him to write. He said he'd try. He didn't.
Two days ago, Sam and I were singing Champs Elysees... I can't sing it the right way anymore. Now I have to sing it with a goddamn hick accent. And I said, "It's been awhile since I've tried to get in touch with him." Sam told me to try Facebook again.
Ironically, someone had started a thread about how all the peeps from our residence hall (I'm so brainwashed, Ryan), Kentwood, were finding each other on FB. I said, "Yeah, anyone heard anything about Lynx?"
I got a message from someone I barely know who lived in Kentwood. He told me that my sweet friend, my dorky elbow, my spirit twin, my Aaron Lynxwiler... killed himself.
I wanted this to be a clerical error. A misunderstood name. But how many Lynxwilers are there? And I can tell you, Lynx was one of a kind.
I walked around in kind of a daze for a couple of hours. But then, when I told Sam, he and I both lost it. I went out with friends to get my mind off it. To drink a lot, one for me and one for my homey, Lynx, and to see a movie. I did drink. Too much. And when I got home, the reality of his death was only that much more stark. News from friends started to pour in on FB. Someone said they found out last fall. Are you fucking kidding me? Everyone knew how he and I were. No one told me. And then, Lynx' roommate's girlfriend (well, now wife) and my friend, found out that Lynx passed in September of 2007... two weeks before I had my last baby. He died a year and a half ago and no one said anything.
It kills me to think that my sweet, gentle, bizarre friend--my brother--was so alone and desperate that he took his own life. That, had I tried a little harder to find him, he might still be here. I'm not trying to flatter myself when I say that it would have only taken one conversation between the two of us to refill his tank. I mean, I have my kids and they daily refill my tank... But Lynx must have just run on E for so long that he couldn't go anymore. How? How does that shit happen? Why didn't he try to find me? Did he?
When I talked to my friend Brandy, she said that she had run into him and that he had asked about me. That she had shown him my Myspace page and pictures of my kids. And that when he found out I had stopped smoking, he said he too was going to quit. That I was one of only two people Lynx truly looked up to.
All this should make me very happy. Honored. But it only drives home how much I might have been able to do. With very little effort.
Look, I'm not taking the guilt for his suicide. Like I say over and over, I'm a firm believer in personal agency. Everyone has the right to be responsible for his or her own existence (or lack thereof). So, I don't feel guilt at all.
What I feel is regret. I want to call all of my friends. You know the ones. Those you think about every day or once a week, once a month, here and there. You think of them fondly and you wonder how they're doing. But you don't call because you don't have time, really. It would take hours to really catch up... And the alternative--the quick call to say hey--just doesn't seem like it would do justice to how you feel. So, you don't call. And they don't know (though maybe they do) that you're thinking about them.
I want to say that stops now. That I'll be better about keeping in touch. That I'll not look for that obscure friend every three or so years and throw up my hands when I don't find him/her... That I'll search until I find them and let them know they were thought of. But we're human right? There's no way I'm going to be able to save everyone by just a howdy.
But I'm probably gonna try anyway.
So, if you haven't heard from me, or you HAVE heard from me but dude it was a long time ago, prepare yourself. Because I'm probably gonna stalk the shit out of you.
I love you all, my friends.
R.I.P. Aaron Lynxwiler... I'll see ya when I see ya.
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