11:26 AM, Saturday, July 23rd, 2011:
If you stare off into space long enough everything gets kind of blurry. There's some comfort in that. As if your eyes just kinda gave up on trying to process the information anymore. Which is a true reflection of how I feel right now.
When I was 10, my father remarried and I suddenly had a step-brother, Justin. He was a year or two younger than me and since I had grown up around my uncle who was 3 years older? It was my turn to be the leader. He was very funny and painfully skinny. I vividly remember my father being able to pick him up with a finger and twirl him around. The marriage only lasted a couple of years, but my weekends with my father became mini-adventures as Justin and I would do the normal trouble-making things boys did at that age. He was originally from California and had never seen snow and I remember it being fun to play in the snow as if it was the first time again. We had a lot of fun. I kept in touch with him a few more years as his mother remained close to our family and the last I heard he was doing well, married with kids. I just found out that he died yesterday. Some random mix of an energy drink and bath salts (which is a way of getting buzzed I've never heard of) and it was just an unfortunate lethal combination. Gone.
Obviously thoughts go to the family but there's really nothing that can be said and when you're 2500 miles away you have little choice but to be introspective and stare off into space. I immediately called my father when I got the email and we were both speechless. To be so intimately close to someone 25 years ago and hear this news is very surreal. Because the boy you knew obviously became a man and we have no connection with that Justin. Only the boy in our memories.
The feeling is reminiscent of "Stand By Me" when Dreyfuss is sitting in the truck having found out a childhood friend was killed. You replay moments in your head from decades ago and it suddenly stains every memory with this heaviness that just... well, makes you feel old. We're all a collection of experiences and the older you get, every single memory gets a beginning, middle and end because everyone passes on. When you're younger your memories are nearly all a beginning and a middle.
Since I never knew Justin as an adult, I'm stuck in time. I'm stuck riding bikes with him on "The Hills of Doom". Something we did often enough that we convinced my father to make a video out of it. There was a version with music, and normally I would edit this down to 3 minutes before uploading but there's something about the timing of 80s video tape I just can't bear to touch. Even the version my father made with music felt "off" for some reason. No, this is how I remember the day and I adore hearing my father direct us. The unfinished aspect of this video feels far too appropriate to mess with...
To have a memory you held onto for 25 years unexpectedly change because of something tragic is incredibly hard to express to those who haven't felt it. It isn't overly emotional, it just feels like someone stole something from you. Again, thoughts and all loving energy goes to the family members who are in an absolute state of shock and emergency dealing with something with so much immediacy and heartbreak.
I however will just continue to catch myself staring into space and when it becomes too blurry I'll shake my head and continue on doing what I was doing.
I miss being 10.