We go though our day-to-day lives with very little thought to those around us. We look at others and assume we know what they’re thinking.
This also happens online (I would know. I play World of Warcraft.) – the assumption that “Oh they’re a <insert profession here>, so they must be <generalized stereotype here>!”
I found out today that an old friend from my high school days has left the world. I’d seen hints, but could find no information until I asked another school friend about it, one who is in the area. The rumor mill whispers “Suicide”. I have no concrete information; I can’t find any, and it seems few have what information there is.
All the time I knew this person, he smiled, joked, made light of life itself, determined to cheer others, lift spirits, help others. He was a Firefighter and an EMT, and at one point, checked me over after I was hit by a car at school (too minor for any kind of statement; suffered bruising that’s still on my legs, nothing more). He once told me “don’t let the turkeys keep you down” in my yearbook.
He was a wonderful artist, though he kept to himself the outflow from mind to paper much of the time I’d been around him.
He was one of the few I knew that could remix and splice music back in 1995. He was good with computers (or at least arguing with the technology we had to work with in the high school’s theatre), at least as far as I could see.
The last time I saw him, however, was not a happy time. It was at the funeral of another friend – his ex-girlfriend, in fact. The circumstances revolving around that are more complicated below the surface.
She had an asthma attack. He was one of the responders.
The clearest memory I have of seeing him was hugging him and telling him clearly, “this wasn’t your fault”.
We promised to keep in touch.
I gave him my information.
And now… I hear this, ten years later.
An EMT, a Firefighter, a cheerful face, a joker, making light of life and focused on making others smile.
The assumption one might make of the man I knew would have been “He’s always so happy!”
What was on the inside?
What was within?
What happened in those ten years?
I always knew there was more behind the mask. It was always in his eyes, no matter how much he smiled (genuinely, those smiles reached his eyes, have no doubt), made fun of things, and came up with jokes out of the blue.
I’d had a crush on him, years and years ago, even. I always seemed to go for the ones who had the depth, and I wanted to know what made them tick… Looks didn’t much matter, even then, so long as the heart was good. Not that I’m saying I haven’t had some lookers… my current is… while not “handsome”, rather attractive, with eyes like a bottomless abyss. I have the fortunate opportunity to get behind that particular mask and see what lies within.
Others might be able to say more than I can about what lay within.
It was most certainly more than “He’s always so happy!”
Especially if the rumor mill whispers the truth.
It happened only a day ago, after all. Information will come.
The shock, however, will stay.
I wish I had been there, I wish I had still been in touch…
Now I will never know if there was something I may have been able to do.
I have said in several places the same thing, and I have meant it in every way.
When I knew him, he was one of the few who reached out a hand, figuratively or literally, to one of the most hated people at the school. He made me smile in the face of constant bullying. He gave me strength with a smile, a word, a gesture. An EMT was fitting for him, a healer in heart and soul, aiding others and lighting their mood even through his own darkness.
The world has lost a heart of gold.
I promise… I will never let the turkeys keep me down.