I Had This Friend Once

The following featured entry was originally written and published by Cat on her weblog, Wait. What?. She hails from Chicago, Illinois.

I had this friend from a while back who I ran into on a downtown Chicago street at lunchtime last fall. I was heading back to my office after purchasing an egg salad sandwich and it was cold out, so I remember welcoming the hug and his warmth. We greeted one another with enthusiasm and small talk, warming up again to each other with news of our current employers, talk of old employer and families. We had met through an employer some ten years prior and I thought of him as an honest and reasonable person who had shown much kindness and compassion in the time I had known him. Since I do not often run into people I used to work with, I remember that it was a happy surprise for me.

He had lost some weight and he looked drawn and tired on this day, his face was unshaven, not something I had normally seen in our past but he was after all not at work that day. We stood there all bundled up on the corner of Huron & Fairbanks and as we spoke the air puffed in front of our mouths almost like an artist would draw it in a picture. I asked what he was doing in my neighborhood and he told me he was seeing a doctor and a lawyer. He went on to tell me of his broken dreams, shattered life, his marriage was over he was getting rid of everything, nothing mattered anymore. Nothing mattered at all.

But I missed that part. Instead of hearing what he had actually said, I heard sadness and dismissed the desperation. I asked where he was living and about his family, told him I had been there to that place where it felt like nothing mattered and asked what his plans were as I gave him another embrace because he became teary eyed. He thanked me for my concern, for my being so nice all the time then said he would work through it and told me how much he appreciated me when we worked together, how things had changed since I had left how happy I looked.

And for whatever reason in the coldness of that downtown street, with the cars and taxi's whipping past, honking, with people rushing by us my face felt warm because I believed he was OK, that he would be OK. We exchanged numbers wished one another well and waved a few paces from leaving that spot on the cement where we had planted ourselves for that 10 minute chat.

It turned out that he was not OK and several weeks ago he killed himself. He was a patient in a locked mental ward being treated for depression here in Chicago at a well known hospital and he found something to hang himself with and unfortunately succeeded.

Initially there was shock and sadness but the codie in me wants to claim ownership over not saving him, not seeing that it, that desperation he spoke of. I second guess myself, did I notice it and look away I wonder? The thought makes me shudder a bit, because its tragic the loss of a young life no matter how it happens, its tragic.

Over the weeks I have let it sink in and I can own that I am clearly sad he is gone, sadder still in the manner in which he left this world. But what really has affected me and stuck with me is that in those last moments of his life he must have felt there was no hope left to hang onto and for the life of me I wish I could turn back the clock and tell him at that chance 10 minute meeting months ago that there is much to hope for in this world and to not give up.

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