For Matthew

I think of him most this time of year.

I’ll never forget that morning – it was one of those Chicago days that starts out chilly, with dew around the edges, but you can tell the afternoon is going to be hot.  I was 23 or 24, one of those stupid ages where you think you’re just about as old as you’ll ever need to get, and I stepped into my bosses’ car, the radio playing, on my way to work, and my boss turned to me and said “it’s on the news…somone from your high school killed himself.  Did you know him?”

And yes,  I did know him.  I did know Matt.

He was one of the first people who was nice to me, who noticed me, when I transferred to my new high school in Chicago from my old high school in Oregon.  He was our class valedictorian, one of the smartest kids I’ve ever known.  I latched onto him a bit, because he was just so nice, and he made me laugh.  He was too smart to be popular, and he walked funny, and I am sure he took some shit from the boys in our class, but at the time, I didn’t notice.  I knew he wasn’t popular, but he was nice to me.

I gave him a tie for his birthday, that first year, one of the first presents I’d ever given a boy, and he wore it all the time, and every time he wore it, I felt a little something happy inside, because someone actually cared about something I’d done.

Senior year one of his best friends gave him this terrible jacket, it was purple silk, puffy, and just…just so not the right thing to be wearing in high school in 1994.  We all knew it.

He wore that jacket every day.

He was the first person I ever told that I didn’t eat, that I maybe had a problem.  Standing outside the computer room, between classes, just because he asked me quietly if I was ok.  And I wasn’t, and just the way he asked it made something in me break, jiggle loose, and I let a little bit of it out that day, and it was the beginning of getting better.

The winter of our Senior Year he had some math class for geniuses at the college across from my house, after school, and when he was finished he’d come over to my house and we’d hang out or walk around – he never had a lot of time because he always had so much work to do, math or volunteering or church stuff I guess, but we’d hang out and joke about boys I liked or gossip about kids in our class.    I walked him to his car one night and it was snowing – just letting loose those fat puffy movie snowflakes, and the parking lot was lit by this golden lamp light and I swear if you tilted your head just right you could almost hear music as the snow fell, sharp, and glittery, and I looked up at him and he looked down at me, and he had a girlfriend and I was moving away from him, away from his social circle and into my own, but I knew that if ever there was going to be anything between us, that was the moment.  And then the moment slipped away and was gone.

Freshman year of college, I was busy slogging around the redwoods in Santa Cruz and he was busy slogging around the physics department of the University of Chicago, but that new fangled thing called email meant that we kept in touch, and he emailed me late one night to say that they’d had an argument in the dorms, that his roommates claimed that everyone knew that all girls from Oregon were ugly, and he’d had to step up and say that no, actually, the most beautiful girl he’d ever known was from Oregon.

It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, and I carry it with me and bring it out at times when I need it most.

And then, we lost touch, and drifted apart.  He headed to grad school, I headed home, and one chilly Chicago morning, he was gone.

I think of him all the time.  I wish, so very much, that he was still here.

I think one of the reasons I don’t care about joining Facebook is that Matt is the only person I went to high school with that I really wish I could talk to today.  And since I can’t, there doesn’t seem to be much point.

He was an only child, and it breaks my heart to think of his parents, and it breaks my heart to think of him, so smart, but so unhappy that the only thing that he could do was to end it.

He’s gone, and I miss him.  But yes.  I knew Matt.  And I will never forget him.

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20 Responses

  1. I’m so sorry. What a beautiful post, though.

  2. That was such a beautiful tribute to a person who sounds so very worthy of a beautiful tribute. I’m so sorry he’s no longer here with you……

  3. You are such a beautiful writer, and I think if his parents could read this, it would mean the absolute world to them.

  4. This is such a beautiful tribute; I have tears in his honor and I’m sad for never having had the chance to have known him.

  5. Yes, you should find a way to send this to his parents.

  6. I was going to say the same thing; how honored and comforted his parents would be to know that they aren’t the only ones who never forgot him. If there’s one thing I’ve heard from people who lose loved ones, it’s that it hurts worse when no one else brings them up. Beautiful post, E.

  7. You warmed my heart with your words. Thank you.

    You reminded me of a friend from high school that was taken from us a year after I graduated. It was one of the five worst calls I received in college.

    It’s time for me to say some prayers and do some remembering of my own.

    xo

    • I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said but I wanted you to know how moved I was by this post. What an amazing tribute an amazing person. I agree- if you could find his parents I’m sure that they would appreciate your words.

  8. Wow, It is crazy that you are writing about your Matt this week. This week is the 14th anniversary of *MY* Matt’s suicide (here is an old post I wrote about it: http://american-family.org/2004/12/27/before-and-after/)

    I still think of him all the time, 14 years later. I miss him. I wonder how it would feel to be able to sit down over a cold beer with him and remember how we used to be when we were young together. Instead, I am the only person holding those memories. I run over them in my head, afraid that if I forget them, they will be gone forever. It still hurts and I think it always will.

    I am sorry that you lost your friend. I am sorry that I lost mine. The world was a better place with them in it.

  9. Wow, E. Just wow.

  10. Such a beautiful tribute. He sounds like a great friend. I agree with several others that you should send this to his parents, if possible. I know I would want to read something like that about my child.

  11. oh, man. what a beautiful post, about such a horrible loss.

  12. I hope wherever Matthew is right now, he can see your heart and know that he is remembered and loved. I’m sorry for such a hard day.

  13. I’m so sorry. I won’t say I know *exactly* how you feel, but a good friend of mine killed herself in high school, and I was never the same. I still think of her, of what she was thinking, of whether there was something I could have done better or differently or if the story would have ended another way if I’d known to ask the right question at the right time.

    I wish our lost friends – yours, mine, kilbournedrive’s — peace. I wish us peace too.

  14. oh wow. somehow, this makes this horrible story hit home just that much more. R.I.P. Matthew

  15. Everyone else has said it, but I have to also….that was a simply beautiful tribute.

  16. Wonderful post.

  17. This is just so lovely. It sheds a beautiful light on something that must be very painful.

  18. This breaks my heart too. It sounds like he really left a hole for a lot of people.

  19. Beautiful.
    I am sorry for your loss, for his parents’ loss. I agree with everyone else that said it: you should totally get in touch with her parents, send them a copy of this. It will WARM THEIR SOULS, to know that someone remembers their only child in a GOOD LIGHT, not just ‘oh, their boy committed suicide’.
    I lost someone close to me to suicide 3 years ago. The sadness still isn’t gone. It creeps up and grabs me at the most random times.

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