Clay died. We dated when we were younger. We loved each other so very much. You never love someone like you did when you were 22. I hadn’t spoken to him since last year but I thought of him every day. The last time we spoke he wasn’t himself. And I sunk into a deep depression. I couldn’t face the reality.
I’ve missed him for some time. We broke up over a decade ago. We only dated for 9 months or so. But I really loved him and he loved me. We were on different paths. I was in grad school. He wanted to go to mortuary school. I worked at Urban Outfitters. He worked at a mortuary. But we both read. He wrote. I used to. And we both liked goth music. And Pulp. And of course, Bukowski. We’ll always have Bukowski.
He moved to Southern California and was in a terrible car accident and was in a coma for 28 days. Just like the movie. Randy, his brother and my roommate, and I went to visit him three times. Eventually he came out of the coma and I went to see him a fourth time with our friend Ronnie. Our friendship and caring for one another never ended. I saw him many times throughout the years; he stayed with Randy and I a few times; once to take care of me after my accident. And we used to talk on the phone and write each other. He wrote more than I.
People say, “he pushed them away. He pushed me away.” I said that last week. But that’s not accurate. Clay eventually became a more challenging person to be friends with. And so I stopped calling so much. I said I would write him. And I did, but not often, seldom. So seldom. I meant to, I really did. It makes me wince to think about it.
I’m not supposed to feel guilty. I didn’t. Not really. But then I didn’t cry. And I started to think about him more and more. And I would think about him typing away at my hand-me-down computer (which was a glorified word processor). He’d drink some crappy flavored vodka (because I was 22 and bought vanilla vodka with peach cranberry juice) and write while Fawn and I went to the club. He’d write until we came back with Randy.
The next day I would wake up and read and do homework while he drew. He smoked a lot. Too much. He drank. Too much. So did I. We were 22.
There are photos. So many. And I see how happy we were. And it’s nice to remember that.
I needed to find his writing and artwork. I knew I had some. I didn’t realize I had so much. It warmed my heart and broke it at the same time to see how much correspondence we once had. He asked me to edit, rate, and give my opinion of his writing. And I did, but not enough. And it destroys me to acknowledge that.
His other friends and I are also coming to terms with how prolific he was. He wrote so much. And he drew and painted. What do we do with it all? What is our responsibility to him? I can hear him saying, “Just burn it all—no, toss it because it’s not worth the match.” He was so wittily self-deprecating. But what do we do? He wrote because he needed to. He wrote short stories, plays, and poetry. He illustrated his writing and handcrafted books. I feel accountable to do something with his writing. And so do his friends. Perhaps it’s an art show of his work with some of us reading his writing. But even that doesn’t seem enough.
He did this zine, Bleeding Hearts with his friends.
And maybe that’s the problem too. Instead of feeling things, I am trying to problem solve and organize. But writing this is helping. Writing about him helps. And writing about his writing helps too.
When do I feel something beyond guilt? When does actual sadness begin and when do I stop trying to think rationally and just cry?
I’m not trying to mythologize him. He wasn’t without flaws but no one worth knowing is without flaws. He was a sensitive soul who cared a lot; too deeply sometimes. He saw things differently and created nonstop. And he helped me see things differently; hell he helped me see myself differently.
He had a crooked grin that would take over his whole face, and an a-line haircut that he would push up high. He listened to bands that were too goth even for me. He switched between wearing three piece suits to a bright orange jack-o-lantern t shirt and broken levis. He had the kindest eyes and the best laugh. There’s a hole in my heart.