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A LETTER I WROTE TO A DYING FRIEND
I wrote this letter to a friend, colleague, and lover who died two years ago from prostate cancer. He was in his mid forties, it came as a shock. There are a lot of mixed feelings, but what I find interesting looking back on it now is how I never got this kind of closure I wanted. I'm not sure if this kind of closure exists and this was a good lesson. I don't know if what happened was right or wrong. I also think of the power differential between us. It happened and that is that. This is the letter I wrote to say goodbye to him.
The first time I met you was in at a meeting in Amsterdam. I was lost at the University trying to find where the meeting was located. I found out that we were supposed to meet below a yellow sign on the first floor. I went and stood there, alone, feeling very lost. I did not know what anybody looked like; I had never met this group before.
I saw you walk towards me. You said, " You look like an Amy," in English.
I was frazzled and did not know what to expect from this meeting. After a few hours of the meeting we adjourned to some beers on campus. Jan recommended La Chouffe to me, which is a very strong Belgian beer. We had one or two beers, from my recollection and then went to a beautiful dinner outside. After dinner, a few of us decided to go to a coffee shop to smoke. After awhile it was only you and I left.
We walked to a nearby canal and sat down to smoke a joint. I don't remember our conversation but I do remember feeling comfortable around you. So comfortable that when you asked if you could sleep in my hotel room that evening I said yes without hesitation. I was excited that someone was walking me back. I was even more excited that someone was you. I also thought maybe you did not have a room that night, which was ridiculous. The night is blurry as far as conversation. I know at the time I was in a serious relationship. I know at the time I was not happy.
We got to my room, which was a funky looking place. Lots of red and purple colors, patterns, and designs. I began to get ready for bed. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and put my face cream on. I was nervous having you there. I changed in the bathroom. You took your clothes off while we were lying in bed.
You were in your briefs with no shirt.
I remember thinking, "Hot damn, he is beautiful."
A stunning man, dark brown short hair, well kept, no facial hair. Dark brown eyes that sharply peer into mine, with unquestionable curiosity and passion. You are not the best at hiding your emotions towards me.
It does not work against you that you are handsome, extremely intelligent, kind, challenging, adventurous, open minded, ambitious, and speak Dutch, German, Italian, and beautiful English.
I thought as I laid in bed, "I am not going to get much sleep next to this man."
I did not get much sleep. Nothing happened between you and I that evening, not even one touch. The next morning I had serious indigestion from all the of the prior night's activities along with my anxiety of having this beautiful familiar yet strange man in my bed.
I also felt guilty of my feelings for you as I was in a committed relationship. We awoke groggy, and probably both unsettled. I was unsettled because I wanted to touch you so badly.
We had another meeting the next morning around ten AM. You dressed and left saying goodbye and you would meet me at the university.
Oh, how I wish I could have handled this situation better to soak up every moment with you. I also love this memory because I remember thinking how out of control and my element I was at that moment. This moment is symbolic of my passion for you.
A lightening bolt struck between us, a seismic activity we fell into.
After you left I showered and prepared for the day. I went to get breakfast nearby. I remember I had waffles. I thought of you while I ate them. These usually mundane details stuck in my head because of your imprint upon me.
I made my way back to the VU on a tram. I thought I had timed it out such that I would be right on time. I was five or so minutes early. When I walked into the small room for about twelve people, you were the only one in there.
I felt extremely awkward and unsettled. If you were acting any way I did not notice because of my own feelings. People arrived late that day. We all had too much fun the night before. Everyone's eyes were half shut, glazed over, perhaps even a little cross eyed.
The meeting began.
It was a special circle of hell for in the room for everyone. Here we were, trying to solve a significant scientific question that could decrease suffering in a chronic pain population. The composure in the room was on a razor thin precipice teetering towards nonsense. Facing one another at the small table in the small windowless room that when I started to think about I became somewhat claustrophobic and almost to the point of breaking a sweat.
It was horrible, we were all mirror images of how we all felt. I avoided all eye contact. I remember Beverly asking me a question and I could not answer. The meeting adjourned and we had a lunch and said our goodbyes. I don't remember saying goodbye to you, I avoided you as you had stoked this fear within me.
I believe Katie gave me a joint that you had given her to give to me. I did not see you again for about a year.
We hosted a symposium the following year. I saw your name and remember feelings arising. It was different now. The first night we met was at The Capitol Grille. I remember thinking when I walked in, "I will avoid him."
This is not possible for us. When we are near each other there is a magnetic force that pulls us closer and closer. I begin to question why I bother fighting it, but this is more for the perception of others than myself. I do not remember how we said hello, but I do remember eating, finishing dinner, and hoping I would catch you alone. I did not this time.
Our meeting was early the next day. I think this was the morning you walked up to me and whispered in my ear, "You look beautiful today." I will never forget this moment because I was terrified someone would hear you, and these words made me disintegrate into my chair.
At our last day of the meeting I had invited everyone over to my house to have a cocktail in the backyard. We enjoyed a drink in the chaos of my life and I took you all up to the rooftop to get a view of Chicago on a ladder that made Jim really nervous.
We walked to my favorite Cuban restaurant and had a lovely dinner. Jim complained about how long the walk was on the way there. We had a beautiful dinner and four of us went out. I took us to a place called the Crocodile where we all danced in the basement. The Crocodile is known for playing ghetto house and having some of the most fun dancing in Wicker Park, the neighborhood I lived in. Then we went to see some blues music at Nick's Beer Garden. We took a smoke break outside of Nick's. Everyone except for you eventually left. Then we were alone. I suggested we go have a nightcap at my house in the rooftop and you agreed.
As we were standing in the kitchen you lunged at me and started to kiss me. The rest of the night was stars, your lips, and our bodies together.
You slept at my house. We awoke in the morning next to one another, passion again stoked. You looked me in the eyes and said, "I love you, but I will never leave my girlfriend.
I had known you had a girlfriend but I was not sure to the extent of your relationship with her. It pained me to hear this. You said, "It would be better if I left." You gathered your belongings and grabbed a taxi. I was heartbroken and stunned when you left. It was the kind of feeling where you do not know where to go. I tried to sit in the backyard, but I could not for memories haunted me. Then I tried to go inside, and I could not be in there either, because the memories kept on stalking me. I felt like we had lived an eternity of love in one night.
It was hard for me to believe that you had ever entertained the idea of "us". I still do not know what to make of this. I do know that it is a fantasy of mine, and it will always be. There are very few people that could ever compare to you.
After you left in my emotional roller coaster I said I never wanted to talk to you again. You pleaded with me for it not to be so. I became less angry with this. I went through cycles of anger and sadness for a while. The hope of being together in a conventional way eventually diminished.
We did not see each other again for almost a year. We had correspondence during this time, which was beautiful, and I will always refer to.
Our next meeting was in England. I was still single at this time. I had been in Europe for almost a month, in Turkey and France. I was hunting for love at the time and had some interest in both places, but once again, nothing compared to you.
We went out for dinner and drinks the first night in Bath. It was raining and at one bar. Four of us all sat under a small umbrella. We got to our hotel and took the elevator, both getting off of the fourth floor. We were both astounded to find out that our rooms were right next to each other. I thought maybe you had planned this, and I believe you thought the same of me. I asked you for help with my presentation and you came by my room. Maybe fate does exist and it brought us together for a reason.
Helping me with my presentation is just one of many examples of how supportive you have been in my life. Anytime I needed someone to talk to, anytime I needed a friend, or a teacher, you have been there for me. Furthermore, you innately know the right thing to say to me. You know also know when not to say anything or very little. You have always understood my soul. You have been an angel. I know that no matter what time allows or does not, you are within me, I within you.
My memories of us being close are very difficult to write about because I feel that words do these moments no justice.
I do want to write of one memory, that I think encompasses our relationship. We were in Zurich for a meeting and completed a group dinner. We left together and walked to the Lake to sit under the night sky and drink some wine that we stole from the party. I asked you if you would give me your shorts so I could go swimming under the night sky. You took your pants off and gave me your shorts. I swam under the stars in Lake Zurich on a beautiful warm night. Night swimming is one of my favorite things to do; you made my dream come true.
As I was swimming around a few sailboats a swan swam by me. I came back to shore; we walked back to your hotel snapping photos along the way. You said, "I have not taken photos in awhile."
When I last saw you in Germany I understood something about you I had not before. You love adventure. I am so happy that I could be that for you that I could provide you with that. I am so happy I got to share a story and adventure with you. But you are much more than that to me. You have imprinted my life as I said in a way that nobody or nothing can replace or take away. You will live in my heart until my time passes. You are one of the most remarkable people I have had the chance to know for many reasons. I wrote more but I know we share the same memories in our hearts, and this is very difficult for me to write. I am not a good enough writer to write what was between us. I aspire to be that.
Your support and interest in my life is a gift.
I love you.
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