He put Hot Sauce on Everything.
It has been one year, 10 months and a week since he hung himself. I haven’t seen his family, or most of our mutual friends. I don’t have a clue where he permanently rests.
His frame was slight, almost gangly and fragile. When he laughed, he hunched over and brought his hand to his mouth. This was always his response to my misfortunes and I loved him for it.
We worked hard and played harder. By day, we landscaped. We were a tight crew of three. Between jobs, our work truck rolled along to the wonderful playlists he’d create. He was our music guru. These short rides, the shared pauses at large job sites and our beloved lunch breaks is where the magic of friendship happened. He put hot sauce on everything, loved soup, didn’t care for meat and loved to cook with fresh spices. His favourite pit stop was the local fruit stand. My favourite pit stop was his family’s store, where he made us cheeseburgers. He loved the Toronto Maple Leafs (bless his soul), political satire and off colour humour. His wit, true humility and mischievous nature were treasures.
We shared some of the darkest and most brilliant memories of our lives along with our dreams, ideas and biggest fears. We shared at least one near-death experience…involving highway speeds and transport trucks.
When we weren’t landscaping, we were aboard the “ship of fools.” Most nights were spent reveling in the beauty of self-employment or seeking refuge from the seemingly inescapable physical aches and exhaustion indicative of physical labour. The more spirits we toasted with, the better we felt. After closing time, we would walk through McDonald’s drive thru and stumble from street light to stop sign to one of many house parties.
The late nights blurred into early mornings of grass cutting lists and mild regret. We shared glances of compassion as the first few hours were focused on stomaching the sounds of small engines and the smells of gas, oil, fresh grass clippings, dog shit and us. I could always count on that moment where he would serve up some comic reprieve.
My personal favourite; tampon ear plugs.
In the midst of a hazy morning, he had forgotten his ear plugs. I left him at the truck to search for extras. While trimming around some garden edges, I see him heading in my direction. I look up to his mischievous smile and then a full display of his signature laugh. As he doubles over I see something hanging from his ear–a string. Being like Mcgyver, he compromised with what he found in the work truck–my emergency stash of feminine products. There he was, in true form, sporting a new purpose for tampons.
It had been years since those landscaping days; I had moved over 2,000 kilometers away and he had landed in another job. When I thought of home, he was a part of it.
All of a sudden, he was gone.
Sometimes breathing hurts.
I don’t think we realize how much someone is in our thoughts and our subconscious until they are gone. You see them in every detail of your life.
The reminders were like thorns–I didn’t want to forget him but I wanted the heartache to stop. I wanted to remember the fun, the joy, the intellectual conversations and the music without the heartache of knowing I won’t share those moments with him again.
The heaviest ache was the realization that he will never again get to do the things that he loved. No more soup or hot sauce. No sun showers, giggles escaping from his niece and nephew or feeling love from his family. He will not get to feel the touch of another person, the sun on his face, the breeze against his skin, the taste of his favourite foods. Nor will the best beats of music fall upon his ears.
I hear these notions that his actions were selfish. He was not selfish. He has, maybe not intentionally, revealed his fragility and our own. I believe his pain was so deep, raw and torturous that he came to view death as the only relief he could find. His actions were enveloped in a level of pain that most of us simply cannot understand. But I assure you, it is real and lives within every one of us.
He struggled with the injustices and pain that we endure.
I wasn’t living any more. My inspiration was gone.
Sometimes I laugh so damn hard thinking about the pure, inappropriate hilarity of our times together I feel stricken with madness.
Yard work, gardens, work trucks, hot sauce, political satire and most of all, music became painful reminders.
The smell of fresh cut grass, the sound of lawn mowers and trimmers and the process of weeding and raking were nothing shy of torture. So, I blamed my lack of yard care on ‘not having time’ and ‘being a new home owner’.
Music was simply hell. A massive lump in my throat would silence any attempt I made to sing a little louder. Every band I loved, every favourite playlist had his name written all over it. Every chapter of my life has had a soundtrack. Music was something that inspired and spurred me to not only believe but act upon the notion that I could do anything. But now, it was gone.
I had to do something–I had to face the music.
It wasn’t about moving on without him, in fact it was precisely the opposite; it was about moving on with him–seeing, feeling and knowing he was in so many things around me.
He is with me. I take comfort in knowing that my memories keep him free of further aging and sickness. With each sun shower I close my eyes, take in the smells of the garden and see his slight, gangly frame in a pair of bright yellow rain pants about six inches to short and held up by rainbow striped suspenders. I see him covered in grass clippings and sporting a fine dirt ‘stache hanging out the passenger windows of old beat up work trucks. I smile at the thought of our banter regarding current political atrocities and global relations.
Soon, it will be two years since he left this life; my yard is coming along and the music is slowly getting louder. I am slowly finding solace in The Shins, The Decemberists, Arcade Fire and Cloud Cult—all musical treasures he introduced to me. Without having my playlists created for me, I am creating my own soundtrack. After six hours on youtube, I think I have found the first song.
Actually, I know I have. Not only have I memorized all the words and sang it aloud, I have danced around in my jammies to this song, on repeat.
Inspiration is slowly restored. Inspiration to be exactly who I am, go after what I want and love him, miss him and remember he is a treasure in my life.
Enjoy, memorize the words, sing it out loud and dance with me.