I've been avoiding writing this post here. I wrote something on facebook that was short and succinct - I felt like that would serve, and yet here I am, and I'm going to write this anyway. Less people will see this, which is in itself appropriate. I'm whispering this into the void, instead of shouting it into a crowded room.
Last week Ben Kuz killed himself. He would've been 42 this year.
It seems like his whole life was spent waiting for that next thing to happen. That next, great, important thing which would change everything. A new job, a relationship with that girl he'd been eyeing, a sudden monetary windfall. A change in the seasons.
His hope for the future in no way offset his bitterness.
When I was young, he was my first real friend in Prince Rupert. As a bitter youth, like attracted like. We were fast friends and helped prop each other up. I respected his ability to work his way into a conversation, his wit and the way he could find the words. I often felt like I was standing behind and to the right of him, in a patch of slightly darker space. I was jealous, I'll admit it. I wanted so much to be .. well, more. More confident, more outgoing, more successful. I just didn't see how that could happen, or even where I'd start such a process.
We were friends again when I returned to Rupert a few years after moving to Smithers. We'd somewhat kept in touch, and we were still good friends. He was making progress, he'd found work a few times, and life seemed to be going reasonably well.
I however was coming back a mess. Head was all messed up, scars on my wrists were still healing, and a sense of abandonment sent me back to familiar places, and my first apartment. My first experiences with truly going hungry. Time alone with the inside of my head, and all the scary things that lived there. He was managing to keep slightly ahead -- only slightly, but that close to the bottom it could've been a million miles.
Still, we were friends.
Flash forward a few more years, I'd met my first wife, and we'd survived a year in Rupert, most of a year in Smithers, 3 horrifying months in Fort McMurray, another year in smithers, and had established ourselves in Nelson.
I saw life going well enough there, I was working and making a solid wage. Life was good, I was somewhat ahead. I invited him down, to try and offer him a boost. This reminded me of a long forgotten lesson - don't live with friends. Especially not when you have a partner to also try to keep happy.
We lasted a fair period before we parted ways, and he moved from one rough living condition to another, eventually abandoning all of his hard earned possessions and returning north. We were still somewhat friends, but the whole series of events had put a real crimp on our relationship. I felt guity as well. Guilty that I'd chosen my own happiness over helping him. Guilty that his life hadn't improved. Guilty that he'd come out of this with less than he went into it with.
Flash forward another 4 years. My first marriage was in shambles. She'd left, and left me in a real pinch, emotionally and financially. I'd made the move to Vancouver island, and got myself more or less sorted out. I found out Ben was in Parksville, and I made a road trip up to see him.
We were still .. friendly. I felt awkward however. His life was .. well, a bit better than it had been, but he didn't seem to be as far along as I'd expected. He'd had a bit of a headstart, while I was off trying to find my sanity, and again dealing with my marriage collapsing.
We didn't really keep in touch. He came down once to visit, and our interactions were extremely uncomfortable. I didn't want to feel that way again, so I made no efforts to keep communications open, and there was only silence from his side.
Only once did he ask a favor, a place to stay after he got lasik done. I didn't say yes.
That was the last time we spoke. God, was that 2009? It could have been.
I haven't really thought about him much since that point, and of course I didn't have a phone number for him. More importantly, I had no reason to call. By this point we.. weren't friends. Not even acquaintances.
I let him go, and got back to my own life, and my own situations.
When I heard about his death, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. I kept looking for the lie.
It didn't hurt though. I knew it should. He was my best friend damnit. What the hell's wrong with me? Am I some kind of monster? I was angry with him. All I could think is "What a fucking waste". Hardly the kind words you want to tell his grieving sister. Not the things his mother deserved to witness. I bit my tongue.
I said the kind (and honest) things you should say when people are hurting. I told those other folks who'd also grown up/older with him the news, and we swapped some stories.
It's still in the back of my head though. It did affect me. It does bother me. I do wonder if there's something I could have or should have done for him. I'm angry not only because he chose what he did, but because somehow I always assumed there'd be another moment we'd meet. Perhaps as strangers, perhaps again as friends.
I could have made an effort, and kept the lines of communication open. I could have done more.
He didn't either.