Dear Syd, 

I didn’t know your friend, and I’d fail if asked to list five simple  biographical facts about you, but I know you–maybe you know  me too, maybe not. And I understand this “you” is not you, but  rather, my perception of the version of yourself curated for the  amphitheater of social media, as it’s cropped up in my feeds from  Tumblr to Instagram to Twitter, among fields of people I know  IRL, which is likely the root of this intimacy I feel. Although I  believe you and I are similar insofar as our membranes between  public/private are thinner than most, I know there are things I  don’t or can’t know, but I’ve always found you interesting, likely  had a large crush on you at some point, and your tweets about  your friend’s death hurt my heart like it wouldn’t have if I didn’t  know you. Your commentary while watching the highly esteemed  Saw franchise for the first time earned its place in my Internet  Hall of Fame, and it was a little disorienting, yet in retrospect  made perfect sense, for me to laugh to the point of pain at what  you had to say on the spectacle of gore orchestrated by dying-of cancer John Kramer, because I know you, or this image of you,  built from the way autumn sunlight kisses the angles of your face,  the Edwardian dresses you pose in, the melted glacial blue of your  gaze, how you inhabit the mundane in eternal photoshoot; it was  natural incorporating your funniness into all this, not as revision,  but as something there from the start. Part of me feels I shouldn’t  be writing this letter to you—who am I to intrude upon such a  highly intimate moment when I’m not even remotely an integral  part of your life? Perhaps the urgency I felt to write to you isn’t  sufficient enough an answer, but it was intense enough for me to see this through. Freshman year of UMass, around the time you  and I first connected, I think, I was friends with this girl, Nina,  who lived in my dorm, who’d see me pulling all sorts of stupid shit  (i.e. piggyback riding some guy through the halls, knocking on  each door to offer a spoon-fed glop of Nutella to whoever opened)  and tell me, bursting with giddiness, “You really need to meet my  boyfriend, you’d love each other.” One weekend he visited and  proved Nina right—Jake and I were so same-wavelengthed  hanging out was like sitting next to a mirror–but more than that,  here was this whole other human who saw and understood me,  who I saw and understood, better even, than we saw and  understood ourselves. Another weekend, I hadn’t known he was  coming until I heard TONIGHT WE RIDE! right outside my window, in his best imitation of the La Dispute vocalist; I threw on shoes and rushed outside to tackle-hug him. When things  between him and Nina got rocky, he’d still visit, because visiting  her also meant kicking it with me. When he stopped coming  around, we kept in touch over Facebook and phone calls, but our  heart-to-hearts got more and more sporadic as the physical space  between us remained–we’d always invite each other to shows,  but never managed to close the gap. A message he sent me: i want  to grow with you but i can’t i hope i meet your clone at skOOl. In  the final interaction I ever had with him, I lightly accused him of  stealing The Book of Joshua by Zachary Schomburg— it’d  vanished from my windowless bedroom and when I thought back  to the last time I’d seen it, I saw Jake’s hands leafing through its  blue-tinted pages before we left for Paradise Rock Club. This was  years after we drifted, the night we’d finally managed to go to a  show together: La Dispute / Title Fight / The Hotelier; we got there late because we were too busy chain-smoking, drinking  whiskey, catching up, brimming with excitement towards finally experiencing our Tonight We Ride moment; eventually, we took  an Uber to travel a distance we could’ve easily walked and entered  the venue right at the climax of The Hotelier’s set-opening song—And the pills that you gave didn’t do anything, I just slept for  years on end, FUCK!—hours after, drunk on alcohol and each  other’s presence, Jake and I wanted to stay up the whole night; we  wouldn’t shut up or calm down, we were so wired, and Maria,  Jake’s friend who came to the show with us, wanted to strangle us,  because she wanted us out of her apartment, because it was 2am.  A weekend was organized in his memory. I felt imposterish on the  drive up to New Hampshire, in a car with his friends, like I felt  imposterish saying “I’m sorry for your loss” to his relatives–everyone had a wealth of things to talk about and I had nothing  beyond the details described above. It felt wrong inserting myself  into a space meant for people who’d seen him, held him, hugged  him just nights before he went missing. But even though Jake was  only my hypothetical best friend, I felt all of it. Although we didn’t  get to grow together, I found myself in a room full of my clones–they’d never met me, but they recognized me, they saw me, they  knew me, because they’d known and loved the boy who was my  mirror and more than that. Smoking cigs on a small stoop dense  with Jake’s friends, one of them asked if I listened to The Front  Bottoms and I said yeah but not so much anymore and he said  you gotta check out this band McCafferty and he pulled up a track  on his phone and I said this is literally just The Front Bottoms and  he said no they have their own distinct sound and we took it  inside and I plugged into the aux and had everyone guess whether the song I played was McCafferty or a lesser-known Front  Bottoms track and even though there was a 50/50 shot at each  guess, the collective verdict of each stab was incorrect yet he stuck  to his guns and I wondered what was the point of making art if it  were already made exactly the way you want to make it. At one  point we ended up at a frat kegger, a real rager, and I posted an  Instagram selfie backgrounded by a sea of students with the  caption: asher roth DIED…..FOR THIS ??!!!! and I’m unsure  which came first, the caption or the catchphrase, but it stuck, and  became a refrain for all of us that didn’t feel unseemly in light of  the reason for the weekend, because we knew Jake would laugh  his ass off thinking about Asher Roth with a crown of thorns  weeping over jam bands tainting his college-loving legacy. The  Front Bottoms’ third studio album, Back on Top, objectively  sucks, I think, but can’t say for sure because I like hearing the  songs because it was released two months before Jake was gone–I didn’t care much for them at that point but I listened to the  album nonstop throughout those confusing and difficult and  intense weeks, thinking of the shit Jake and I would talk on it if  we still could, until, eventually, the songs became beautiful. He  had plans to meet his family for lunch and when he didn’t show,  everyone’s first thought was the forest, so that’s where they  looked, scattering notes and books so he’d know the people he  loved, who loved him, understood what he was going through. His  friend Brianna opened a poem she wrote with: We kept you alive  for five days. When I learned what had happened, I couldn’t stop  thinking of Jake and I singing Tigers Jaw when he’d come to visit  Nina: Today, I needed a break, my friends are up in mountains  and I’m drowning in lakes–or, the title of the La Dispute song we’d yell at each other: Said the King to the River. When the  weekend came to its close, the guilt rushed back, guilt that maybe  wasn’t guilt, but rather, the effect of the Zoloft I’d forgotten to  backpack when leaving Boston. Sensing your hurt, I wanted to  offer a shortcut–then realized I shouldn’t, things were still so  fresh and raw, so I thought writing this would be best–it would  afford you the space to grieve and process on your own–you  could meet what I had to say on your terms, when you were  ready–yet, that doesn’t make sense either–how would you know  when you were ready to read something sealed inside an  envelope–and then I realized in the process of writing this letter  it’s something no one can really tell anyone–each person needs to  arrive at it however they need to–you can understand the  definition of its words, understand the definition the words create  when strung together, but you cannot understand them until  you’ve found what they mean for you. I don’t know you but I know  you enough to trust you’ve arrived at this understanding on your  own, or else, will soon, but I’ll include it anyway: suicide has no  bearing on love–it doesn’t mean the one who’s taken their life  loved you any less, it doesn’t mean they didn’t know how much  you loved them, they did know, they knew it unbearably, they  knew how you’d hurt and they hated the thought of having to  leave you in the mess–suicide means nothing except: the bad  stuff was too big and too loud. Jake’s Tumblr bio: inside a child’s  water pistol i am asleep and probably somewhere nice. In the  book I’ve mailed with this letter is what I consider the perfect  short story–you’ll find it right after the one with your name in the  title. I hope it comforts you.

Your friend,

Steven

 

 

Steven Arcieri lives in Boston. He is writing a sentence about himself every day for a decade. Read em and weep, boys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *