I usually think people hate me which is why when Mario hadn’t texted me since I’d rejected his poem, I thought he hated me.
But it turned out he didn’t hate me, he’d just killed himself.
Not to say it was a relief.
Thank God, he hadn’t killed himself because I’d rejected his poem. I found out from a mutual friend when exactly he’d killed himself. It was a few days after submitting the poem to me but before I’d emailed him the rejection.
That part was a relief. So to speak.
But then I was in a predicament. Everyone was posting positive things about him and his good poems. I was very depressed and playing video games all the time and didn’t know what to do. I thought to myself “Fuck, should I just publish this? Maybe as a celebration of his life?”
The problem was the poem was bad. Not his best work. Not his worst work either, he’d published that back when he was in college. I wondered whether his decline as an artist was what made him kill himself. There wasn’t a note. Not that I know of, at least. Not that I would know whether or not there was a note.
We weren’t very good friends. Mostly friendly, with the wary respect that you feel for someone who is a version of you from an alternate universe. Someone mistook us for brothers one time at a reading.
We both said “Haha, no, not brothers.”
Then he introduced himself to me.
He seemed slick and he really wanted to be liked. I really wanted to be liked too but went more for the blank canvas approach: don’t flatter people, just kind of be there and eventually people will decide they like you. Other people’s attention was like an oncoming train—just stand to the side and be ready to sneakily jump on but whatever you do, don’t meet it head on or invite it.