This week in a shocking turn of events, a friend of mine passed away. He was 39. A year younger than my brother. They were classmates. Our families knew each other for two generations and he was an integral part of my teenage years.
At a time when one is still discovering oneself and navigating those confusing teenage years S came into my life and became a very close friend. For a couple of years we were inseparable. Every evening he would come home and we would hang out. Talking sometimes. Sometimes just sitting in silence. I was a bridesmaid at his sisters wedding. When he finally left to the USA, which was a long cherished dream of the family, I wept at the airport like I was going to die. It is embarrassing to say the least now as I reflect upon the past. Everyone including his mother and sisters were more concerned about me rather than their own emotions that day.
He lived in Chicago. On a temporary visa that made him ineligible for a regular high paying job. And like most illegal immigrants he worked multiple low paying jobs to get by. His multiple page letters were my companions through college. And I received indulgent gifts each year even tho he would have struggled to buy me those things almost two decades ago, some of which were about 100$. I still have the clothes and curling iron he sent me.
Slowly life took over and we lost touch. He was a part of my fond memories and I kept getting news through his sisters. Life had not been kind to him or he was an emotional fool. One bad relationship later. He had a paper marriage to gain citizenship. Yes S was the guy who would do all that it takes to find a solution. Once that was taken care of, he married for love. Only it wasn't meant to be and apparently the breakdown of his marriage left him hurt, broken and heavily drinking.
All through this, we didn't meet or speak. The last I saw him was four years ago. We met for coffee. It was an awkward meeting where we were politely trying to fill the gaps and tell each other the socially acceptable pieces of our lives.
I knew he was somewhere in Chicago. Wheeling and dealing and making things good for himself. His sisters were settled. One having gone through a bitter divorce, his parents so old and ailing with multiple irreparable illnesses that I wept that say and thanked God for the health of my mother who is the same age as his mom.
I spoke to his sister a few months ago. She told me he had remarried. That he was very lonely and she literally had to force him into marriage. She was hoping that this was the beginning of a good turn of events in his life. I didn't meet or speak to him because I just didn't know where to pick up the threads. I was sure that what we shared was in the past and now it would just continue as someone I knew well. I always wish well for people in my life. Past and present. Hoping that everyone is doing what comforts and pleases their heart and are at peace wherever they are.
S came to India to spend time with his new wife and take care of his ailing parents. Not even a week since he came to Hyderabad, he suffered a massive heart attack and was gone.
I'm replaying my time with him. The laughter. The generosity. The courage and the fun. No one did it like him. I can't forgive myself for having lost touch. His funeral is tomorrow. I didn't think this was how I would see him next. I want to still think he is living his happy life somewhere and we have just lost touch.
RIP my dear dear friend. I'm sorry I have to see you like this.