A few weeks ago, I got word that a man, who had been a good friend (we will call him "Andrew" but that was not his real name), had died suddenly. I tried to inquire as to how he had met his end but the person who informed me knew very few of the details surrounding Andrew's passing. It had been quite some time since Andrew and I were actively hanging out but I still considered him my comrade and I was saddened to hear about his departure from the world of the living. However, I was given a bit of information yesterday evening that adds a new, deeper sting to the news of Andrew's death and raises unanswerable questions about the circumstances surrounding it.
I had real affection for Andrew but I struggle to call him a "good" guy. The best I can come up with is say that he had a complicated character. He was capable of astounding acts compassion, generating laughter in his friends, and moments of brilliance and wisdom but he was also susceptible to some of the worst failings of humanity. Andrew was a legitimate gangster who carried guns, committed serious crimes, and spent a fair amount of his adult life in prison for those crimes but I don't believe that is what defined him, at least not in my mind.
I met Andrew through a mutual friend who brought him to my house to smoke out of my bong shortly after he had been released from prison for a failed robbery attempt. Interestingly, Andrew's criminality was not the first thing that I noticed when I met him. Instead, I noticed the strange presence of a German accent on his voice. There is, typically, nothing strange about having a German accent. Germany is, after all, a country where people live and speak. However, one doesn't expect to hear that accent coming out of a black ex-convict who just showed up at his or her door in the middle of the southwestern United States. I asked him about his heritage and he explained that his mother was a very pale German citizen and that he had spent a significant portion of his life living with her in that country.
Andrew and I found that we got along well, we started hanging out on a fairly regular basis, and over time I got a real sense of the duality of his character. He would tell stories about the terrible things he had done in the past but they were always also funny. When he explained how his robbery attempt went tits up, I nearly passed out from lack of oxygen because I laughed so hard for so long. He was extremely respectful of elders and social niceties but wouldn't think twice about stealing from an employer who he felt owed him more than his hourly pay. He always had some, rather brilliant, money making scheme that actually worked but he lacked the follow-through to bring it to the point of being truly successful. He had hurt people in his life but he would be nearly moved to tears to see the suffering of an elderly dog.
We had been friends for years but I came to understand how valuable and true that friendship was when my father had his heart attack. My dad was alive and in the hospital but it was uncertain as to how bad his condition was. I was an emotional mess, terrified and alone, when Andrew just happened to stop by to smoke a joint. I invited him in and began to unload my emotional distress onto him. He didn't have to listen or stay but he did. Then, he came back the next day with food and weed and sat with me for hours. For the three weeks that my father was hospitalized, Andrew made it a point to stop by every day to check on me and keep me company. This is a person who society would have called a hardened criminal and he did more to help me through that difficult, emotional, time than all of the "good" law abiding citizens that I knew. I was and will continue to be grateful to have known then.
Andrew liked the wrong kind of drugs and that led of him losing touch with me. We were both weed smokers and fans of psychedelics but he also loved pain killers. I began to wonder about him when he started talking about how he actually liked Vicodin better than weed. Opioids can feel pretty good but they can never replace cannabis, in my mind, so I worried about him. Over time, Andrew came around less and less and took pills more and more. He lost his phone and moved from shit-hole apartment to shittier shit-hole apartment and, eventually, I stopped seeing him altogether.
Yesterday, I found out that Andrew killed himself. His family believes that the circumstances surrounding his suicide are "suspicious" and I am of two minds on the issue. On the one hand, he didn't seem like the type to commit suicide, at least not when I knew well. Further, his past and lifestyle may have left the police reluctant to investigate his death with any real depth. A lot of cops are bad at their jobs and many may feel unmotivated to put a great deal of effort into solving the murder of "criminal" like Andrew. However, Andrew had real problems in his life. He was facing new charges that were likely to send him back to prison and he had addiction issues that had isolated him from his friends and family and left his life in shambles. Maybe, suicide was the only way out of his suffering that he was able to see. I suspect that I will never know the what really happened but one thing is certain: Andrew was my friend and I and those who knew him are poorer without him.
All the images in this post are sourced from the free image website, unsplash.com.