One of my good friends—let’s call him G—is dead. If he were still alive I’m sure he would dispute my use of the word ‘friend.’ No, I’m not being daft. He died two years ago; it will be exactly two years in a week’s time. I only found out about it now. By Googling. An obit came up as one of the search results. There was no mistaking it was him. You can imagine my shock. Some friend.
As a matter of fact, G and I used to talk all the time. I’d known him since 2006. Or it could be 2005. He was one of the first people to give me advice about coming out. When eventually I did, he made sure to remind me to always be careful, to always do rational things, and to always set standards for myself. This was in the early days. The last form of communication I ever received from him was an E-mail in 2009. He already had severe health problems back then; he was already very sick. Anyway, he was asking what I’d been up to, and how come he no longer heard from me as often as he used to. I wrote back, likely hurriedly, to say only that I would write more, soon, that I was just in the middle of something at that moment. But I never did write more, except for the offline message I would leave him once a year on Yahoo! freaking Messenger. Later when he joined Facebook I thought I’d leave messages there. But I didn’t.
Foolishly I thought that at some point in the future, when life took a break and stopped happening, I’d get to see and speak to G again. But his death—or, to be more accurate, my discovery of it—has shocked me into realizing that I’d taken him for granted. My sense of loss is even odder than it is profound, because it came late and it’s tinged with guilt. What the hell happened? Where is he buried? Can I contact the family? Now I can’t even call. At the same time I can’t bring myself to delete his number on my phone book; I can’t remove his username as a contact on YM; I can’t ‘unfriend’ him on Facebook—as though in my mind G might go on existing as a set of digits or an E-mail address or a profile page, as though these were proof of life, and a proper tribute, as I believed it, could wait. It couldn’t, after all. Life took a break and stopped all right. But it wasn’t mine.