Yesterday afternoon I was informed that a childhood friend of mine, one of my very best friends growing up, had taken his own life. The juxtaposition of this news against the backdrop of the beautifully catered party I was attending couldn’t be more drastic. There I was engorging myself with an array of delicacies and my good friend was gone — because of years of addiction, which led to the disintegration of both his body, mind, and his soul.
The first time I met him was in 2nd grade. It was the first day of school and he had just urinated all over himself and was crying because of his shame. The teacher consoled him and asked how she could make him feel better. He turned around from his first row seat and pointed to me in the back and said “I want to sit next to him.” From that day on, we became best friends. His parents always sheltered him and never let him outside. He once reminded me of a story I had forgotten about how I freed him from his parental captivity.
One day I visited his apartment, which I did at least 5 times per week and grabbed him and looked at his Mother and said ‘we’re going out.’ His Mother turned to us and said, ‘wait just a second. He can’t go out.’ And I said, ‘I am taking him out to play with us and there’s nothing more to be said’ and we walked out. He always liked to tell that story and it made me feel good that he remembered me so fondly.
When we were 11 years old, we became obsessed with ninjas, to the point where we dressed up like them and even made Chinese stars out of wood and ran around the neighborhood hitting other kids with our swords, which were stickball bats. To make a dashing escape, we’d light a smoke bomb and kindly ask our enemies to wait the allotted time for the smoke to disseminate before we disappeared into the thin air. We even went to school dressed like ninjas one day, much to the chagrin of our principal.
In our early teens, we used to chase down girls and he always thought every one was in love with him. It could be 10 of us in a group and one girl glancing over at us and he’d say ‘look, she’s checking me out. She wants me.’ And we’d say, ‘how the fuck do you know that — there’s 10 of us here?’ Then he’d reply with a smirk, ‘trust me, she wants me.’
When the neighborhood got bad, his parents moved him to upstate NY. One of the funnier moments I can remember when we visited him up there was when one of our friends was sleeping, he said ‘watch this’ and proceeded to place a hot sauce bottle in his mouth with his zipper down. He nudged my friend awake, and immediately zipped up his pants and said ‘thanks bro, good looking out.’ Bear in mind, this sleeping teenager was a giant, maybe 6’3, 220lbs. He shot up and chased him down the hall, kicking couches out of the way like they were small toys. We quickly diffused it and told him it was a joke and only hot sauce and laughed until our stomachs hurt for a solid 20 minutes.
He was the type of person that everyone liked, easy going, funny, incredibly generous, and kind hearted. He was the life of every party.
Years later when I was starting out in the business and enjoying some success, I hired him to work under me as a stockbroker. We had great times — because he was always adventurous and brave enough to go for the kill. At one point he became slightly obsessed with the movie American Psycho, which spilled into his demeanor at work. After seeing the movie, we both went to the local print shop to upgrade our business cards, in order to attain supremacy over the other plebs at the office. One time during lunch, someone made the egregious error of complimenting him for his dashing navy suit, and actually touched his right shoulder to get a better feel for the high thread fabric. Channeling Patrick Bateman, he looked at this gent dead panned and said ‘the suit, look, but don’t touch’. We then laughed to tears, from the harrowing expression on the face of the poor man who merely wanted to pay a nice compliment.
We had big dreams of making it big on Wall Street, our kids playing together, and growing old with an empire underneath us. He looked up to me like an older brother, always eager to learn and follow in my footsteps; but after the market had crashed in 2001-2002, and the bills started to pile up, he couldn’t stay in a commission only business much longer and he quit the business in favor of a salaried job.
My wife and I used to take the kids and visit him during his summer BBQ’s, which were attended by all of the people who loved him. He’d meet people on the bus and take them home to dinner on the same night. I thought he was crazy for doing that; but he loved to meet new people and really get to know them, not just superficially.
When I moved into my Staten Island home in 2003, he helped me lug my furniture out from Brooklyn, and even drove the truck for me. All he wanted was a few beers and some laughs. When I needed a new bannister sanded and stained, he came over and showed me how to do it. He was a good man and could be trusted with things, but he also had this burning desire to fit in, which I believe was the nascency of his downfall.
I used to compare him to a chameleon — because he’d mimic whoever he was around. When with me, he was Mr. Professional stockbroker. When with losers at a strip club, he acted like them, and so on and so forth. He started smoking weed at any early age, which was encouraged by his parents. We always felt that was a super cool thing, being able to smoke pot with Dad — but with the benefit of hindsight and some years of maturity, I know now it was dysfunctional.
He’d ‘party’ on occasion, dabbling with cocaine, and it got to the point that by 2006 I didn’t want to bring my kids around him anymore. We kept in touch by phone and I was pleased to find out he entered a new career and enjoyed varying degrees of success. With his new found money, he bought a modest home in NJ, a few cars, and a boat. He was very proud of his possessions and his family, and was always entertaining, cooking steaks and lobsters for his guests, denying his 3 children nothing. Then out of the blue, sometime around 2009, he got fired from his high paying job and had to find a new one. Resilient and always up for a fight, my friend hit the pavement and found a new gig within a month. It didn’t pay as much, but it was a job and he was glad to have it.
Money was always a struggle for him, partly due to lack of income, but mostly because he enjoyed to spend whatever he made. He was a pleaser and he really liked to throw big parties.
In 2014, like a complete maniac, he was speeding out of his companies parking lot, and crashed into a car backing out. The subsequent result of this accident led to a serious back injury, which required surgery, and a prescription for oxycontin. The details of what transpired from 2014 until now are somewhat murky to me, mainly because I had not been in contact with him much. But from what I’ve gathered, the injury led to an opioid addiction, which led to him losing his job, his house, his wife and kids, and eventually his life.
When money ran out, he was asking all of his friends for loans, myself included, which were denied because everyone thought the money would be used for drugs. I’m very good friends with his wife’s brother and knew the issues he was battling, but I never reached out because I felt he needed tough love. Everyone struggles and who the hell was he to deserve special treatment? He needed to wake up from his slumber, get back to work, and provide for his family.
His Facebook timeline is the saddest thing a person could ever see — the slow, but subtle, degradation of a once proud and handsome man — reduced to an avatar of his former self.
The last time he asked me for money was in a text and it read something along the lines of ‘hey Fly, I hope all is well with you and your family. I hate to ask this from you — but I really need to borrow some money. I am getting a job in a few weeks and I’ll pay it back. I want to show my children that I can provide for them, pay some bills, and put some food on the table. I love you man.’
At the time my Mother was undergoing open heart surgery and I was in a panicked state for her health. I asked his wife’s brother if any of this was true and he told me it wasn’t — he was merely using this lie to get money for drugs. I can’t say for sure if he was lying or not, but I denied him the loan and said sorry.
On a side note, for those of you who read my books, he was my cold caller named Eric.
About a year ago, he reached out to my former partner and said he was going to kill himself. He said that he had a gun and was in the woods and didn’t want to live anymore. My former partner contacted me and I immediately tried calling him, but my calls were rejected. He instead texted me and we had a sincere back and forth and he told me he wasn’t going to do it. He explained how losing his family was the hardest thing to deal with and that life wasn’t worth living anymore. I replied with the typical platitudes, telling him how much his kids needed him to be strong — not only for clothes and food, but also to be a role model for them.
His Facebook posts have been scarce the past year and the only photos he posted depicted a person I didn’t recognize. My friends told me he had been trying to borrow money for years and that suicide was regularly discussed and one of his very best friends felt he was a lost cause.
Yesterday, on a beautiful spring day in New Jersey, he took his life in a quiet park by strangulation. I can’t help but to feel like I failed him when he needed help most. It’s hard to say, especially since I’ve been a hermit for nearly a decade now. But the signs were everywhere and he was never entered into a drug rehab program, or provided with the level of care a person in his condition required. Instead, he was treated like a malcontent and whisked away.
His favorite foods were filet mignon, lobsters, and carrots with ranch dressing. He sucked at sports and threw like a girl. He loved motorcycles, skateboards, and being outdoors with his boys and dogs. He considered his daughter a princess and wanted only the best for her. He was misguided and too eager to please. In the end, his addiction to opioids led to a nightmarish life and a bad heroin addiction, and his pride didn’t allow the two to coexist.
If by chance you’re reading this my friend, I am sorry for the way things ended and I hope you find the peace in death that you couldn’t find in life.Comments »