February was not always hard. Maybe, for some people, it still is not.
I love winter. February used to be the pinnacle of winter glory. Everything white and frozen, bright peaceful walks in the middle of the night in a perfect snow fall. The world hibernated under a deep freeze, waiting to wake up in the spring. It was glorious.
2013 was the year that all changed.
2013, in general, was one of the worst years of my life. It all started in February with an intense and severe betrayal of a (no-longer) long time friend, and ended with my best dog friend/sister getting hit and killed on new years eve.
February was a brutal lesson in trust, misplaced trust, and learning to keep my mouth shut. It was when I stopped being what ever bit of vulnerable I had left. It was when I learned the world is full of eggshells you are not even aware you're stepping on. Hell, eggshells? No. Land mines. They can explode at any moment, no matter how careful or safe you think you are.
February 2013 was also the year I lost one of my dearest, closest friends. Despite being incredibly talented and funny as hell, he was always such a tortured soul. We met in college, music school. I was a lost composer, he was an incredible baritone. I first saw him perform in Sweeney Todd, playing the lead role. I did not know him yet, and he was definitely a character actor. For the duration of the show, there was a real live Mr. Todd prowling around campus - minus the razors - glowering at the world, a world clearly full of shit. He was amazing.
I do not remember exactly how we officially met, just that we became fast, close friends. We both had a dark, perverse, twisted sense of humor, and could talk about literally anything. There was no such thing as "TMI". In later years, this was a godsend as life got weird and confusing, and I had this one friend I could talk to about ANYTHING without feeling judged or weird. He could normalize the weirdest situations, and usually top it with one of his own outrageous stories.
He was always ready for an adventure.
After college, I moved to the middle of the state - conveniently, his hometown was nearby. We would often get lost in the woods, always searching for new and interesting places to explore. Once, we nearly got stuck in a ravine downstream from a waterfall. It had been easy enough to get there, we never paused to think about how we might get back to the top. At some point that came into our awareness, and we realized we might have a problem. The steep sides of the ravine were covered in loose, fallen leaves, under which was a layer of wet, muddy shale. Not the easiest thing to scramble up, but our only choice. Somehow we made it, laughing the entire time, covered in mud and debris, and of course, at the very top emerging in the middle of a multi-flora rose patch. Now covered in scratches in addition to the mud, we made our escape, still laughing like fools. It was wonderful.
We spent one summer painting the house of a friend. We has so many long deep talks. The drive to and from the house cost us at least as much as we were getting paid, but we both had the worst crush on the friend/owner that we tried to pretend we were making money. We'd often get burritos after painting all day, he was one of the few other people I knew who could finish an entire monster burrito, neither of us giving a damn about the gluttony. I also learned, as juvenile as it may be, how gassy he was on those drives. A funny combination of baring our souls to each other, interrupted by rather obnoxious flatulence. The running joke was every time he passed gas I would shout "You're fired!" and much laughter would follow. Every single time.
A couple years later I had the privilege of working with him on stage in a community theatre production. We performed "Ladies and Gentlemen", by Emma Donoghue, I played the lead, he was my co-star. It was a fun switch from me being the expert while were painting, to learning from him for performance. We had such a great time, and amazing stage chemistry. Two other close friends of ours were involved in the production, and we became a very close chosen family that year.
Somewhere between Sweeney Todd and our Production I introduced him to the crazy spiritual festival I've attended for nearly 20 or so years. It was there I truly watched him blossom. I did not know it was possible for him to come even further out of his shell. He had always been self-conscious about his body, and I remember seeing him send a "fuck you" to his inhibitions and he start wandering about only wearing a leather loin cloth. He made quite an impression on camp those years. If he wasn't singing, he was seducing. If he wasn't seducing, he was making us all laugh with his incredible impersonations.
He had always been a Lord of the Rings fan, and could accurately impersonate every male character in the movies. One of my favorite moments was at festival, he wearing his loin cloth doing an amazing Gollum/Smeagol impression, including the hopping around on all fours. That image still makes me smile.
Only those of us that were really close to him knew about his war with serious depression. Late 2012 into early 2013 it seemed like things were finally getting better for him, after several tough years. He had made peace with his long term life partner, and once he was done with the shows he was rehearsing for, he planned on packing it all up and moving to the West Coast to be with her. I texted him on his birthday, February 9th, and we made plans to see his show, and get together before he left the East.
The last thing I said to him was that I missed him.
February 22, 2013 he lost the battle within and took his own life.
I never got to say goodbye in person. I found out a literal hour too late to make it to his funeral too. The police had confiscated his phone due to the circumstance of his death, and the family could not reach any of us who were close to him. I spent that night in shock, calling anyone I could think of to tell them before the news leaked to social media.
Later, a few of us super close to him held a ritual in his honor to say good-bye in our own way. We honored Arianrhod, his patron Goddess, burned tobacco, and toasted his life with Rainwater Madeira. During the planning, we all spoke intimately of our relationship with him. One thing we all agreed on was that we could feel him finally at peace. With heavy, grieving hearts, we clung to this to get us through.
For whatever reason, I am missing him more than ever this year. It's another shitty February. Life has taken some amazing, wonderful, but difficult-as-fuck turns, and what I would give to be able to talk to him about it, have him normalize it. Hear his laughter... I am not sure why I am so driven to write about him this year. I am hoping releasing this will help clear up some of the February fog that has settled in my brain. Tomorrow marks seven years.
They say seven is a sacred number. Maybe things feel so intense this year because of that. Seven years after intense darkness, I finally have potential for light like I have never known. I have had some taste of the potential waiting for me. Working through the barriers has been so fucking hard. I continue to persist. Meanwhile, I miss my friend.
I will survive another February. I am stronger than this dark time. The light is coming. Keep holding on.
There is always hope.