Monday, February 16, 2015

A Birthday and Memories

While home over Christmas break my junior year in college, I met a boy named Dan at a party.  Dan and I had a mutual friend - or, at least, he had a friend who was friends with one of my friends - but, other than that, we really had nothing in common.  He was a tall, blond, cornfed boy from Ohio and had been in a fraternity at a big football school in the midwest; he loved sports and music and tech and hated his corporate desk job in DC.  He always looked rumpled, even when wearing a suit and tie, and his bedroom could have belonged to a teenager but for the empty beer bottles perched on every available surface.  He called everyone "buddy."  He was cute, with a slow smile and sleepy eyes, and sweet and shockingly kind and generous, and we dated on and off for about a year and a half until I left for London in September 2008.

A few months after that, Dan quit his job and moved away from DC to start up a tech company with a friend of his.  We lost touch, but it was nice to see his posts on Facebook: winning seed funding from a VC, living in Boston, traveling to San Francisco to present the company to more investors... it looked like a full life and I was glad to see he was happy.  I didn't notice, though, when the status updates stopped.

Facebook reminded me that it was Dan's 26th birthday on February 16, 2010, and I went to his wall to leave him a message.  I scrolled through the other posts, smiling at all of the "Happy birthday! Love you!" notes.  I wrote one of my own.  I can't remember what I said, but it got the attention of of one of Dan's friends, who messaged me later in the day.

"Hi Betsy," she wrote.  "I am so sorry to tell you this over Facebook, but after reading your post it looks like you don't know - Dan passed away on October 1, 2009. I am so sorry you have to find out this way but I thought you'd want to know."

She went on to tell me that Dan had committed suicide.  I went back to his wall and read the messages that people who loved him had left.  "Miss you, buddy," they said.  "Wish you were here."

His Facebook page is still up - I looked through it earlier today.  Friends are still posting on his wall, leaving video clips he'd have laughed at and sports news that he'd have cheered.  They're still leaving those notes.  Miss you, buddy.  Wish you were here.  Love you.

I actually live just down the street from Dan's old apartment building.  Every time I pass it while on a walk with Charlie, I think of him.  I hope he's happier now, wherever he is, than he was in October 2009.  I hope he knows how much the people he left miss him.  I hope he can read those posts.  Wish you were still here, buddy.  Happy birthday.

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