Saturday night I was sitting in my modestly comfortable house surfing the web on my modestly comfortable laptop when, as is my want during late Saturday nights, I became nostalgic for one of my past lives. I decided to google the names of two friends I met when I first arrived in San Francisco many, many years ago. I did find out what happened to one friend.
He killed himself a year ago.
Kent. I hadn’t spoken to him in over ten years. The last I saw of him, he had just bought a pair of glasses that would make a Miami widow with a huge inheritance hide in shame. He was a geek big-time, obsessed with anime, comic books and Brooke Adams. He was shy, pasty, and very sweet.
Twenty years ago I ran out on my fiancée (which sounds a lot more dramatic than what actually happened) in Davis, California and found a low-level clerking job for a San Francisco law firm that no longer exists. I was feeling pretty lonely in those days; my roommates were too much into themselves to bother with me. The only people who talked to me where two guys in the mailroom. One of them was Kent.
Kent wasn’t shy around me, though I think women generally freaked him out. The only explanation I can come up with is that at the time, I was the penultimate geek magnet. We hung around together for awhile, going to movies (he had to sit towards the front on the aisle–he went to the bathroom at least three times during a show) and comic book stores. Kent was the one who introduced me to Love & Rockets and Days of Heaven. He was in some respects responsible for me meeting my future husband.
There was a dark side to him too: after knowing him for a few years, it became harder and harder for me to lure him out of his apartment, a crummy one-bedroom at the foot of Van Ness. He seemed to prefer his fantasy world of anime, Hong-Kong pop stars and drawing. I drifted away towards boyfriends and pseudo-cool slacker jobs. I still tried staying in touch, but it was hard pulling him out into the real world, even with the lure of unlimited free tickets to movie revivals. The very last time I spoke to him I was disturbed by his comment that when he went to anime conferences, he locked himself in his hotel room and watched nonstop anime being piped into his room until the conference was over. Human contact had become a bother.
I’m tempted to say that in some respects, I knew it was coming, but that’s not true. Until Saturday night, my view of Kent was as a memory encased in acid-free paper, a black-haired, lumpy figure sitting at a chrome-challenged table, blinking at me like a demented owl through those glasses. In my mind he should right now be sending endless e-mails to lists about the nuances of evil as embodied by Cthulhu. And he should always be Kent–vaguely unhappy, but alive.
But he’s not. And I every time I think of him, I will be sad at thought that the world has lost one hell of a Brooke Adams fan.
And that we couldn’t keep Kent.