Goodbye, Dear Friend
Drunken and lacking in attention span, the norm for a drunken weekend evening, I wandered through the local bar TryAngles. It was a relatively nice night in the summer of 2009 when something peculiar occurred: a note was handed to me by a guy with striking features. Searing sharp eyes, an innocent and shy smile, and impossible eyebrows. His name and number scribbled on the note, one of the only times I’ve ever received a number from a guy at the bar on a note. It felt a bit like being in high school, sparked with that twinge of excitement. Just as quickly as he had handed it to me, he disappeared into his group of friends. This is how I met Jason McCarley.
One of my truly devastating problems is my lack of memory. I remember things which occur, but rarely in which order. I have a horrible sense of time, and this recollection is therefore segmented into bits and pieces instead of a linear timeline. The more I think, the more things become clearer, but since I generally suspect my memory is somewhat rotten and subject to imaginative flourishes, here’s what I can recall.
District 9. One of our first dates was to go see the film “District 9” which I had suggested. He offered to buy tickets, and I told him to get seats close to the middle or back, as the film was supposed to be a lot of handheld camera work. Sitting close would be disorienting. Jason did what many of us do on our first attempt with the Larry H Miller ticket reservation system: he read the seating chart upside down. So ending up on the second row in front of the giant screen, we watched the crazy sci-fi film mostly with a sense of confusion. He apologized for the mistake, and I just laughed it off – I did the same thing my first time too. One of Jason’s quirks was his propensity for apologizing for things which needn’t be apologized for. Once when I asked him to stop being sorry for every little thing, he answered with a quiet, “Sorry.”
Q Lagoon Day. Jason and I descended on Lagoon with the various other homos, determined to make the hetero crowd put up with our outrageous behavior. Sunday is the best day, since most LDS families will not go out of religious concerns. Still, the conservative Farmington area is a strange place for this large amount of gay men and women to congregate. Told to wear red, Jason and I wore white and green respectively, rebels with really no cause. We didn’t even feel like conforming with our own social network. Wearing his flipflops which, for Jason, were ubiquitous, and not the best idea for Lagoon. That said, we went to the pavilion which we were assigned to, and met a few other familiar gays. But for the most part, Jason and I spent it wandering around alone. The liquor poured at the pavilion was hard and mostly unmixed, so rides spun even more wildly than they otherwise would have to non-imbibers. It was a fun day and we left exhausted. One of the more memorable moments was watching Jason don a fabulously pink hat, which I suggested would make for great party attire.
The Pink Party. I hadn’t known Jason for very long before his 32nd birthday approached. He had big plans for this event. Everyone was to wear pink, he would provide the food (Jason loved to bake) and there would be an abundance of liquor. A keg was brought down from Wyoming, which proved to be confusing to us non-keggers. Like monkeys approaching the monolith, we couldn’t figure out why only foam was spewing from the tap. Better still were the Jello shots, strong but tasty. After a few of those, the night became a haze of ADD-riddled confusion. The first thing to go when I drink is my ability to remember. The second thing is my attention span. Jason had set up a cozy area in a friend’s backyard. Jason had offered to buy me a pink V-neck since I don’t own anything pink, but in the confusion leading up to the party, this slipped his mind. I chose not to wear pink, but brought a couple bottles of coconut rum and vodka. The multi-tiered pink cake was cut, but by this point, I had pretty much checked out. I’m not really sure how I got home.
Martini night. I can’t recall where the idea for a night of martinis came from, but it was entirely Jason’s suggestion. I thought, “If it’s good enough for James Bond…” So after purchasing a bottle of dark vermouth, vodka and—just to be safe—a martini mix ready to pour, I hit Jason’s new apartment. He had just transitioned from a nice place in the Avenues to another not-quite-as-nice-but-still-nice place right next door. We started our attempt at mixing martinis with very little success. The ingredients were all there, but the result was a bitter, hard-to-swallow concoction. We tried again, and never really got things properly going. The premixed martini drink was much better, but it became pretty clear to me at least: martinis were just not my drink. The silence of the evening in the avenues was very calming, broken only by the shatter of glass when Jason dropped one of his favorite martini glasses. It shattered into pieces and, true to his nature, he proceeded to clean it up. Without. Shoes. Crazy guy, trying to pick up shards of glass without putting on something.
Once the glass had been thoroughly cleaned up, we hit TryAngles once again, one of our favorite hangouts. This night was particularly memorable in that Jason got incredibly drunk at the bar. Having already grown tipsy off bad martinis, the additional alcohol at Try was a bit overkill. Watching Jason as he knocked over one of the tables while stumbling around (no mean feat given the size and weight of these tables), I decided to pull him out and get him home in one piece. I crashed on his sofa, he in his bed. The poor guy had been through a night.
The Drive. It became clear to me just how low Jason could go during a drive up to Make Out Point, which is a strange place for the conversation we were about to have. It was at this point where I knew my relationship with Jason would remain platonic, if at all, out of fear for what might be. Jason and I drove up, both of us talking about our lives. He mentioned his family life and moving to Utah, something I wish now I had paid more attention to. I was distracted by his driving, which was slightly erratic and made me nervous. Having sheared one of his side mirrors off his car in an accident, he wasn’t exactly the best of drivers. The windy road approaching Make Out Point was nerve-racking. Sitting atop the dirt-and-weed covered hill, he and I began to seemingly play a game of one-upsman, or perhaps more accurately, one-downsman. I described my descent into depression, the causes, the reasons, the medications I used to fight back. He told of his suicidal feelings, how he thought about buying a gun and driving up the canyon to end the mental anguish he had experienced for as long as he could remember. He had already planned it out, and I chalked it up to the depressive imagination I’m so used to dealing with myself. It pains me to no end that I had not taken it more seriously.
I had initially suspected he was over these feelings, but our conversation turned dark. For those who knew Jason, he could be a very powerful person. I told him if he had those feelings, he should seek help and possibly take medication. He was to call me immediately if he needed some help. But as someone who’s struggled with depression, I knew this wouldn’t happen. One thing about depression is that the the afflicted feels the entire world becoming a distant haze, and it is hard to break through. Even picking up the phone to call someone becomes a chore of Herculean effort. I consider myself lucky to have managed to defeat the depression beast for the most part. I was on the precipice of slipping right back down, though, and the longer I was around Jason, the more likely it was to occur. It’s a horribly selfish decision I made, one I will probably regret for the rest of my life. I didn’t do anything intentionally to hurt Jason, but I did start pulling away, not seeing him as much and generally seeking out healthier people.
It was that night that I knew how Jason’s life would end, by his own hand. We all inevitably die: some by natural causes, some by tragic inexplicable misfortunes. In Jason, I saw his end, not realizing just how near it was. I cried on the way back down from Make Out Point, though I wouldn’t tell him why. I had made the decision that our friendship would have to taper off. I don’t know if it was the right one, and I feel a heartache now that it was not. To be around such a strong personality as Jason’s can be a blessing or a curse, depending on where it takes you. His good friends were still going to be there for him, so I hoped he would find comfort with those people. What I didn’t know then but know now is that no matter how many people were in his life, no matter how many loving friends he had, his mind was chemically derailed. There are different depressions which all tend to get lumped into one: Jason’s was one of those hardest to treat, something even talk therapy could not help. Medication can sometimes help to an extent, but depends on the severity. Sometimes, just like with cancer and other diseases, the problem is too far gone for medication.
Instead of dwelling on the pain I feel for having lost a good friend (and struggling with feelings that I abandoned him in a time of need), I think about the good times I had with him: the cat that wandered into his apartment to apparently piss on his floor and leave, the night at Brewvies where we talked about his desire to open his own restaurant, listening to music in a dark apartment. He still makes me smile. Now Jason is free of the pain he was in, leaving everyone who knew him with a new pain which we will endure. I’m lucky to have met him, and sad that he chose to leave this life. He was a great soul trapped in a damaged mind, and I can only hope that he is now free of that suffering. I’ve since met a few of his closest friends, and I can see that they too were touched by the beauty of such a considerate and caring guy. That both makes it easier and more difficult to deal with, but he will remain forever cared about by those who knew him. Goodbye, Jason. I will miss you.