We often take the most precious things in life for granted. Who truly takes into consideration his eyes while sitting in front of a screen for hours every day? Who worries about his hearing while blowing up his ears with headphones? Who worries about his legs while abusing his knees going up and down a hill carrying heavy loads? Who truly cares about his lungs while inhaling one pack after another?
It’s simple and obvious that we’d dearly miss these things when we lose them. Until we do, however, they must go unappreciated.
I lost my best man, without telling him that he truly is the best. He was always the best and I knew it. I often failed to remind myself of what he meant to me, though. I consequently failed to remind him, too. I loved him with all my heart, yet, the walls between me and my heart were as thick as the ones between me and my lungs. He passed, and he broke my heart on his way. Now I feel what is buried underneath my skin.
His name was Andre, and he took his own life. People commit suicide by hanging themselves, standing in front of trains, or jumping off balconies. I occasionally had my own moments of life-loathing. My favorite scenario involved a bridge, a rope and a river. Andre was so mad at me when I once hinted suicide. Yet, he beat me with his imagination. He killed himself with a self-made gun.
What a statement!
I want to be mad at Andre. I want to scream at him, accuse him of being selfish and inconsiderate. I want to beat him until I break my arms; but I can’t. He’s gone and there’s no one to be mad at but myself. I know I am no god, but what if I could have prevented this? What if all that it took was for me to be thoughtful? People have told me not to blame myself, but what if they’re wrong? I have my reasons to do so and I speak from experience.
My life has felt so much like a failure for over a year now. In the past, I may have occasionally been under the illusion that I had hit rock-bottom. My illusions were genuine because I had been on my way to the bottom. Now I’m there, and the last 18 months have been the worst in my life.
A day or two before Andre passed, I was sitting in a corner in our tiny apartment wallowing myself in my regular sorrows. Sarah angrily approached me, arguing that she no longer knew what to do to help me. I admitted that she had done her best for years, and more than I had ever deserved. I admitted that she was the best thing that had ever happened to me, but that I had been the opposite to her. I asked her to worry about herself, because there was no use for worrying about me. She interpreted that as asking her to stop loving me. I didn’t know how to respond to her statement.
It wasn’t a breakup, but for one moment, I knew how a breakup could happen. I left for work, riding my bicycle down the hill like crazy. I wasn’t trying to crash, but that was all I wanted. I felt that I had no desire to stay anywhere on earth. When I returned home, Sarah was in a good mood as if nothing had happened. She made me feel relevant again.
The strange thing about that experience is that I had six hours to think of my life’s value beyond my marriage; but I didn’t. I failed to think of my parents, whom I haven’t seen for nearly two years. Above all, I failed to think of my friends. I never thought, not even for a moment, of how my disappearance could have had an impact on Andre.
I think he forgot about me, too, when he decided to leave.
The family institution is crumbling. Friendship is not yet seen as an institution. All that we have now is partnership; a fragile institution of two. Many people don’t even have that. It’s neither modernity nor post-modernity. It’s almost nothing, really, the worst time to be.
I only started to wear a helmet after I had met Sarah. Our marriage made me realize that my life was no longer solely mine to risk or waste. All the sudden, I was no longer able to claim that I had nothing to lose. For the first time in my life, I truly cared for someone else. Yet, I’ve learned to care for one person only. Never have I ever thought of my friends’ entitlement to my life. I have always been under the impression that I could easily check out of theirs.
Now I know how it feels when a friend checks out of mine.
Andre loved me, perhaps more than I ever did him. He once visited me during winter just because I asked for his presence. He rode a motorcycle in the rain across the Alps for two days to come and see me. The next time he visited me, his bike was broken. Instead, he used the bus, which is more affordable and punctual than the train.
Andre hated German trains.
It was summer, and it took him more than 13 hours to get from Graz to Bamberg. He bought a table-USB fan because he didn’t trust the bus’s AC. He got a small lock and a cable to secure his luggage in the storage compartment. I don’t know any people who are this willing to make detailed plans to go the distance just to spend a couple of days with a friend.
Andre always went the distance.
I’ve known Andre for nearly four years. I lived with him for one year, which is a very short period. Yet, I’ve never had a friend who’s been there for me as much as Andre. Make no mistake, I have some exceptionally good friends, but Andre is unmatched.
I don’t think he can ever be.
Despite all that he’d done for me, I failed to simply remember what I meant to him during the times when I was giving up. So, I ask myself, how could he had possibly known how much I loved him when I rarely went the distance?
There are so many reasons why a man might take his own life. I can only speculate what Andre’s reasons might have been. Though, there are very few things that could prevent suicide. No matter how unbearable life might be, telling our beloved ones that their departure would deeply hurt us is sometimes enough to prevent them from passing on. It shifts the notion of suicide from being an act against the self to one against the other.
I may have not known Andre enough to recognize how vulnerable he really was. Yet, I know for sure that he would never want to deliberately hurt a being, be that friend or not. When he killed himself, he thought he was harming no one but himself. He was all alone, because the important people in his life had largely left.
I know I had.
I have so many excuses for not reaching out to Andre, starting with the lack of time and money, and not ending with my own waves of depression. I can go into the details about how good my excuses are. Yet, excuses will never justify the abandonment of someone like Andre. He was someone who never made excuses. When he was willing to do something, he always found a way.
He always described himself as ‘a student’, who is a member of Germany’s “poorest class”. I’m a member of the same class. The only difference is that I always wait until I secure a cheap 8-hour train trip to Graz instead of soaking for 13 hours on the bus. I always want to arrange for a proper Airbnb stay, instead of imposing on friends, or settling for a nasty hostel. Andre, on the other hand, didn’t think like that. He planned whatever resources available to him to their most potential. The word ‘inconvenient’ didn’t exist in his dictionary.
I always wanted to see Andre, ride, live, and age alongside him. Andre is family not by birth but by choice. He knew that he was family and acted like a family member. At least, I thought he did.
He once used a photo application to predict how he, Sarah and I would look like when we’re old. When he sent me the pictures, my heart was so lightened. I knew that my friend would look bad-ass charming even when we’re old. I also knew that I would still be bitter and grumpy.
It seems very simple now. All I had to do then was to make the conclusion that family came first, and everything else needed to follow. I just didn’t think about it that way. I thought that we were getting there. I thought that our future together could wait until we dealt with work obligations and financial hardship. Now I realize that all these things could’ve waited.
It’s not like they’re going anywhere.
Andre is truly gone, though. My fears of hardship and failure have suddenly faded in the background. What’s the point of fearing to fail at anything, when we lose the people whom we live for? And is there a bigger fear than losing the finest of all people: the best man?
He’s gone, he doesn’t care, and he won’t listen. He’s probably a knight or a king in another universe. He’s probably happy in a place that deserves him, living with people who not only love but also know how to appreciate him. Unlike me, these people would never put a wall between themselves and their hearts – between themselves and Andre.
Andre was my only best man, but I wasn’t the only one who’d had the best of the best. I know there are others out there who have been touched by Andre’s love, generosity, kindness, compassion, protection, acceptance, tolerance, support, and honesty. I ask these people to write about him, because Andre’s story deserves to be told.
There’s nothing that will benefit Andre now. Showing appreciation to him at this point is as good as being mad at him for killing himself. I’m not writing here for him. I’m writing for those who still have a chance.