This was originally posted as a part of the most beautiful Blaq Diasy's Reverb 11 series. Check out her blog HERE.
I received a text at 11:16 A.M. on the 23rd of December that my friend James had passed away. My defining moment of the year happened in a split second via a simple text message that read: “I’m sorry to tell you this. James died.” The tidal wave of emotions that washed over me motivated me to write this. Please allow me a few moments to reminisce.
I met James Newsome at a Wine and Spirits store I worked at for extra cash during the summer of 2001. He was medium built, around 5feet9 inches tall, with yellowish dull skin like a raw chicken. In fact, the first time I saw him I jokingly remarked to a co-worker, “Dude needs some Aloe Vera or something. What’s up with his tone?” During my first couple of weeks of working with him I noticed that he always looked sad or mad, but he worked really hard, a little too hard for my taste. So one day I walked up to him while he was furiously slinging cases of Merlot and Cabernet in the store basement and said: “Dude you are working too damn hard. If you continue at this pace, the owners are going to expect everybody to work as hard as you, so calm your ass down and drink a Sprite or something.” He looked at me for a minute and then let out a hearty laugh that was so joyous that I couldn’t help but laugh too. He explained that he just found out his longtime girlfriend was cheating on him and he was working his way through the pain. And from that point on me and James rolled thicker than Arabian thieves through Persia, until I left for the greener grass (or so I thought) of another job two years later, creating a distance between us that would prove to be irreparable. We kicked it from time to time bar here-strip club there, but after I left the store things were never the way the same again.
I feel sad and guilty about James’ death. The sadness is obvious. I feel guilty because the loss I feel now I should have felt years ago when I let a great friendship slip through the cracks. My defining moment of the year is: It shouldn’t take for someone to die for me to realize how important they are to my life. James didn’t try to talk to my girl without my knowledge; he didn’t talk about me behind my back or default on a car loan that I co-signed for. James was James, all smiles, crooked shape up and anxious belly. I can still hear that DC drawl,“Let me get five wings and fries and put the mumbo sauce on the side.” He was a good dude who only asked to be treated the same as he treated others. The pause in our friendship was created by me being so consumed with the mediocrity in my life that I failed to stay in contact with the one person who served as the propeller to my jet plane. Now, I can’t tell him, “My bad dog, you know I’m an asshole sometimes.” Now, I can’t buy a twelve pack and we go to the park and I sit and listen to him cuss me out about my frustrating moments of selfishness. Now, I can’t hear him say, “Man, I always got your back,” or “When you’re going through shit, you’re supposed to call and let your friends know. That’s what friends are for dumb ass.” Now there are only memories because death is permanent and that’s deep.
Now I’m mournful and regretful because I can’t thank him for always reminding me that I was friendship worthy. Now I can’t be there for him like he was there for me and a few times he shouldn’t have been. Now I can’t tell him because of his death I’ve learned to never take another friend for granted. Now, it’ll be a long journey to make peace with--Now. Rest in love my friend; The Explorer is out of gas, the Hennessey bottle is empty and the carry-out is out of mumbo sauce. It was your time to go home, but I’ll catch up with you later.