I know this a blog focused on copywriting and marketing, but sometimes I post personal essays as well. So, come for the copy tips, and stay for what I hope is an emotionally compelling life lesson I can share with you.
He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “no.” My heart sank and the feeling of rejection fell over me more quickly than I had anticipated. Just then a sports car tore down the narrow street, the engine cackling at me when it zoomed by, as the sun hung low in the sky birthing the hot Los Angeles summer air.
The question I had asked which warranted this response from my friend, who stood next to me was, “so you’re going to take ME out to dinner tonight then huh?” This, after he told me that a friend of his put a check into his bank account worth $20,000.
“I don’t know what took him so long, the dude’s a billionaire,” he said.
My request for dinner with him was mostly a joke, but the way the “no” fell off his tongue was so sharp it seemed like muscle memory, as if he’d been warding off beggars like me his entire life.
This friend is dead now, and while I don’t know exactly what happened, one can only wonder…
I met him at a sober living house around seven years ago. I was dating the house manager, so I saw him a lot when I’d visit. At this point in time there were a lot of young people in that particular house, and he was my favorite.
We came from very different backgrounds, you could tell by the different cars we drove, and where the money to get into rehab was procured. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. If I remember correctly he was studying to be an aerospace engineer.
How I wish I could ask him questions about the current state of space exploration.
Since I can remember, all I’ve ever wanted was to be cool and smart. My entire life has been about proving to others and myself that this is the case. He was both, and that’s why — I imagine — he had such a profound effect on me and why I’m recounting this now.
One day, we were sitting in the rounded living room of the house. We were posted up on the two-piece sectional couch staring at the wingback chair that leaned up against a partition which had two different entrances, or two different escapes depending on how you felt about your time there.
He was going on and on about a job that he wanted to leave but didn’t want the role to be unfilled. He suggested I take it because he “wanted to leave it to someone he trusted.”
Considering we had just formed a friendship over the last couple of months, I assumed that this meant he thought I was responsible since he saw me holding a job down compared to most of the people who wandered through those doors.
I felt good about this. Though the job never panned out, it was an example of how he functioned. He was a sweet empathetic soul, and I was never able to figure out what it was that drove him to pursue the drugs he did.
There’s an interesting thing that happens when people die now: their Facebook profiles light up with people trying to say one last thing to them. You’ve probably seen this, and while it can be helpful for friends, family members, and others when getting information out (should the family want it out) about the deceased and the ceremonies, it’s also somewhat unnerving.
When I saw that he had passed, I thought back to that day when he refused my dinner plans. Later I found out that he had already made plans, with the billionaire that gave him the check. He’d been “waiting for it to come through,” he said and I remember mostly being worried that a kid in his early twenties just coming off of drugs was handed that kind of money.
Different worlds I suppose.
When I saw him later that night, he apologized for refusing my reverse-invitation and said:
“I went to dinner with my friend, you probably could have come actually.”
Who this mysterious billionaire was I’ll never know; it’s a riddle he left me that I’ve tried many times to solve. The dead always leave riddles, soaked in tears and doused in pain, behind.
The feelings that this sweet soul enabled me to feel, though, are revealing of what he was like. He was charismatic and jovial, with a rounded face, and a circular nose to match, that hung like a rosy star over a mouth I don’t think was ever not smiling slightly. The kind of face which you saw plump up and turn red as the emotions and chemical reactions taking place behind its eyes pushed blood outwards.
When he rejected me I felt sad; when he quashed that feeling and brought me back into his realm I felt happy. I wanted him to like me, and he did, but the traumatized and sensitive soul is one that even infinite reassurances can’t soothe…
He came to my 21st birthday party, and I don’t think he knew how much that meant to me. When he said goodbye he made a joke about how much fun he had, hugged me, and left without a second glance — the last time I ever saw him.
If you let an inordinate amount of people who suffer from addiction into your life, you become desensitized to the idea of them dying. I’m not sure if I cried when I found out he died, but I know I felt sad. It had been so long that I didn’t know what his situation had been and that, in turn, made me exponentially more sad. There are many different tiers of suffering when you’ve fallen down into that world. I’m not sure where he ended up.
I just wish he had called me.
I would have gladly taken him out to dinner.