I don't write about my personal life, often. Mostly because I don't have much of one. My dogs make up a good 90% of my day to day living, the rest is comprised of a combination of my general insanity, my family (and by extension my friends) and my work. I took myself out of the dating pool a few years ago and rarely look back. But with recent news about the (very likely drug related) death of Cory Monteith, it brought up some old wounds that I feel should be talked about.
On this blog in particular I come across as this care free guy, who laughs a lot and just charges ahead into life with out a single regret. And for the most part that's accurate. And while I like my life and don't feel like anything about it should be changed, there are more depths to me. There are pieces of my history that are not full of laughter.
When I first read about Cory Monteith's death, my first thought was “poor Lea Michelle.” And I had that thought because I knew in that moment exactly how she felt. Exactly. I don't talk about Spencer, I rarely mention his name any more and the few people who know the full story are always quick to keep other people from prying too hard. That's because there is a hole in my soul, left by the loss of someone I loved, who loved me, but was taken by drugs.
Spencer and I met in college. He was a Freshmen as I was a Junior. We met because I was sitting in my dorm room one night watching TV with Pepper crashing on my bed (we lived on the same floor.) I had my door open, as was the custom of that particular dorm, and I happened to notice a very tall, very slender man with a six inch mohawk and a Matrix style coat stride pass. I cocked my head to the side and rushed out of my seat.
I bounded into the hallway, and shouted at the departing figure. “Hey! I think we should know one another.”
He was walking with another punk-looking fellow who was several inches shorter, and heavier built then he was. But the mohawked man turned and looked back at me. It was the first time I ever saw Spencer's smile.
He came back down the hall to me holding out his hand. We shook.
“I'm Spencer.” He said.
“Dean.” I replied.
We must have looked strange standing there as we were. He was 6'4” built skinny with long limbs and equally long fingers. His grip was firm though, and his smile genuine and caused wrinkles to form in the corner of saphire blue eyes. His hair was an ash blonde that was threatening to get darker at the base. I was short (very short) and built with broad shoulders and a sturdy frame thanks to an abudance of Irish blood. I had dyed my red hair black. While he was pale enough to ensure he spent most of time indoors, I had a deep tan from a summer spent trying to get myself killed in the mountains and on the back of a horse.
“So you think we should get to know eachother?” He asked, raising a brow as he looked down at me.
“Yeah.” I replied. “It's the Mohawk. I like it.”
He grinned at me. And it was the start of a friendship that would come to define us both, but especially me, in ways that years later I still can not acurately describe.
I have memories of Spencer that are filled with so much laughter that it hurts my sides just to remember them. I have memories of Spencer filled with so much passion that it overwhelms me. And memories that are so full of pain it ruins me to still have them. He is, to this day, one of the few people in the world who have ever made me question my own intelligence, he was that smart. We were friends, we were sometimes lovers, we were two people who shared something that made sure no matter what else was going on in our lives, we at least knew we belonged to one another.
Our relationship waxed and waned, but neither of us seemed to mind that we would come together and temporarily drift apart. We had no verbal agreement to one another beyond the understanding that if I needed him, he'd be there, and vice versa. Most of our mutual friends believed that one day we would eventually get married, settle down, live a strange life of artists and geniuses. But all their bets and knowing looks when we sat together on the couch watching the same movies and tv shows over and over again would never come to see validation.
In late September of 2009 I made a phone call that would change everything. I called Spencer to confirm a date we had set up for the following evening and to clarify if he or I was going to drive. But the person who answered his cell wasn't Spencer. Instead it was his father, Dennis, a man I had only met briefly but had listened to long hours of rants from Spencer about his behavior. But it wasn't the arrogant drunk on the phone with me, he sounded tired and resigned. And as I listened to him explain what had happened I stopped moving.
I had been out running errands with my mum, helping her pick up a couch she had just bought, with my truck. And I stood in the middle of the store with a look on my face that made even the salesman take notice. I had tears in my eyes as Dennis explained that two days ago Spencer had been admitted to the ICU at St. Al's.
Spencer had been at a party with some of his friends, the friends he never let me meet, that he kept me away from. He had taken something and had lost conciousness. No one was certain how long he had been out, no one had noticed that he had stopped breathing. When someone did notice they had paniced and called Dennis first, instead of 911. When they paramedics did arrive, his heart wasn't beating. They managed to get it restarted, but it stopped twice more on the ride to the hospital. They had him stabilized but he was comatose.
I could barely get out a sound to acknowledge I had heard him. I hung up with Dennis after getting the information for his hospital room and turned to look at my mother. I don't cry often, I never have been that kind of guy, even as a little, little kid. I just wasn't prone to outward displays of vulnerability. But I had tears coming down my face when I looked my mother in the eye and said. “It's Spencer...”
He was in a coma for 10 days, during which he coded twice more. His body survived, but the man I had known and loved did not. What is left of Spencer now is a shell, medicated and brain damaged to the point he can't even hold a conversation. I remember coming to see him after he had woken up, his frame thrashing as full body muscle spasms racked him. I remember wanting to see him and know there was hope, to feel like his parents (who insisted he keep being revived) had no done the unthinkable to him and robbed him of who he was.
I walked into his hospital room and couldn't move when I saw him. He trashed around, his body contorting as it fought withdrawls and painful spasms. And when I came closer and I looked at him the man who looked back at me wasn't my friend. It wasn't the man who had dyed his hair pink because I told him it would be unexpected. It wasn't the man who had let a young kid poke his mohawk and warned him never to put his fingers in light sockets because that was the result. It wasn't the man who had quoted Firefly word-for-word while we watched it for the 100th time. It wasn't the man who had looked me in the eye and told me he didn't deserve me, that he loved me and had from the moment we had met.
The man who stared back at me was a shell, was angry and hurt, and confused. And he looked at his mother with a look in his eyes that said only betrayal. And when I said his name he looked at me , he looked me right in the eye and I knew. He was slipping, whatever of him was still in there would eventually be destroyed by pain, that his parents had done the worst to him and robbed him of his mind while keeping his life. The nurse who was in charge of his primary care saw it, she noticed the way he looked at me and pulled me aside before I left. She questioned me about what might have happened, and I told her I didn't know.
He had been trying to get clean. He had been working at getting off drugs, quitting drinking and smoking. He had a thousand vices (most of which were the reason we never settle down, he refused to let me hitch my wagon to his sinking ship, as he put it.) But he had recently been trying to fight back against them, and had credited a desire to finally do right by me with his reasoning. But addiction is a tricky disease, and his parents had certainly set a wonderful example (his father a raging alcoholic, his mother spent most of his childhood checked out on valium and pain medication.)
“Do you think this could have been intentional?” The nursed asked me.
I must have looked at her harshly because she flinched a little when I stated: “No.”
She took a breath and asked again. “Are you sure? Because according to his records he has attempted it before...”
I knew about the previous attempts, during his turbulant teen years. I knew about his cutting. I knew about the cocaine. The downers. The uppers. The Alcohol. The cigerattes. We had no secrets, only promises.
“He wouldn't. He made a promise.” I told her.
“I know it can be hard, but ...” She tried.
“No. You don't understand. He promised me. He swore to me he wouldn't, that he wouldn't do that to me. He promised that if he felt like that he would call. He swore it. He never broke a promise to me, ever. He wouldn't have started with this one. He had problems, but he never broke a promise.”
The eventual ruling was officially listed as an accidental overdose. And I stood at his bed side through physical therapy, speech therapy, and every other kind of therapy you can imagine. All the while feeling like a traitor because I knew what he would have wanted. I knew that this was not how he would have wanted to live. When he was released he attempted to kill himself several times before they drugged him to the point he wouldn't. And I watched as he left me forever. I watched as he was numbed from the inside out and all that remains is a shell walking around, mumbling... and one who could look at me and show me nothing.
When you lose someone like that, it creates a hole inside of you. Spencer's body might still be alive, but the man I knew has been dead for several years now. And there is no one to blame, but him. I have a hole where my soul mate was ripped away from me. Because he made a choice, and it killed him. There is no peace with it, like can come after losing a loved one to a prolonged illness or old age. There is no drunk driver to be mad at. There is no higher power to blame for making a body that was faulty and riddled with a time bombing lying in wait. There is no one to direct your grief and anger at the loss of this person at, except the person themselves.
You go through the motions of moving on, you put camoflage over the hole and you find a way to live again. But there is always a hole there, inside of you there is always a piece missing. Any one you love after will be competing with a ghost, and you can't help it, no matter how hard you try. Their memory is alive inside of you, always. And you love them more then you did before because all you have is what you remember, and you remember all those good things like they are gilded and carved of precious stone. And most of the time you're okay, you're alive and well and you laugh and you have friends and you even find other people you could love. But then something happens and reveals the hole through the camoflage, and you remember how it used to feel to be whole. And you feel that hole there inside of you and you long to feel more complete.
So when I read about Cory Monteith passing, my first thought was about poor Lea Michelle, because I knew what road lay ahead of her. Because I know what she is feeling. I know the hole that was just made inside of her, will haunt her forever. And I know that any time she reads about someone else dying under similar circumstances she will be reminded of that hole. No matter how many years go by, it will always be there, an empty space inside that leaves an indescribable aching.
I don't know if I can do my memories of Spencer justice. I don't know that my memories of him aren't clouded and tainted by the rose color of missing someone. I don't know if I'll ever be able to explain what we shared to any one who didn't witness it. I know that someday I will have to try, maybe tell the story as if it were happening to someone else. And maybe this entry is the start of that.