Jay was a good friend when he was sober. We spent many days together exploring the woods and canals of Northern Delaware. At night, we’d listen to music and philosophize, debating and laughing. But Jay wasn’t dependable when high. I once left him to babysit my two-year-old when I got a call from the downstairs neighbor.
“Don’t worry, we have Killian and he is safe, but he wandered out of your apartment and came to play with Angel. We went upstairs and found Jay completely passed out on your couch.”
Apparently, he’d relapsed and nodded off while watching my toddler. I am forever thankful that my neighbors intervened and that no one took off with my baby. I’d never be able to forgive myself if something were to happen to him.
Jay cleaned up for a bit afterward, finding himself a proper job at a meat counter in a locally owned grocery store. It wasn’t long before he’d succumb to temptation again when a coworker offered to sell to him. Apparently, this bastard also stole my CD book out from Jay’s car during work at some point. Poof. My entire 90s hardcore collection gone. Lousy junkie.
Our lives took us in separate directions when he applied for a job at LensCrafters, eager to follow in an aunt’s footsteps. A thick-framed glasses wearer myself, I too applied, but only I got the call back.
Years passed and our lives shifted. Jay started seeing a girl that he cared deeply for and began seeing a gentleman who worked at the city co-op. In time, I’d come to find that he used to work at the same grocery store as Jay. Then I found that he was the one who helped him relapse. And stole my CDs. He sold them all for drug money, he apologized. 25 Ta Life sold for heroin. It would seem as if time is circular.
The next time I spoke with Jay, I told him of my brief romance with his former coworker. He warned me that he was dangerous. Dark. I guess anyone could be. Not Jay, though. He was too pure. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Sober for two years. I was so glad to have him back in my life.
Until I didn’t. The next time I saw him was after a 6 am call from his sister.
“Jay’s in the hospital- They found him in a car at a Wawa unresponsive- They have no idea how long he was like that without breathing- he was covered in water- We can’t get to him and he’s all alone there- They said he’s brain dead-“
I told my boss I’d be late and I left to find him. When I got there, he’d been there for a couple of hours. Suspended in tubes and wires. Alive but dead. I petted his head and talked to him for hours. I opened his eye to see if he was in there and found no Jay nor iris, just pupil.
Over the following 24 hours, I visited Jay for hours at a stretch. At some point, I managed to speak to the last person to see him conscious, the man who’s car he’d been found in. He told me that he scored some heroin for Jay, it must have been laced with fentanyl. Every few years a batch of the stuff would come out and kill people throughout the state, so it was plausible. Apparently Jay’d passed out while his friend remained at a party for an hour or so. When he found returned to his car, Jay wasn’t breathing. He drove him to a Wawa and fetched a cup of ice to throw over him in an effort to revive him. When Jay wouldn’t wake, he called 911. He lied and said he hadn’t done any drugs and fled the scene as to not face any legal repercussions. Coward. If I could only go back and warn Jay of how dangerous he was. Would he have believed me?
After everyone had visited and the family said their goodbyes, Jay was taken off life support nine days short of his 30th birthday. This July made five years since his passing and he’s still never had a proper funeral. No scattering of ashes, no final goodbyes, no closure. Family quarrels and such. Seems no one could agree with what to do with his remains.
So this is my eulogy. A man dearly loved. A brother without blood. Storyteller. A talented musician and redneck intellectual. Anyone who knew him was fortunate, anyone who hadn’t missed out. Forgiven for all of his mistakes but celebrated for his life, as short as it was. Farewell, my friend. You were more than your addiction.