I lost a friend the other day. We hadn’t spoken in a decade. Because he wasn’t in my life, I had the luxury of learning of his death from afar while those closest to him were sucked into a tight whirlpool of despair. When friends offered their condolences, I would tell them none were necessary, with no guilt. I didn’t think of him often, but when I did, my whole face would relax, which is rare.
He was mischievous, in a word. The perfect combination of adult and child. Playful and self-assured, the most confident person I’ve ever met. When my piece of shit boyfriend totaled my piece of shit car, he sold me his tricked out PT Cruiser with dual pipes, purple flames, and the word “DEATHMOBILE” in elaborate Olde English emblazoned across the back window (really) for exactly what the insurance paid me, which was about a third of what it was worth even before all the outrageous additions. Having to drive around such an ugly car became an integral part of my personality, learning not to take myself seriously, not to give a shit if people stared. Learning to take up the space I was in, which was a lot, because those cars are fucking huge and mine was loud too (visually and aurally). He’d never said a kind word directly to my face but I knew he was one of those. You know, those two or three people who you suspect would do anything for anyone in need?
There aren’t too many people who can put me at ease. I knew him in my 20’s, when my awkwardness and hatred for myself and others was at its height. Even so, I could be real around him. He was super smart and you trusted he always understood what you meant. If he didn’t, he’d ask. That’s what I’ll miss the most, which is stupid, because we haven’t spoken in years. Knowing there’s one less person on earth who could easily see me and accept me is honestly heartbreaking. Once my friend Megan and I went into his apartment and he was wearing a buttoned-up eggplant shirt and a tie, sitting in a chair in the corner like a weirdo.
“Uh, you look nice.”
“Thanks, I just got back from a wedding. Anyway, just wanted you two to see this shit before I took it off,” he said, hopping up to change into casual clothes, freely admitting he’d been waiting for our arrival. No pretense. Never trying to impress anyone. Never trying to fool you. Don’t worry, lauding him while simultaneously passive-aggressively chastising lesser men is what he would’ve wanted. And if that’s not what he wanted, he shouldn’t have killed himself. Just kidding, suicidal tendencies aren’t a choice. They definitely are not. It happened, it was supposed to happen, apparently it was going to happen.
He could make anything fun. Going to the dollar store. Being hungover. Not drinking for a change. You never had to guess what he was thinking, he was perhaps the only fully expressive genius I’ve ever known. Writing this, I realize he was. His facial expressions, the words he chose; everything was out there for you to see, but he wasn’t a simple man, or a person of average intelligence. I’ve seen him cry, saw him get into a fight. You never get to see geniuses do that, they usually don’t let you. Hiding who he was wasn’t high on his list of priorities, another thing separating him from most people. He had a totally unique style that I couldn’t even put my finger on if I tried. His apartment was decorated like an overly committed tiki bar, but sometimes steampunk too, but also Addam’s Family in some places, and somehow it all worked. Like the insane car he sold me. He laughed easily.
If there’s someone who sees you, do reach out. Link them to this non-obituary and say it made you think of them. Even if you haven’t spoken in 10 years, even if you’re too proud, even if they’re not on Facebook. I regret losing touch, and Alex, I am sorry. Mostly for myself.
Edit: Here’s Alex and his beautiful wife if you’re curious: https://missoulian.com/news/local/obituaries/alex-j-turmell/article_642dd030-1eea-5264-b905-8f0deeb9d251.html
After talking to his mother for the first time this morning and knowing she approves of this dumb blog post, thought it appropriate to link the obit.
Things I learned about Alex since:
He was a Muay Thai trainer (of course)
He was an amazing professional chef
He and his wife were married on his birthday, which is incredibly romantic
He didn’t choose the Deathmobile, but when it came into his possession, he decided to make it even uglier since it was already so outrageous. Which was the right move
He was nominated for Prom King and only lost by a couple votes even though he refused to wear a suit or give a speech. In lieu of giving a speech, he said something along the lines of, “I’m not going to give a speech, but we’re going to run around and shake as many hands as we have to!” and he and his close friends ran around shaking hands.
He would make his mom text him a thumbs-up emoji every night to let him know she was alive after she got “so old” (something I’d do).
One thing I forgot about the Deathmobile: it had a personalized license cover that said, “MY OTHER CAR IS A METH LAB”