The things we forget when someone dies.
Sharing an homage written five years ago.
People say that writing is a wonderful way to express yourself and relieve pain. So I hope with this, these paragraphs will do just that. I hope that as I recall my moments with Kenny that I’ll feel less sad about his passing. And if you feel so inclined to share this moment with me, then I am grateful and I appreciate the effort and interest you’ve shown me.
I’ve known Kenny since I was 13.
He was this tall tanned skater boy at Deltona High School and the moment I saw him smile, I was head over heels in love. He lived nearby, and by that I mean we got off at the same stop. One day, during one of Florida’s terrible rainstorms, we were both umbrella-less and had accepted the fact we would have to walk the half mile to our houses. I’m thankful for that rain because it’s what caused us to become friends.
It would be months after, towards the end of my freshman year where things would complicate. In the basement of his house, where we were watching X-Men, we began to argue over a serious matter:
Was Jean Grey a total bitch or if it was a result of the Phoenix?
This turned into a wrestling match where the winner would be seen as correct. When Kenny tried to come at me, I forced him to the ground and then pinned him down with all my might. I leaned in to boast how funny it was that I could pin him down considering our height difference and that’s when he kissed me. It caught me off guard and the moment he felt my grip weaken he reversed the sides and laughed.
I was still in shock and the expression on my face must’ve scared him because he started to panic. And then he kissed me again and the second kiss woke me from my stupor. Kenny, for all intent and purposes, at the time, wasn’t gay. He had never identified in that way. This kiss, though, changed our lives. For me, I thought my Boy Meets Boy moment was about to happen and for Kenny, it was the start of his coming to age story.
That summer, a trio of hurricanes struck Florida, the most devastating being Hurricane Ivan. Tired of the chaotic weather patterns, my family decided they wanted to get out of Florida and move back north. What this meant for me is that I would have to leave Florida, which gave me such turmoil because I felt like I was leaving a potential lover but more importantly, a friend that was going to be in need very soon. On my last day, he kissed me on the lips very tenderly and then my forehead.
We were both crying: me a total wreck, him quietly and calmly. He pulled back and looked at me.
It might have always been that I’d kiss a boy at some point but I’m so glad my first was you…
We’ll meet again because I know we’re destined to be great friends.
A few months after I was getting settled in New York again, Kenny met his first love of his life: Bryan. It took me a long time to get over my jealousy of Bryan, and even now, I’m still bitter but I was genuinely happy for them. I was happy because Kenny had accepted the fact that boys rock his socks off and so shortly after, he was pretty sure he had gotten lucky and landed himself a HS sweetheart. But shit happened, and it wasn’t so easy. When his parents found out, Kenny spent three weeks living with Bryan and his parents. It wasn’t until they realized how much they missed their son did they discover that their love for their son was worth more than their beliefs.
Despite his parents being religious to the point of being uncomfortable around, Kenny couldn’t fully believe in the existence of God. At least not the way in which his catholic parents expressed their religion. He used to say:
I’ve read the Bible many times and the only message I can take away is that God wants us to love each other.
He was always bewildered by how people forgot that message; and the way his relationship with his parents deteriorated because of his queerness made him believe less.
Years would pass until Ryan came into the picture
And at that point, we were inseparable as we gabbed on the phone, texting, IMing, emailing — anyway to stay in touch. I was so grateful to be part of another trio of friends, to have people that I could share anything with and not feel ashamed.
After breaking up with Brandon, being dumped by Barry and being in a relationship that I didn’t think would amount to anything with Clyde, I felt as if I’d never be happy again. I remember this conversation I had with Kenny as I poured all of this out onto him.
I want you to close your eyes — don’t ask why, just do it. Imagine I’m in front of you right now, we’re having this conversation in New York. You’ve just told me everything you just said and you can see my face. Do you see my face? It’s calm right? There’s a slight smile, because that’s how I always look.
Do you see this? Good.
[He flicked his finger into the phone, and as I said ow to the loudness] That was me flicking your nose. You idiot. Life isn’t planned, so don’t bother. It’s ridiculously egotistical to think that you could to begin with. And you and I both know that you will end up with a someone that makes you smile.
Take it easy Kristopher.
This conversation would have such an impact on me.
“Life isn’t planned, so don’t bother” would become one of my favorite mantras and the act of flicking someone’s nose when they’re being utterly ridiculous would be an act I stole.
Fall 2010: When everything went to shit.
My senior year at Parsons would be full of emotion and stress. It was 2010 and that Fall, Kenny would discovered that the love of his life was cheating on him for several years; Kenny would be dumped and have his heart broken when he found out the guy Bryan was cheating on him with was a close friend of theirs; Kenny would be decked by that same friend at a bar and that same night be bashed by some random guys from the bar; Kenny would be in a coma for a month; Kenny would spend two months in the hospital recuperating and have to go through at least a year of physical therapy; All this time Kenny would have to deal with his parents’ belief that he was bashed as punishment for being gay by God.
This entire time I wanted to go down and take care of him but I couldn’t. I didn’t have the finances and if I left Parsons I would lose my year at Parsons. And the entire time I battled with this, Ryan would tell me over and over that Kenny would be so furious with me if I did. And he was right, when we were finally able to speak to him and I was sobbing to him about how helpless I felt, he said as best he could,
That’s right. I would’ve been pissed off. The only time you’re allowed to drop everything to see me is if I’m on my deathbed. No other time. The best thing you can do is keep going. So stop crying, you’re hogging the spotlight.
The following year would prove to be the toughest times for Kenny. But he still went on with a smile on his face and a positive outlook. It wasn’t in his nature to be negative and sad. He would go on about how depression was pointless because he was still alive and that was the greatest feeling of all, even the pain he felt. He was thankful to still be alive.
Ryan and I both knew that he meant this with all his heart but from time to time, Kenny would call us both crying. He wasn’t completely over the trauma of almost dying nor had his feelings about Bryan been settled. He wasn’t angry with Bryan, which neither Ryan or I could understand. Not because we couldn’t fathom not being angry with a loved one, but because of everything that Bryan had done to him, none of that was forgivable.
I’m not mad with him because I love him.
That doesn’t excuse everything he’s done. I just can’t stand the thought of being mad at him because of my love for him. I want him to be happy, I just wished he had come to me about his needs and wants. I wished I didn’t have to discover he was cheating on me…but I feel partly responsible for it. Like something I did made him want to cheat on me, something I was lacking.
And I guess that’s why I can’t be mad at him, because then I’d have to be mad at myself and I really rather not.
I felt sorry for Kenny as he told us this. I felt sorry because here is a man, Kenny, who gave all of his being to the person he loved and in the end he got fucked over. Not once did Bryan visit him at the hospital, offer to take him to therapy or even grab a drink with him after the entire event. When I think about this, it makes me tremble with fury because I can imagine feeling all of Kenny’s love.
I can imagine all of his love, enveloping me in a warm glow.
I can imagine him smiling as he hugs me from behind, resting his head on my shoulder. I can imagine the way he looked at Bryan with such awe and amazement; how he felt so lucky and so at peace because he found the love of his life. I imagine Kenny’s eagerness to wake up earlier than Bryan to make a fresh pot of coffee and a hearty breakfast. I imagine the smile on Kenny’s face as he: washed the dishes while Bryan dried, went grocery shopping and argued over who’s cereal should be picked this week, drove around Florida with Bryan beside him, his hand on his knee as they went down the highway. I can imagine all of these moments in which I knew Kenny was in bliss with his life, and it makes me sad because I have a feeling that in the end Kenny must’ve questioned those moments.
Kenny never seemed like the type to take his own life. He was always going on about how life was precious, how growing old was privilege and how much he wanted to see Ryan and I as old men. All of us with our little canes swooning over the young nurses and how we were so bitter that our children didn’t hire a hot young caretaker for us. He wanted to laugh with us, all wrinkled and near senile.
He could see it, so crystal clear and we won’t ever have that moment now.
I feel like I need to make this clear: I am not mad.
I could never be mad with Kenny. He gave me too much to be mad over something like this, regardless of how “big” this is. I just wished I could’ve seen his beautiful face in person again, to hear his laugh and feel the warmth of his smile.
I’m told that next to his body was his laptop, and there was a photograph he made of the three of us: Ryan, Kenny and I. We’re all making goofy faces and the backgrounds are all different, but that photograph is in my mind forever.
I love it so much.
I realize he probably is flicking my runny nose right now because I’m crying. But I can’t help it. I love you so much Kenny and I miss you and I hate knowing that I can’t call you or that you won’t text back. I promise not to forget what you taught me, but I won’t guarantee I won’t ignore them from time to time.
Now being one of those times.
This version has minor edits from a piece originally written in 2012.