LIFE & DEATH
You Only Live Once
He died knowing he hurt me and I never gave him a chance to say sorry.
Chris died. You know. Chris. Christopher. Mack. Mykel. Everyone knew him. He was the fast talker, the shape-shifter with a murky identity and dismal origin story. He was the charismatic scammer who could talk his way in and out of anything. If he was your friend, you were fiercely protected and deeply loved. If you were his enemy, his gift of gab turned icy and sharp, and you’d be cut down with his corrosive cadence like a Katana. If you knew him, you knew that being his friend only meant you hadn’t become his enemy, yet. If you knew Chris, you knew he would eventually stop choosing you, he’d use you, lie, cheat, and steal. You knew that something inside of him would make him suddenly walk out the door, forget everything you ever said or did with and for eachother and that he would stop giving and start taking. If you knew him, you knew you wouldn’t know him long. If you knew Chris, Christopher, Mack, or Mykel, you knew it would end this way.
He’d been trying to reconnect with me for years, but I couldn’t welcome Chris back into my life…not after what he’d done. So, each time I heard he’d been asking for my phone number or pleading with mutual friends to put us in touch with eachother, I refused the connection. I overrode every good memory I had with him and recalled his betrayal instead. I held on to that feeling, not as a grudge but as a boundary.
Chris and I met around 2006 and spent nearly every day together for the next six years. He was with me at my highest––when the money and the champagne flowed and I couldn’t see the bottom. And he was with me when I hit it––picking me up after every fall, brushing me off, sticking a sandwich in my mouth and reminding me, “You’s a bad bitch!”
He was my business and creative partner and he was my best friend. He was and still is the only man I’ve ever known who actually wanted me to win and did everything he could to help me. I loved him. I depended on him and Chris never let me down…until he did.
Now, as his body rests refrigerated, awaiting its cremation, how he betrayed me isn’t worth mentioning. This is not about that. This is about the goodbye we’ll never get. This is about unmended fences and boundaries that manifest into walls instead of bridges. This is about living and dying and protecting yourself in between, and the cost of sticking to your guns.
I knew Chris had been sick and struggling with dialysis. I knew his body was breaking down and with each trip to the hospital, his time on earth was being cut shorter. I knew this last time would probably be the last time.
We have a good friend in common, so I knew everything that had gone on with Chris in recent years, although our friendship ended abruptly around 2012. Still, no matter how bad the news, no matter how many times I missed him and wanted to reconnect and work with him, I just couldn’t. Chris could never break the love I have for him, but he shattered our trust and the bond that held us together all those years. And the one thing I’ve learned about trust is that once it has been damaged, it can never be repaired.
The heart never forgets where it has been broken.
So, I stayed away as he died slowly and then all at once. I ignored his hand as it reached for me and I never gave him a chance to make amends. And he died with that. He died knowing he hurt me, that he ruined a kinship and abused a friend…and I never gave him a chance to say sorry.
I regret that.
Chris was my ace. He never let anything happen to me. He protected me in a world where I’ve never felt safe. So, when he hurt me, when he did and said the things that ended our friendship forever, it cut me in such a way. His betrayal didn’t just sever our bond, but it ripped me to pieces. Yet, not in as many pieces as his death has left me.
Chris died alone and unknown with aliases and shadowy movements that made much of his life, even the last moments of it, untraceable. He died without honor, but with years of ingenious creativity and content in his wake. He didn’t always treat himself or others very well, as reflected in the quality of his life and his death, but my god that man was a force!
He was a junkyard dog with a million-watt smile––short, stout, and firey. He was a child left behind, born into addiction, who wasn’t given chances so he took them. He never stopped trying, but always got scared when success was near. He loved the hustle but couldn’t imagine what was on the other side of it. So, everything became temporary and he had to get you before you got him. He could never fully trust the love, the security, or the promise. My friend Chris was always on the take. So, it’s only right that he takes a piece of me and everyone who loves him on this part of his journey.
This part…where he is no longer sick.
And you. Of all the things you can take from me and this, take forgiveness. Take the chance to make amends, to bless yourself and the people who have hurt you with unburdened passage across the Great Divide when the time comes. And the time will come.
It’s later than you think.
Well, I guess this is how it ends. Unsaid words and regrets, talking into the ether, hoping he hears me. Forgiving him in the afterlife. Feeling his protection from the other side. Hoping we’re closer now than we’ve been. Stopping by the shop where he always bought my sandwiches, popping one into my mouth and reminding myself, “You’s a bad bitch!” Repeating his go-to mantra and making it mine. YOLO. You only live once.
See ya, Mack.