Thinking about a dear friend now gone.
In 1986, not long after I had moved to Los Angeles, I learned that my best friend, Ted had taken his own life. I would learn many years later that he had been exhibiting symptoms of a bipolar spiral, though at the time it was called manic depression. His wife had left him fearing for the safety of their kid. For years I blamed myself for not hearing over the phone a couple of weeks before he jumped off a cliff that he was in trouble and needed help. I loved him deeply.
He's been on my mind lately. I've realized that over the years I have attracted many (MANY) crazy people into my life, taken in strays, lost time and energy to the needs of people I cannot possibly save. Only in the past week or so did it dawn on me that I was trying to make up for failing my friend in his time of crazy. I started to figure out some time ago that I cannot save anyone. Still, I kept bringing the distressed into my sphere, giving them all that I could and at last, feeling a failure, abandoned them to their own devices.
Ted showed up in a couple of my stories in one way or another. His photo watches me in my office while I work. His memory has remained a powerful presence in my consciousness.
Tonight I went down to the Writers' Guild Theater for a screening of William Goldman's BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID with introductory remarks from Aaron Sorkin.
While I waited for the doors to open, I chatted with a man, about my own age, a fellow Guild member. His name was Ted. So already my mind was probably primed for memory and nostalgia. Then Aaron spoke. Then the movie ran.
As I watched it I became aware at a profound level of the extent to which the friendship in that film had served as some sort of a template from which Ted and I had fashioned our relationship all those years ago. The self-destructive ride-til-we-die, share girlfriends, trust to the end nature of that friendship was a thing we had both learned -- separately as we had both seen the film in childhood and did not meet until prep school -- from Butch and Sundance, bantering and bickering and adoring one another and having each others' backs. We shared secrets.
Tonight I feel that thirty-three year-old loss -- crap, longer ago now than we had been alive when he went -- as a physical pain, an emptiness in my gut, a sorrow i sometimes convince myself I have outgrown.