His was the most…”human”

That scene, for those who don’t know, was from The Wrath of Khan.  It was after Spock was killed while saving the Enterprise from disaster.  I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek lately.  My wife never watched it much before we met and she missed a lot of the episodes which were made before that time.  She has an Amazon.com account and they offer the whole “The Next Generation” series on streaming.  So we decided to watch a few episodes a night until we have watched them all.

There are three things that have brought me to this post.

– Star Trek

– The slightly cool air and the rainy weather we have been having.

–  Running across the poem in the previous blog entry.

These three things together remind me of someone I knew, what seems like ages ago now, when I was a freshman in college.

His name was John Patrick Kane.

John Kane was my friend.

He was also one of only a handful of people on this planet, who are not of blood relation, that I would call brothers.

And, like Kirk says in the clip, he was the most “human” person I ever met.
We met as most friends do, by chance.   I was taking an art history class and he happened to sit next me.  I noticed he had an X-men comic in his backpack and he noticed that I was reading a Dungeons and Dragons novel instead of paying attention.

We hit it off from there.

Over the space of a few months we developed an extremely powerful bond. His circle of friends opened up to accept me.  I found a wonderful Nerd-haven at his apartment off campus.  And it made my 3 years in that college bearable.

I was a very young kid, suddenly thrown into the massive population of a university a couple of hours from home…knowing no one…and being what others would consider a “misfit” To suddenly find a place where I belonged…..was nothing short of miraculous!

I came to regard his apartment as more or less my “first home” and would visit my dorm room only when necessary.

On Wednesday nights, we would drive to the local Grocery Store, buy a chocolate pie, go back to the apartment, cut it in half and watch Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I remember because he had a massive stereo system.  During the show, anytime there are scenes on the Enterprise there is a constant low rumble in the background of the engines vibrating through the hull of the ship.   We would set the bass up as high as it would go, crank the volume and lay on the floor to watch the show.  You could feel the rumble in your stomach.  It would feel like you were there.

Stupid nerd games….but fun, none-the-less.

He always had a kind word for everyone he met.  He liked to talk, and he would engage anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Some nights on the weekends, we would go to our favorite bar off campus.  We’d drink beer by the pitcher and throw darts.  The more beer, the less darts….   But he also liked to climb up on soapboxes when he got drunk and explain his solutions to the world’s problems TO ANY PASSERBY whether they liked it or not.  Despite my best efforts, I would pull one box out from under him and he would quickly find another.  We never left until they turned all the lights on and threatened to sweep us out the door.

Something else happened though when he used to get “serious”….he talked about wanting a family. Wanting kids and a wife.  He had a sad look in his eye when he did too.  I was young, I didn’t understand until I was older that he was hurting inside for that kind of life.  He was overweight, balding and in his mid 30’s.  And he was never able to successfully meet a girl or have a relationship despite his charismatic personality.

I didn’t understand then…that he was lonely.  I never considered it.  He always seemed so happy MOST of the time.

I could write forever about our adventures but I think you can understand it best when I say that I loved him a great deal.  We can leave it there.

Being a young idiot.  And not understanding  1/10th of what the world was about.  I squandered away my government loan in just 5 semesters.  My grades were so poor that they revoked it and denied my appeal .  So I had just under 2k in my own savings account. I paid for my own tuition on the sixth semester. Things change when it is YOUR money at stake but…it was too little too late.  I had to drop out and go get a job for a while if I ever wanted to get back to school.  I did get back to school but not the same one that John and I attended…it was just too much money.

So we were separated for a long time.  About 3 years I think.  In that time, I managed to visit him 2 times I think.  The first was only for a couple of hours.  The second was for an entire day. We went to a sci-fi convention together.  He was his “normal self”.

I got a call about a year after the convention.  It was from a guy named Dan. He was my roommate in the dorm at the University.  He had moved into John’s apartment shortly after I left to help John pay the rent.   They were good friends too.

It was right about this time of year. It was cold outside and raining it’s ass off.  I remember asking him:

“HEY!! What’s up man? How are you.”

“Hey, Eric.” Came the reply. Rather quietly and with no sense of joy at all.

I felt that feeling in my stomach when you know something is wrong and you don’t want to think about what it might be.

“What’s wrong, Dan?” I knew already.

“John’s gone.”  My heart leapt up at that. Hey! Maybe he just moved out.

“What happened?” I said, like a fool.

“He shot himself. A few days ago. It took me a while to find out how to reach you.”

I didn’t feel anything. Not sad, not afraid….nothing.  Just numb.

We exchanged information because he was doing what John had always said he would want if he ever died.  And I did remember hearing him say so.  He wanted a party. No funerals.

Everyone get together, have a drink, laugh and talk.

I went to the party.  We drank, we laughed and talked.  It did not help.

His family had a small service for him after he died.  None of them knew I existed and Dan hadn’t found me yet to tell me about it.

He was cremated and the family did not choose to have a memorial site such as a grave stone or anything like that….

I thought about going to their house to express my condolences….but they were essentially strangers and I had no idea what my sudden visit would do to them…so I didn’t.

But all that paled in comparison to the reason behind his death.

He had met a woman, and I do not remember…or want to remember…her name.

Apparently he met her at the bar we used to frequent.

I don’t know all the details.  I’m sure Dan told me but I don’t remember them to this day. All I know is this:

She was in a physically abusive relationship.

She met John.  She left her abusive relationship to live with him. They were very close.  She decided one day to leave John and go back to her abusive piece of human refuse.

John and I were cut from the same cloth. He was almost a carbon copy of me, as far as morals go.  I know what kind of pain that must have been for him. He had saved a life and received what he believed to be a woman’s love in the process.  That opened up the door for everything else he THOUGHT was necessary to be complete.  When that door closed he saw it as a failure of epic proportions.

He went to a local park in the middle of the night.  Walked out into the center of it, and died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

His body was found the next morning under the flag pole.

I’ve visited that spot a few times…the first time it was cold and rainy like it has been lately.

The wind was blowing pretty hard….the metal clasp on the halyard kept banging against the steel pole like a bell.

That was 18 years ago. Still feels like yesterday.  How you can know someone for such a short time and miss them so terribly for the rest of your life…I have no clue.

Even though I know that none of it was my fault, I still can’t help but imagine that had I not been such a fool and caused the chain of events that led to my leaving the University…maybe I could have been there and changed what happened that night.


About Eric

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9 Responses to His was the most…”human”

  1. D. D. Syrdal says:

    Oh my god. I am so so sorry for your loss. And I am so sorry John was in so much pain. People have an amazing capacity to camouflage their inner pain. No one wants to hear about it, so they learn to keep it to themselves. I’m sure no one saw it coming. When someone is that far down, the idea of asking for help doesn’t even occur to them. And men are particularly bad about expressing those emotions. I doubt there was much you could have done, even if you’d been there.

    The special connection you had with him is the kind of close friendship everyone hopes to have. They come out of nowhere, two kindred spirits connecting. There is no explaining it.

    • Eric Syrdal says:

      Thanks DD. I’ve thought about it for a while. 18 years is a long time. I know i probably had no way of knowing that it would happen that way…or that I might have been able to do something about it had I been there. I had a friend of mine who is a psychologist tell me that likely he would have done the same thing anyway, even if I was still around him. People who have decided on that course rarely can be swayed from it by just the presence of someone they care about.

      And he said that likely if I would have tried to help and it still would have happened I would have been all that more ‘damaged” by the experience.

      And yes, you are right. Kindred spirit is definitely the correct term.

  2. rosie49 says:

    Eighteen years is both a lifetime and no time at all when you lose somebody this way. I’m so sorry for your loss. Yet John gave you a gift both at the time you met and even now: a sense of belonging and a sense of becoming. Living your life as an adult, and as a example to your children honors your friend. And as we say: May his memory be a blessing. Nobody in death should even be forgotten.

    • Eric Syrdal says:

      Thank you Rosie. I know he’ll always be a part of me. It’s silly to say when you think about it, “Why can’t I get used to the idea that he isn’t here?” I guess in reality you hope that you are never able to get used to it at all.

  3. Pingback: Robin Williams – The Powerful Play goes on…. | My Sword and Shield….

  4. Chris says:

    So very sad. For you and for John Kane and for all his friends and family. So sad too, that he thought he’d found what he’d been looking for for so long, and it turned out to be so awful. It really leaves you stranded when a close friend dies and you realize you don’t really know the person’s family. It’s happened to me a couple of times in recent years–kind of leaves you feeling a double loss–at least when you can talk with the family, there’s still some kind of connection. So sorry for your loss, and for your having to relive this so often, especially now with the news of Robin Williams. But you know, in a way, Robin Williams has left one last gift…he has focused the spotlight on depression. It’s so sad that it takes the loss of such a great man to accomplish this, but it may help to bring around those who think depression is invented, or not serious, or to be swept under the rug. It may help bring awareness to someone who has a friend or family member dealing with depression, which might just save someone’s life.

    • Eric Syrdal says:

      Thank you for all your kind words, Chris. Yes, I do hope that some good can come out of all of this. It seems like such a waste if not. The universe has left a vacuum where he stood. I hope it can be filled with something good.

  5. I found my way here thanks to Emily C, and I have to say, this post is profoundly moving. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. And it is so true, about missing someone for the rest of your life.
    This is truly tragic. I am glad your psychologist friend was able to help you process the reality of the situation.

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