Once, I had missed two flights in two days, as I am skilled at few, but specific things. I was sitting at the airport, texting away on a bench, when my friend popped up out of nowhere. We had met on a film set earlier that year, as he was one of the two makeup artists, and he had also been a security guard at my home league’s bouts (when we had them at the old venue). It was strange, or so I thought, but he told me he was working for a package delivery service and had just made a run at the airport. Two and a half hours from home and bummed out for running slightly behind constantly, it was wonderful to happen across him.
We sat on the bench for an hour or so. He told me when I got to India, I should ship things back with DHL, as they are good for overseas shipping. We talked about derby, and random things, and he told me… not to tell anyone, because he hadn’t told many people… his girlfriend was pregnant.
He said it with a sheepish grin, and when I yelled a congratulations at him, we both giggled and yayed and I thought it was so wonderful, because he was genuinely excited, like his life had just fallen into place. I’m always excited for fathers-to-be, but especially so at this moment. He left after a while, and I saw him on and off, or Facebooked with him, like I do.
Around the same time the next year, I was at an exec board meeting when it was mentioned that he was in the hospital. Colon cancer. The sweet boy that used to use his tall stature to make sure no one got out of hand at roller derby bouts was hurt, so I did what I thought was good: I bought him graphic novels (vol. 1 and 2 of Walking Dead; huge horror fan), and went to the hospital. I met his mother, who was wonderful, and we talked for a while. We ate popsicles and he bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t have soda. Even there, he was in a great mood and was just a little beam of happy light.
We kept in touch, even though I was getting tied up in my usual, frantic “too much work” mode, and a few months later, I volunteered to help out at the haunted house that he worked at, which is owned by mutual friends. He was the lead makeup artist and usually played a character that he called “Julius Kane.” I swear, if I saw him in his full gear, I probably would have lost my mind. Such an amazing artist.
He looked so much better. His color had come back to his face and he was walking around, tall and awesome, with a cane. I was going to be his assistant, and just make sure everything happened on time. I was so excited that he was there and that I was going to get to work with him, after all the fancy makeup he had done on the film. His fiance had stopped to talk to me one day and said that I should make sure that he didn’t overwork himself, because even then, he just wanted to do what he had always done. He didn’t over do it, though, and I was glad, and we spent his downtime talking under a tent or sitting up front, watching the show.
I was dating one of the actors at the haunt, who usually played Otis, and he would scurry up to us, then chase after terrified teenagers while we laughed in the shadows. It was a great time. I told my friend that I had never actually been in a haunted house proper, even though I had spent the last few years playing with special effects makeup at work and knew several people who worked between the two haunted houses in our city.
One night, he announced to the actors that we would be coming through and that they should make sure they were on the ball, because he didn’t want them to act differently (like he was checking their makeup), so I could do it with him. He reminded my of my eldest brother like this. Though my friend is eleven years younger than my brother, it was the way he wanted to make things awesome, just for me.
The haunted house was much bigger than I thought from the outside. We wound through one area, in which he let me get us lost, then through the next as I giggled in the dark, then through the next and the next, until we were out. If someone was late, I didn’t know it, and he would tap his cane on the floor, like the lord of the ghouls, and seconds later I would scream as some scary creation of his appeared out of thin air. We laughed as I tried to avoid the spooky things and the actors gave me extra guff.
It was fun, because haunted houses are full of unexpected twists, but they are best experienced with a companion, like most all things. He has the type of personality that makes the unexpected bearable. He is a paradigm of what I wish people were like.
These are just two strange memories I have of him. I have to admit, I don’t spend a lot of time with very many people, but his attitude and personality had touched me. It’s not everyday you meet someone so willing to go out of his way for people. He was so sweet and so giving. He was a loving father, a husband who kept his wife in the front of his mind, a friend who had a wonderful word on the tip of his tongue, and probably one of the most genuine people I will ever meet.
He passed away on Sunday. I found out on Tuesday. For the past few months, I have been tied up in work of some manner, but in my head, he was growing stronger and better and I would see him in October, if not sooner. We would laugh and talk about films and books and life and nothings under a tent, and he would tell me how things were perfect with a big smile, just like always.
Like the silly ass that I am, I had hoped he would turn up at the airport a few months ago, when I was taking a similar flight pattern to Asia and my flight was delayed for weather. I wonder if I will always look for him, now.
I just returned from a celebration of his life at a beautiful place in the next town over, and staring out onto the water and the trees and the lovely scenery, I thought “what would Chris want from me?”
He would want me to be a good person, just like he was, and to love life, just as he did. So, just as he would do, I’m going to keep these fleeting moments with me, remember the lovely man that I am privileged to have met, and be there for the friends who need me as much as I can.
So, I bid farewell to Chris and Julius. Thank you for sharing a bit of your life with me, being my friend, and showing me that there is some sincerity in the world. It means a lot to me.