I spent the summer between high school in college at my dad's place in Santa Cruz. He lived in a converted carriage house, behind a mansion on top of a hill which rolled down three blocks to the beach. It was pretty idyllic.
That summer I started dating a boy who was a similar combination of alternative, social, and desperate. We both had pretty difficult home lives and once we found each other we clung on for dear life. I spent my first year of college commuting between my dorm room in San Francisco and my dad's place in Santa Cruz, where Earl was a high school senior. The following year Earl joined me in SF, and the years of playing house began.
We spent four-and-a-half years together, with the inevitable, traumatic break-up our senior year in college. Over the years I have wondered what ever happened to Earl, and I hoped for the best. Despite the fact that he had literally no support from his own family, he was truly a smart, sweet, funny person with a ton of potential.
A while back, I decided to look Earl up on Facebook. Unsurprisingly he had started going by his middle name, Brian, but I found him a few months ago. I sent out a friend request and I waited. After a few weeks I sent a brief email, saying I'd love to hear how his life had gone, but that I understood if he'd rather not get back in touch. When I didn't get a reply, I figured he probably wasn't interested.
Today I got a reply. It was from his former sister-in-law telling me that Earl passed away 8 months ago. She was using his computer and found that he was still logged in to Facebook, so she had seen my email. Because no one discovered that Earl had died for four days, an autopsy was inconclusive. The speculation is that it was a heart attack — the same thing that killed my father three years ago.
So why am I writing this? Why am I posting about someone who hasn't played a role in my life for 20 years? I guess you could call it honoring the dead — something I seem to be doing more and more of these days (and I'm getting goddamn sick of it).
Earl Brian Neidhamer