Jensen was quiet. He was tall, skinny, and had a dark complexion. The type of person to make a joke, and you weren’t entirely sure if he was being serious or not. He was in a fraternity at our college, even though he was the last person you would picture to be in one. As a Long Island native, he could also be brash and say what was on his mind, displaying the prototypical NYC mindset that a generous portion of the country despises. He didn’t care much about what people thought of him, and almost everyone I met that knew him, thought of him as a friend.
Jensen was always in a good mood despite how strict his parents were. Being of Indian background, his parents held high expectations of him in school and his personal life. Despite this, I never saw him down or depressed, and I was closer to him at that time than I am with most friends I’ve had in my life. Some of that is subject to the time in our lives when we became friends. Between 18 and 22 years old can be a big transition point, so generally the people you meet during that period are important to you. Hell, I met my wife, the person I am closest to and with whom I will spend my life with, in college. So, maybe the fact that we were so close was related to that, or maybe it was just because we had such similar personalities.
One of my favorite movies is Fight Club, and in the movie Tyler Durden talks about people you meet on an airplane. He says, they are “single serving friends”…people you make small talk with, smile, and after the flight, you say your goodbyes to and never see them again.
Jensen was and is my single serving friend.
However, we were friends for more than a plane trip. We had been friends for probably 3 years when we graduated college and, after that, we both went our separate ways. Phones, Facebook, and Myspace allowed us to keep in touch for a while, but our friendship started to unravel. Shortly after college, he met a girl, who I had never met, and quickly dropped off the radar. Calls would go unanswered, and Facebook posts were ignored. I tried and tried and tried, but it was to no avail.
At the time, it sounded to me like he was whipped, and I kind of resented him for this. Why would you ignore your friends, especially a close one, over the happiness of a woman? I was naïve to say the least. I mean, he deserved to find someone. He was there when I met my wife, and even helped me drum up the courage to ask her out in the first place. But, I worked to maintain our friendship even after my wife and I started dating. What gives him the right to abandon his friends just because he met a girl? Who does he think HE is?
Christ, I sounded like every butthurt guy that lost a friend to a female. I shrugged it off and moved on with my life figuring that when the time came, he would reach out. The truth was, however, it did bother me. It hurt to lose a close friend, but I soon moved on with my life as I assumed he did.
Over the next few years, I would get a random message or interaction with him on Facebook, but nothing more than that. I would try to call him or shoot him a text, but nothing ever came of it. Browsing online one day, I noticed that his marriage to this woman had ended semi abruptly. Part of me was elated when I saw it, but I also knew that it was most likely a very tough time for him.
I tried reaching out to him.
I finally wrote him off, figuring that we had gone separate ways in life and that was that. The friendship we created in college, no matter how close, was a distant memory.
From his profile it looked like things were going great for him. He was running marathons with his brother, he had a job, and seemed to be generally happy. I was glad he was able to move on from his failed relationship. I remember seeing what my parents divorce did to my mother, so the fact that he seemed to be prospering was a reassuring find.
About a year ago, I logged on to Facebook and had a memory of Jensen pop up. I decided to search him out and see what he had been up to. Ironically enough, I went to his page to see that he had recently killed himself.
I didn’t know how to feel. I hadn’t spoken to him in 10 years, but it still bothered me to think that maybe I could have done something more. Maybe he never responded because he was depressed. Maybe he didn’t have the friends and support group he needed. Maybe because of his background and religion. I’m sure his parents didn’t take his divorce very well, so maybe that had something to do with it. Or, maybe he had everything available to him to beat it, and he decided not to.
I never made the funeral, as much as I would have liked to; it just didn’t work out. I hadn’t really thought of him in 4 or 5 years, let alone talk to him, so showing up to a service where his family (who I’d never met) and current close friends didn’t feel right. Maybe going would have provided more insight or closure, something I guess I will never know.
This brings me back to Fight Club and the single serving friend. Maybe the times we had together, no matter how short, were all we were supposed to have. My life may have been completely different if I had never met him, and for that I am forever thankful. It’s strange to think that one of the conversations I had with him would unknowingly be our last, and that has made me appreciate every moment with every friend and family member I have in my life today.
I’ll never know what caused him to take his own life, and maybe nobody will. But, I do know that the piece of his existence that he gave to me is a memory I will never forget.