Active Voice: The Ache of Those Left Behind
by P. Kristen Enos
(Originally posted Oct 5, ’09. All rights reserved. Do not post or excerpt without permission.)
Back in July 4th weekend, I had attended the Anime Expo in Los Angeles. Where in previous years I usually attended alone, this year was different because I was part of the fan group who were there to celebrate the U.S. debut of the Japanese number one all female singing group Morning Musume.
Earlier in the year, I had connected with this group through jph!ip message board because of the Hangry & Angry concert that had taken place in April in Seattle. Trust me, on the surface, it was a very unusual group for me to bond with: devoted to the more ‘frank’ appreciation of women in Asian entertainment, sports and etc. from a mostly male perspective. But I had found a certain appreciation in the honesty of it all, and learned to focus on the elements that mattered to me, and to let live the elements that would ruffle my feminist feathers.
So I agreed to join the group that would gather for the Anime Expo event, which resulted in activities like hanging out at Hollywood’s In-n-Out Burger, a bowling alley and, of course, passing the time in lines for the various Morning Musume related events at AX.
During the bowling alley event, I had a very brief encounter with a young American man whose username was “Jabronisaur”. And that was how he introduced himself to me… So not being a person particularly chat room or message board-centric, I quickly moved on.
But a week after the event, when everyone had returned to their domestic and international homes, I discovered that while he may have been a bit of a Dude he wasn’t above issuing a public apology for something he ranted about. And that impressed me. I decided to use a new message board feature of leaving a “thank you” on his post but, me being me, I had quickly become distracted and moved on.
When I came back a couple of hours later, there was a big message on the board that had indicated he had been checked into the hospital with an urgent request for information from anyone else had become sick during the event. I quietly watched as post after post was made of people trying to offer their status of healthy vs. ill as well as constant comments of concern for Jab’s health.
Jabronisaur (a.k.a Tim Marks) fell into a coma and passed away on July 16th due to complications of rare pneumonia.
While I had no feelings of real personal loss at the news, I couldn’t help but absorb all of the messages and discussions between people who were devastated by his passing. After all, while it may have been mostly virtual, many of them had known him for years, some exchanging messages and chat several days and/or nights in a row. Comment after comment summarized his presence as being a genuinely nice guy. There were even several messages by people who wished they had met him given the outpour of care and grief that was public for all to see. (The link to the thread is here.)
The reaction reminded me of the overwhelming grief and pain related to the AIDS Epidemic that was at its height when I first became an activist in the last ‘80’s. But at least with AIDS, you usually saw the end coming. You could say good bye to people when they were still here.
But it’s such a different thing when you take for granted someone being there and suddenly finding out that they’re gone.
In the early ‘90’s, one of my best friends was a gay man named Karl and his best friend was a man named Dave. And no, we’re not using a pseudonym for “lover”. They really were just best friends. Karl was in his late 30’s and I think Dave was in his 50’s but they had known each other for decades and shared the similar experiences of coming out to the west coast to escape the Middle American small-town mindset towards gay men.
Because Dave lived out of town, I had only met him once in the several years Karl and I were friends, and I admit it was towards the end.
Dave had moved in with Karl to start a new life, and I had never seen Karl so happy to just have him around as a presence. On one evening when I had stopped by to take Karl out for some event, Dave and I chatted for only a couple of minutes but I could immediately tell he was definitely full of life with a very wry sense of humor. My one visual memory was of him holding up a brand new poster of shirtless men in jeans and remarking how tasty one of the asses looked. Definitely a man who loved men.
It was only a few weeks after that fateful meeting when I came home late from work on a weeknight and saw a message waiting for me on the answering machine. A very haggard sounding Karl said that Dave had suffered a heart attack and died earlier that day. Even though it was about 11 p.m. and I was exhausted and had to work the next morning, I immediately called him back to find that he was unsurprisingly awake, and offered to spend time with him if he wanted that. He took me up on the offer by stating that he just couldn’t stand to be there in the apartment alone right now.
So I walked right out the door, drove to his place to pick him up, and we spent several more hours just sitting on the beach and talking through the beginning of his grief. He had mentioned that he had a conversation with Dave a few nights before that Dave didn’t feel “right”. As a result, Dave had gone to the doctor to check it out. The doctor told him he was fine and sent him home. And then Dave had his heart attack the next day.
Because Dave didn’t have a significant other, Karl was left with the task of overseeing all of the funeral arrangements, and having to deal with Dave’s very conservative family. Karl made certain that Dave would be buried in a two piece suit that he would never wear when he was alive, but that underneath he would also wear raunchy underwear as Karl’s personal tribute. It wasn’t at all surprising why they were friends.
I honestly don’t think Karl was ever the same since then, and I had continued to know him for a couple more years before he moved away permanently.
The practical side of me has the philosophy that in the eyes of nature and fate, all humans are all worth the same. There is no preferential treatment of who lives or dies when it comes to major disasters, illnesses or accidents. It’s the human factor that starts to determine who is really more important in the terms of society and history.
Tim and Dave are not people of power, influence or any other lasting legacy that can be “tangibly” measured. But when you die, if you have at least one person who genuinely misses you for no other reason than you made a difference in his or her life by being there, then I think you’ve accomplished the highest achievement possible in this seemingly cynical and bitter world.