A strange thought popped into my head this morning as I was driving. I had iTunes on shuffle in my car. Santa Monica by Everclear came on, and I did a bit of time travelling.
A guy I went to uni with introduced me to Everclear.
Hang on, that’s not where the story starts. I went to a party to celebrate finishing school. It was at a friend’s house – I don’t actually remember who’s house it was, but I remember what I was wearing?! There was a bouncy castle there and a few people I didn’t know, some I did. It was a very strange selection of people in hindsight. Anyway, I believe I was drinking Malibu and coke. Oh gateway alcohol how I loved you then and despise you now! At least it wasn’t Hooch I suppose.
Towards the end of the party, I was speaking to this really cool guy. He had ginger hair and played the guitar. He was a little abrasive and was desperately trying to chat up a very drunk girl I’d known for years. I was quite shocked how she’d been there in my life for so long and I had NO IDEA what she was actually like as a person until that night. He was full of ideas of what he was going to do and I half-listened (Malibu). I remember thinking “Ack – university?” because I was going to college, to do art. I was going to do something I loved, chase the dream.
Fast forward a few weeks and my grades were upside down. Turns out I was pretty good at science and underappreciated in art. I am kidding – I wasn’t the right type to do art. I was and am not cool enough and I’m too uptight!
So, I did the last minute university application, made rash decisions for what I would study and where I would go. I know, I was a fickle hypocrite. Those decisions changed my life.
On my first day, he was there. He hadn’t told me where he was going to uni, just what he was going to do. So it was a pretty strange coincidence since we had both moved away from home and ended up in the same place. We were polite to each other, but we weren’t friends – he was too cool for me.
Had he subliminally planted the seed in my head for which course I would choose to do?
In the second year, my housemate confessed she had a crush on a girl two roads down. Naturally, our household of four was immediately involved in all sorts of convoluted plans to woo this girl. One night, we were dragged to this girl’s house for an impromptu party. He was there. Turns out, he was best friends with the object of my housemate’s affection.
There are a lot of coincidences here aren’t there? I’m not done yet.
He and I were left talking about music. He played the guitar and played an Everclear song. I said I liked it, so we went to his room to listen to some more. Calm down, nothing happened! He made me a tape – yes, a cassette tape! I still have it. I decided that night that I had a major crush on this cool, talented guy who seemed to be completely comfortable in his own skin. This is something ridiculously attractive to me, mostly because it has taken me a very long time to almost get there myself.
So from then, we were friends. Not close, but we would stop and chat and our different friend circles merged a bit as a result. In fact, thinking about it, he’s probably the reason I met my coolest boyfriend ever. Blue hair, skateboarder…shame we were totally different.
He ended up repeating his second year, so we fell out of sync.
Years later, I went to a country fayre and heard some interesting music from one of the beer tents. I stopped to listen. As I scanned the lineup on stage – there he was. I didn’t think any more of it.
A few more years later, I was at a gig closer to home. It was one of those proper dark with a sticky floor places. It was great, not sure it’s still there…I was there with my boyfriend and a friend. I looked up on stage and there he was! I was still there when they finished their set, so I called out his name. He came over and gave me a big hug and we caught up for a bit. After that, he sent me a friend request on Facebook. This then led me to find out that we had an unlikely Facebook connection – turns out he was a childhood friend of my best friend and they had lived around the corner from each other.
That was the last time I saw him.
He killed himself. He went to the beach one very early morning, and shot himself in the head. He was found by someone walking their dog.
When I found out, I was shocked and upset – understandably. This guy kept popping up in my life. And he had influenced me in all sorts of little ways. But it was over.
It wasn’t until this morning though, as I listened to Santa Monica, that I wondered whether I’d influenced him at all. Which made me consider whether there was anything I could have done, said or changed which would have let him know the impact he had and continues to have on me. That I still think of him.
This sounds selfish. I’m not going around thinking about what people can do for me. It’s more that I don’t give myself enough credit to think that the things I say or do have a significant impact on other people. This is a bit of a perverted inversion really. I mean, I am the star of my life – so why don’t I give myself that importance? Sometimes I am genuinely surprised that people remember me. Never mind when you find out other people have been talking about you when you’re not there. The whole concept of people’s lives going off and continuing their own strands which sometimes cross over or intertwine with yours sort of blows my mind.
This guy probably didn’t think he’d had any effect on me. I don’t know how I could have meaningfully demonstrated it back to him.
He isn’t going away for me. And now, instead of just affecting what music I listen to, he’s also influencing who I am as a person – hopefully for the better. That’s an amazing gift for him to have given me.
And he didn’t even know.