Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Lost Hard Drive, Part One - Greg

I sit here, wanting to write something down, primarily because my hard drive recently exploded and five years of writing have been completely wiped out. Though I wish something like the death of a computer did not effect me as much as it does, I cannot help but feel a strong sense of loss after this mishap. So I sit, wanting to write something that might encapsulate those years of experience, those innumerable documents of a boy becoming a man becoming a disillusioned bastard. I want desperately to express what it is that fell away when I lost these files, these markers of the past me.

It is ironic to me, really, that I would be so distressed over such a thing. I have always prided myself on my acceptance of change, of the inevitable march of time and the bitter broken path it leaves in its wake. I have felt myself immune to the worries of most, believing instead that my interminable sense of logic and calm-headedness would carry me through any turmoil relatively unscathed. Perhaps I have been wrong all along. Misguided, deluded, call it what you will, perhaps all this has been merely a charade, a hardening of the skin to prevent further chaffing. It certainly seems now, reflecting upon this loss, that I have a much more profound attachment to my past than I am willing to admit to.

How does one summarize years of life? How does one categorize all the troubles that took place? How is it possible to explain the mindset of even one’s former self in times of dismay?

The times were not without their setbacks, certainly. Not without trouble and passion, twists and turns, the inevitable ups and downs and tragedies. Mo died, and I wrote. Greg died, and I wrote. Mike died, and I wrote. Maue died, and I wrote. And now, those writing are gone.

I once explained to an associate of mine that I found writing to be one of the greatest forms of therapy for me. Perhaps the single greatest, in fact. By putting to paper my feelings, by releasing those pent up angers and frustrations into ink, I could somehow cathartically let go of them. Somehow, I could move past them. If in my everyday life I was seen as cold, as distant, as over-logical and somehow inhuman, in my writing I contrarily appeared as overemotional, disturbed beyond normal bounds, and certainly a bit psychotic as well. To my friends and family, I did not show the majority of my emotions. To my computer, I expressed every heartache, every betrayal, every joy, every accomplishment, in the full range of my feeling. To risk sounding rather cliché, I poured my heart and soul into my writings; perhaps it left little to show the rest of the world. Perhaps that is why I was called heartless, perhaps why I was named soulless, by so many of my compatriots.

When Greg died, I remember how I reacted. I remember what I did, quite clearly. But never again will I be able to write with the full range of emotion which I funneled into my writing of that time. Never again will I be able to fully capture the extent of my pain at that tragedy.

When Dave told me Greg was dead, that he had killed himself, I felt my heart break. Literally, the pain struck me fully in the chest. As though a rib had spontaneously cracked, something in me snapped so fragilely. But instead of saying anything, instead of crying, instead of hugging Dave and expressing how much that loss meant to me, I smoked a cigarette, waited a few minutes, then got into my car and drove. I had been on my way to meet Jessica, whom I was dating at the time, and I was already behind schedule. So I drove, mind blank yet overflowing, until I reached the Towers. I parked my car across the street, walked across Fifth Avenue, up those 20 stairs to the courtyard, walking on past the students gather around outside, not seeing them but knowing they were there and looking at me nonetheless. I walked into the lobby, and out again the other side, out to the other courtyard, the “Ashtray” as it was called, for the mass numbers of smokers who congregated there at almost all hours of the night, and sat on the cold concrete bench beside Jessica. I barely said a word. I wouldn’t speak to her, couldn’t allow it. Couldn’t let myself spill out all the things I wanted to say, couldn’t let myself weep like I so strongly desired to, because she was just a person, she was not me, and I couldn’t expose myself to her like that. To expose myself meant to allow for trust. To allow for humanity. That was something I was unwilling to do.

So I sat, and when she asked me what was wrong, I said simply “Greg’s dead.” I’m not sure she even knew who I was referring to, for she had never met Greg, other that perhaps in passing for a few minutes – I doubt even that. And so I sat, knowing she didn’t know him, knowing she didn’t know me, and knowing that I wouldn’t let her. I sat, and she sat, and I wouldn’t look at her. I wouldn’t look at anything but the glass ahead of me, the 12-foot high window to the Towers lobby. I remember focusing so hard that my eyes were burning, I remember feeling as if I would melt the glass by sheer force of will, that enough anger and loss and depression was burning inside me that were I to let it out, it would demolish the entire city. Newscasts the next day would blame it on a terrorist’s nuclear weapon, if I were to unleash the pain so fresh inside me.

After 45 minutes, I stood, said “I’m going to go now,” and walked away. Back through the tower. Back through the Fifth Ave courtyard. Down those twenty steps. Across the street, into my car, and drove back to my apartment. I laid down, curled up on my bed, and stared into the darkness for hours. When morning came, I wasn’t certain whether I had slept or not. I didn’t go to classes for three days. Didn’t bother to e-mail my professors, saying I wouldn’t be there. Never bothered to explain my absence later. They were my professors. They didn’t deserve to know about Greg. They wouldn’t understand, and I wasn’t going to use his death as an excuse for missing class. So instead my absences were unexcused. Instead I bore my pain silently, knowing that no one I talked to could ever understand.

And a week later, I wrote. I wrote incessantly, for hours on end, I couldn’t stop writing. I wrote of the things we’d done together, of the late night runs to floor 13 to smoke weed, the two of us the only ones awake in the whole building, save perhaps the security guard on the first floor. I wrote of the times we sat, eight feet apart, writing to each other on Instant Messenger. Of discussing politics and philosophy and atheism and people. Of the stupidity of people, of their strange desire to over romanticize everything, to overreact to every slightest little incident. Of their ability to be so overly emotional and yet so unaware of the emotions of those around them. Of our hatred of “Dragonball Z.” Of race relations and global warming and fraternities. Of how life could be so much simpler, people could do so much better, if they would just calm down and take stock of the situation. If they were to stop thinking within their bubble for just a few minutes a day, were to think about the broader world, they could stop getting so upset about every petty thing in their lives and start helping each other out. Not some hippie ideal, some peace love and daisies bullshit, but simple, clear, logical methods to reduce stress and make human interaction more bearable. Of Damir’s love of “taking shits.” Of Meagan and Chelsea’s attractiveness. Of Ines’s unending ability to be happy in any situation that didn’t involve the possibility of death. Of life.

And the words poured out of me as if I wasn’t writing them. As if I wasn’t putting down my own thoughts, but rather trying to write for him. Trying to write down everything I knew of Greg. Trying to put every opinion, every thought, every personality trait, every drug experience, every short, loud laugh, into words. Trying to capture Greg’s soul, though he and I never believed in souls, and bottle it up with my a,b,cs… I was trying to write down Greg so that Greg wouldn’t be gone. Trying to capture him so that he could still be there, could still hang out with me, could still mock our mutual friends with me, so that we could argue for hours about the way people are, and the way life is, and the way the universe is, and at the end of it all run back up to the 13th floor to smoke a few more bowls. To drink some Goldschlager and swear like sailors over how shitty it was. To take a couple pills of dex and make profound statements that later turned out to be profoundly stupid. To go downstairs and outside the building together at four o clock in the morning, me to smoke a few cigarettes and him just to get away from programming for a while and talk to someone, and talk for an hour and a half about anything and everything that we could think about, me lighting another cigarette and another cigarette and neither one of us caring that we still had entirely too much work to do to be spending all this time outside talking. And then abruptly, without saying a word, I’d finish my tenth or twelfth cigarette, toss it to the ground and grind it out with the toe of my shoe, and we’d both turn and walk inside and back up the elevator and get back to work, never saying “time to go up,” just both innately knowing, feeling.

And that’s what I lost when my computer crashed. That’s what I lost when my hard drive blew up. I lost those pieces of Greg I’d written then. I have the memories now, still, the memories of how he and I were then, of how I was when he died, I remember the pain and the anger, I remember the friendliness and the similar quirky humor, but I don’t remember the words I wrote. I don’t remember what the angry, hurt, broken me wrote to comfort myself about Greg. I don’t have that memory anymore, because that memory was saved to disk, not to brain. The hours I poured into writing about Greg are gone because the files are gone. And though I can easily recall hanging out with Greg, can easily recall our late night chats and our later night drug forays, though I can swiftly bring to the front of my mind the pain and the resentment and the betrayal I felt that night Dave told me about Greg and the burning eyes when I sat there on that bench in the Ashtray, I can’t ever get back those words from the week after. That’s why I’m upset about losing my hard drive.


Part 1 of a series. More to come...

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