Over the last week I learned of three deaths.
One was a guy named Bob Marsh, a history teacher I had in high school, who retired the year I graduated. He was a good teacher, a science fiction fan, the county archeologist for 30 years, and a crusty old coot in the best sense. He celebrated his retirement by riding his motorcycle through the school’s main hall on his last day of full-time work. I’ve read that he died of lung cancer, but if I learn he really died in mysterious circumstances in a Tijuana bar, I will not be entirely surprised.
Another was a guy named Dave Pasquarelli. I worked with Dave at Kinko’s in the early ’90s; he was the other typesetter, a tall, lanky, bald and flamboyant guy of seemingly boundless energy. Dave left Kinko’s shortly after I did to come out to San Francisco. After I got here I found he’d become part of a fringe activist group that believes HIV has nothing to with AIDS and anything that says otherwise is deliberate deception borne of homophobia. I would have liked to have seen Dave, but not to get into that debate. Last week, I learned that he died in March of last year—complications from HIV, of course.
Many of you’d already know or guess who the third one was: Jacob Schmid. I can’t say I knew him well, since (probably also like many of you) I only knew him online. I “met” musewoozle and his character Ashentaine in such different contexts that I didn’t put them together for a while. I understand depression, but I’m not sure I’ve ever understood suicide as a response to it. I’ve faced moments where I couldn’t bear to see life continue as it was and couldn’t think of a way to make it better. Yet, to me it’s self-evident that death is the only state from which, definitionally, life cannot improve.
The month’s earlier funk snapped into greater focus for me before I heard of any of these deaths; now I find myself at a peculiar distance, analyzing my analysis. I’ve been dwelling on mortality.
Now, I know I’m hardly decrepit from age. I’m old enough, though, that the differences between my self-image—which settled comfortably around 21—and my physical self are hard to gloss over. I have a few too many grey hairs, a few too many nondescript aches, a few too many worries about teeth and eyes and skin. A few too many reminders that I’m 16 years past that self-image.
In 1999, I was living on my own, working at what I’d thought would be a career position (at least until I had a writing career). Six years later, and I’m back in a housemate situation, working as a contractor and remaining in debt. What? Shouldn’t I be married by now? Shouldn’t I own a house? Shouldn’t I have written a best-seller? Shouldn’t I have a stable career? Shouldn’t I have taken a few months off to bum around Mexico or Canada or Europe? When will it be too late to do these things? We like to say that it’s never too late—but in truth, at some point, it is too late, and we never know when that point is.
I’m not really sure where all this musing leads me. I’ve joked every so often about selling everything and becoming an expatriate. Of course, Casablanca is not the town it once was, coastal Mexico is getting pricey, and Havana is right out.
But who knows. Maybe it’s not too late, yet.