Shade Bio

Monday, August 13, 2012

Life Is Funny

Hello My Cherished Otherbeasts!

Life is funny. Sometimes it's "funny: ha-ha" and other times it's "funny: really-weird." Several years ago I was hanging out with a good friend of mine from high school and the topic of old friends came up. We were going through the people we adored, the people we tolerated, and the people we just downright didn't enjoy.

As we were sitting at the coffee house, musing over these topics of people, one name in particular came up. I was the one who brought him up. He was in my grade and I really didn't have any strong feelings about him because I never really knew him, but from my interactions with him, I felt like he was chauvinistic, arrogant, and egotistical. I think he used to be friends with my best friend David in middle school. We were all a part of the intellectual crowd and even in the chess club together, but I always had the distinct impression that he was irritated with me for being smart and being a woman. Being a smart woman. Maybe not, I didn't know him well enough. We called him John*.
(*Names have been changed to protect identities.)

I even remember having a class with John. It was an AP English class with Mr. Crumb* (whom every girl in the school had a severe crush on) and I sat right next to him. Whether he chose that, or I did, or it was the assigned seating, I have no clue; what I do know is that he used to poke fun at me most days. He'd belittle me, make me feel stupid, try and "one-up" my answers, etc. It got so bad that one day I couldn't take it anymore and my eyeballs started leaking. Mr. Crumb saw this and called me over to his desk. I remember the lights being off because we were taking notes or watching something, but I went over to Mr. Crumb's desk and stood there, silent tears streaming down my cheeks. He leaned on his elbows and motioned for me to come closer with his finger. I leaned over his desk, placed my elbows on it and looked into his face. He smiled gently at me, opened his desk drawer, and pulled out a single-wrapped, cherry flavored Lifesaver and handed it to me. I looked down at it and then back up at him. His mouth curved into a comforting smile and he whispered to me, "Don't pay any attention to that asshole. He's just trying to get to you. He's got nothing on you." I choked back a sob and smiled through my tears, even quietly giggling for a second. The depth of his sincerity and concern touched me and brightened my day. I hated cherry flavored anything, but I enjoyed every second of that Lifesaver because each minute it was in my mouth was one that I had direct evidence that Mr. Crumb cared, cared enough to tell me how it really was, and cared enough to even point it out to me.

I remember sharing this story with my friend at the coffee house and regaling her with the tormenting tales of John and how much I had despised him. She had a quizzical look on her face and so I stopped and asked her what was in her head. She paused for a moment and then said, "I think John died." I blinked. "What?" My heart racing a little faster along with my thoughts.
   "Ya, I think I remember hearing from some of my friends that he had died."
   "How? When? Really?" I asked, incredulously.
   "I can't really remember. I think it might have had something to do with a flesh eating bacteria, but that doesn't seem right." she responded, the chocolate-covered-kissed faerie freckles on her nose wrinkling in thought.
   "Huh. Weird." I mused, a bit saddened.

I didn't give it much thought because we all know how the Rumor Mill works. Someone starts off with a broken toe and through several people later they're in a body cast. So I just made a mental note to check it out later.

Well, later came one evening when I was rummaging through some of my old things. I came across a notebook that I had used for my Yearbook's signature pages, since the ones we were given had little to no room for "see you next year" paragraphs. Through the course of perusing it I came across several messages from old friends I had fond memories of and then stumbled across a scrawled section. It read:

"Your morals are all backward. You cry at Armageddon, and laugh at the Holocaust. You thought Steven Simpson* was cute. You thought you had a chance with Luke Goodson*. You like Cats, and you think you have a chance at being an actress. But you were kind of funny and sometimes smart."

It was then followed by a big, lopsided heart and the name, "John."

Right below that was a penciled-in box, the lines in coupon-dotted form fashion, with the words inside reading, "1 Just Kidding Point. Apply to any one of my above statements."

I stared at it a bit, chuckling to myself about what a mule he had been yet also being slightly amused at his sense of humor, when I remembered the conversation from the coffee house. I looked up and stared off into my wall. Could it be true? Was John actually dead? I walked over to my computer and sat down in front of it. I opened up Google and typed in his name. One of the first pages that came up was something old from AISD about scholastic achievement. He was, after all, our graduating class's Salutatorian. A girl, Robin Koester, had beat him out for the position of Valedictorian. I sort of felt this sense of odd relief wash over me for a few seconds because I hadn't found anything... before my eyes caught a headlining caption mentioning his name and "UT Remembers." A few more links down I found what confirmed it. An article, written back in 2004, by a student at UT... it read:
Daniel K. Lee*
University Wire
(Daily Texan) (U-WIRE) AUSTIN, Texas -- Two weeks ago, a 20-year-old former University of Texas student participated in the [fraternity's] annual Fight Night. Five days later he was dead.

[John] developed a severe sore throat which was not seen by doctors before he was put in the ring, said his father[...]. When his son was hit in the nose during a fight, doctors told [his father] that the blow opened a blood line, allowing the bacteria from the infection in [John's] throat to travel to the spine, causing spinal meningitis, coma and eventually death.

"Forty-eight hours after the fight he was in a coma," ...


I stared at my screen. The words burning into my retinas.

It was true.

Granted it wasn't flesh eating bacteria, but it was true. My brain immediately began turning circles. "How strange. How odd. How weird." 

I had, literally, just minutes ago, read the words of a now-deceased, former "frienemy" and (surprising the hell out of me) I was a little thrown off kilter. Words from beyond the grave.

"Should I feel something? Do I feel something? Do I feel sadness? I feel confused. Do I feel guilt? Should I have tried to make amends? Do I cry? That feels wrong. What do I feel? What do I do?"

I came to this conclusion: I feel sadness for his family, losing him to such a freak occurrence. I feel sadness for his life being cut a little too short. I feel remorse at never getting to really know him. Seeing as how I never really knew him however, I cannot truly grieve over his loss. I have no real reason to; but I can still mourn the loss of a human life - his life - John's life.

Here's my catharsis.

Life is so short. SO short. Someone I knew, someone my age... is dead. How is that even possible? Okay, yes, I know how it IS possible, but it just seems so strange. At any point in time, at any moment, someone you love/cherish/adore could be ripped from your fingers and out of this life. What I wouldn't give to discover the secrets of immortality... but that's how life is. Life is life. It deals us a hand and we can either play it or fold. Well, I suppose life is more like "Go Fish," you play for a while... and then you run out of cards. Either way, its entirely too short to take for granted the people in your life. If you love someone, tell them... don't wait. If you want to get to know someone, then do it. If you cherish your friendships, make an effort to keep them alive. If you value your own life, then take care of yourself.

To all of my friends and loved ones... I love you. I cherish you. I think you are the best thing since sliced bread. I'm not always around all the time because life is life, but always know that I cherish our relationships. Each one of you.

To everyone else: "What I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that though I do not know you and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you."

Live for today.

Until Next Time,
<3 Shade


  1. Hi there. I stumbled across your blog post when I was googling my brother's name. I just came back from my mom's house, and meant to take a picture on my phone of the picture I took of Nandi before he went to Senior prom, so I could post it onto Facebook tomorrow, in remembrance. You see, tomorrow is Nandi's 30th birthday. Or, at least, it would have been if he had not died a horrible, painful, terrifying death nine years ago.

    No, he did not die of some flesh eating disease, but my "ass hole" brother did die because while in the hospital for the bacterial meningitis that he contracted fighting in a CHARITY boxing match at UT, the nurses forgot to put him on dialysis, so he went into septic shock.

    He spent his last hours terrified, as a horrible disease ravaged his young, strong body faster than medicine could help, and ended up being poisoned by his own blood because some lazy nurse FORGOT to do her job.

    Nandi may have been a smart ass, and he may have been a loud New Yorker (which made him stand out in Texas), but you're right: You didn't take the time to get to know him. Who did Nandi think was cute? Who did he think he had a chance with? What did he like? What did he think he had a chance at being when he grew up?

    So, not knowing anything about him, I find it funny that you feel you can say you are "SURE" of so much. Nandi valued his friends, and life, and having a laugh. He didn't care about school, but he was naturally brilliant. The fact that he was able to be second in his class when he didn't do shit speaks volumes. There were tons of other kids who worked their asses off and still couldn't compete with his intelligence.

    You're "sure" it got under his skin that he came in second to a female? Wrong. You think he was irritated that you were a self-proclaimed "smart woman"? Wrong. Nandi grew up surrounded by smart women. It seems like you have a bit of a victim complex. If you felt that his answers in class "one-upped" yours, then maybe you should have been a "smarter woman", or gotten over your obsessive need to take to heart what the kid sitting next to you said.

    What Nandi had was a dry, sarcastic sense of humour, which the people who DID take the time to get to know him loved. What you, yourself, found yourself "amused" at when you finally took the time to pull your head out of your ass and read that yearbook passage. Everything was a big joke with Nandi, and he obviously took the time to listen to, and pick up on things you said.

    The people who actually knew Nandi loved him. Like his best friend, and your apparent one-time crush, Stephen Smith. Like all of the other people from your class who sat, for 48 hours, in a hospital waiting room hoping he'd come through. Like all of the other people from your class who came to my mother's house to spend the day reminiscing about Nandi on the eve of what would have been his 30th birthday, over nine years after his death.

    Nandi was a lot of things to a lot of people, but above all, he was an amazing friend. A loyal friend. A good person. Someone who could crack up a room, but also talk a hurting friend off a ledge.

  2. I'm glad you got comfort from the line Ron gave you, but I can certainly tell you that he wasn't telling you "how it really was". How it "really was" was that Ron and my dad taught English together for years at Bowie. How it "really was" was that Ron had known, and loved, Nandi since he was a little kid. And what that "really was" was a line to get you to stop crying, down to the stash of Lifesavers he always kept in his drawer for moments he had to deal with over-emotional teenagers (which was quite often). Ron was a charmer - which is precisely why so many girls had crushes on him. And, to save you googling, Ron did die in 2003 or 2004. I can't remember if it was the fall or spring semester of my senior year, but I can remember finding out in my first period English class, right as we were meant to start Faust - one of Ron's favourites. And I can remember calling my father, and hearing Nandi wailing in the background.

    That is how people normally respond to death. Not with laughter or savoring the news.

    Your final thoughts really seal the deal on how self-centered your post makes it seem you were back then, and apparently still are:

    Did all my years of disliking this person lead to this fate?

    No. All of your years of disliking Nandi just led to you being full of bitterness. You and your feelings about him did not, in any way, shape, or form, have any sway with the universe.

    Do I laugh?

    You could, but the fact that that even crossed your mind as a reaction is fucked up.

    Do I savor this final comeuppance at the hands of fate?

    This isn't just wrong, it's severely, psychotically fucked up. You might want to talk to someone besides the internet if, upon hearing of someone's horrible death, you wonder if you should "savor" it.

    Plus, what do you mean this "final comeuppance at the hands of fate"? That's redundant. That's like saying, "Do I savor this final fate at the hands of fate?" It seems like it wouldn't have been all that difficult to "one-up" your answers in an English class.

    In closing, thank you so much for your ignorant post. I suppose that is the magic of the internet - anyone with a keyboard can proclaim to the world just how fucking stupid and self-centered they are. I am so glad that I found this while looking for something about my brother, because in the sadness I was feeling, thinking of how different life would be if he hadn't died (I'd still have a brother, my dad wouldn't have killed himself a year later because he couldn't live with losing his son, etc.), I needed a good laugh.

    Because that's what this post is: laughable. And the outpouring of love that I witnessed today just goes to show that the people who took the time to get to know him have no remorse - only good memories of a beloved friend who was taken from them far too soon.

  3. I am truly sorry for the loss of your brother and I apologize if my words were harsh or callous - they were written many years ago when I was a miserable person and there is no excuse for that.

    Obviously my post upset you or you wouldn't have responded, but this is an expression of my personal opinion, not fact. I never took into consideration that a member of his family might read it and that it might come across as being insensitive, and for that I am truly sorry.

    If you would take a step back and look at this article objectively you'd see that I'm actually thanking him for a perspective shift; even after his unfortunate passing he still managed to influence and change my thought process, which only attests to his character you tout.

    I did not know him the way many others did. I lament never knowing who he was as a person, as a friend - I can tell you that I tried at least - but I stopped trying after a while; I'll always regret that because I'll never have another chance. That's how your brother changed my line of thinking. Your brother's death obviously affected me because I took the time to write about it.

    I am sorry if my words hurt but in no way is that any kind of excuse or reason to try and dissect me as a person. You have no idea who I am or what I am like, how life has or hasn't changed me, who or what I've lost in the process, or what kind of person I am now.

    I have done what I believe to be right and changed the names in this story so that they cannot be tied to any real person. I have also removed a few insensitive things and kept the original intent of an inspiring message that your brother taught me, even after his death.

    You have my sincerest apologies and I am sorry for causing you pain. There is no excuse for my insensitivity, unkindness, being unsympathetic, or being inconsiderate, and I can only promise in the future to never repeat that action. I am sorry for the loss of your brother and father, you have my deepest condolences. I hope, in time, you can find it in your heart to forgive me. My apologies to you and your family and God Bless.

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  5. Death is such a funny thing.

    It makes instant heroes and immortalizes the great things we remember about a person - especially for the family.

    But what of those people who are left behind with less-than-positive memories of someone? Doubtless, Ms. Cavallaro, you experienced difficulties in school - probably at the hands of a tormentor. I'd feel pretty safe to say we all experiences bullying in school. I know I did.

    I can fully understand and empathize with your sensitivity to people "bashing" your brother, especially with his current inability to defend himself. It sounds, though, as if there was at least one girl who didn't appreciate his sarcastic humor or the way he would "one-up" her. Keep in mind, though, Ms. Cavallaro, that you weren't there. You were not with your brother at all times, so there may be more than a few people with a distasteful experience.

    Everyone dies. Eventually (though I do my best not to dwell), my grandmother, my mother, my father, my sisters and brothers, friends, everyone WILL die. That and taxes, right? The way your brother passed is tragic, indeed.

    However, the anger you feel toward your brother's unexpected, sudden death shouldn't be directed at girls he bullied in high school who are expressing their latent opinions. From your angle, your brother is a saint. In Shade's memory, he represents something else. I imagine upon my demise, I'll have some people on the fence, too.

    You can't fault someone for experiencing and working through the complicated emotions that arise when someone we know dies - especially if that person was responsible for daily pain in our life. Vindication? Sorrow? Regret? Joy? There's no telling what kinds of emotions blip through our radar in the half second we learn tragic news like this.

    Obviously, news of Nandi's death gave Shade enough pause to reevaluate the way she feels about life. As all deaths usually do, they make us appreciate the life we have. Perhaps, in some backwards way, Nandi's final act for Shade was to make her stop and think. That alone is cause enough to be grateful for Nandi's life... that he could still touch someone in a positive way, even if that someone cried because of him at one time.

    So perhaps take a breath, take a step back, and realize that there are always two sides. There's nothing anyone can say to take the pain of losing a family member, but that family member is responsible for their own behavior while they are on this planet - and it seems his behavior towards Shade was less-than-stellar while they knew each other.

    So let Shade have her memories, Ms. Cavallaro. You keep yours, and maybe the memory of the real, fallible, imperfect, careless, loving Nandi will prevail.


    **comment edited because I spelled your name wrong, Ms. Cavallaro. Sorry!