Monday, July 24, 2006

"I'm a Better Man Because He Was My Friend"

"Anuj never failed to see the good in me. He was the most calm, easygoing, and levelheaded person. I' m not sure I realize yet that I'll never hear his laugh again, this goofy bellow that would either make you smile or laugh in response, no matter how sad or angry you had been just before.

He was my friend from my first days in the house, lived next door to me for 2 years, and there are so many things I remember. His tone deaf singing competing with my limited vocal range to drive Cargol crazy in the other room. Going with him to see Wilco at the Avalon, and after the concert coming back to the house and raiding the fridge in the kitchen, listening to Wilco CDs on Bob Mac's stereo. His first few driving lessons in my Jeep, with Flo in the back seat and me riding shotgun, both of us encouraging him around the parking lot on the other side of the StarMarket. Chilling out in the TV room so often, watching SportsCenter, baseball, and football. The time we sat down to watch the All-Star Game home run derby at Fenway, realized it was happening only a mile or so away, rushed upstairs, grabbed our gloves, and ran to Lansdowne Street to be in the crush behind the Green Monster and witness McGwire's and Sosa's ridiculous blasts. The many weekend afternoon meals at Mandarin, Golden Donut, or one of the Indian places in Central Square, where he once demonstrated how folks back home use their hands to ball up curry and rice when there's no fork to be had.

His M.Eng. year he went home to India over the winter break, and brought back gifts for a bunch of us. On trains and planes, from halfway around the world, he lugged back a ceramic Laughing Buddha for me. Since then, every day I rub its belly on my way out the door, looking for all the good luck I can get. Tomorrow, and for some time after that, I know that's going to make me sad. Eventually, even though I'm always going to miss him, that's going to make me smile.

The last time I saw him was when I was out in the Bay Area for a conference last year. He showed me San Francisco, up and down the hills, beating up his car's transmission in the process. We walked out on the Golden Gate Bridge and hiked a little bit up in the Marin Headlands. We met up with Flo in Berkeley, she showed us the campus, and we snuck into Memorial Stadium. Somehow I convinced them to walk around Berkeley Hills with me, where my Zen exploring promptly got us lost, but of course Anuj only laughed about it. We ended up having dinner at a little restaurant near the campus. It never occurred to me that would be the last time I'd see him. If there has to be a final memory, though, that's an exceptional one.

About the only positive thing that I can come up with at the moment is that he's not really gone. I am a better man because he was my friend. The same goes for everyone who has known him. We each carry a bit of him with us, and that total sum is immeasurable."

- Scott

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