I don’t recall how Peter and I became friends. We must’ve struck up some conversation at school, is the only thing I can think of, and quickly found out we had similar interests. Peter is the guy who I used to call up on a Tuesday evening after the latest episode of Babylon 5 aired, and talk abut the episode, speculate about further plot details, and share our amazement of its then cutting edge FX.
Peter was adopted. He never talked about this situation apart from on one occasion where we were pranking each other that we were both secretly aliens. Of course, being adopted was great backstory material.
As time went on, Peter and I got more intensely interested in writing. We used to meet and flush out story outlines for hours, discussing main plot points, charachters, cultures, technology (most of them were science fiction stories, of course) and story arcs. Peter had a natural talent and I enjoyed listening to him flesh out an idea from nothing.
Quite often our imaginations would be fired by some news of this new technology called The Internet. I had been given a 14.4k Apple modem and would excitedly chime “Let’s try to get on the internet!”. Hours passed, and we would still be waiting for a beta of NCSA Mosaic or later Netscape Navigator to download, and feel frustrated when all we got was a blue box where a gif header image should be.
14.4k was becoming slow even by standards of those days.
Peter and I didn’t stay friends for long after school. We went to different colleges (and were in different year groups - he was a year older than me). We did meet up a few times. He’d gotten into the madcap humour of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. This kind of humour was beyond me and I didn’t understand why he was rolling around, creased double on the floor at the absurdity of it until much later on in life.
I don’t know how we came to meet the last time. Perhaps we saw one another in the stret whilst Peter was at Cardiff Uni, and I was working in a recruitment office nearby.
By that point we had not seen each other in a year or two. Peter seemed distracted. There was no absurd laughter, no jollility, and scarcely a mention of the things we used to enjoy.
Looking back, I have to wonder if this wasn’t a silent plea for help. He clearly wasn’t himself. I think now, perhaps that wasn’t due to his occupation with his studies, his involvement with some relationship or whatever else.
Instead, was it an absence of anything that he might have otherwise been occupied with. I know from personal forays into feelings of depression, it’s the absence of anything rather than a struggle to find common ground that results in these unhealthy silences.
“As you know, we don’t have Peter now”, his adoptive mother said to my mother when she met her shopping. Again, a shielding, or an absence of emotion, similar to Peters, I thought.
Peter’s gone. But I wonder regularly, if not daily, if I could have done anything to change his mind. I didn’t speak to him about my faith after he expressed contentment with his Catholic heritage. Would that have made any difference? I didn’t breach many personal subjects with him. I didn’t even keep in touch. Was that neglectful of me?
I wsh I could talk to him again, if only just to ask him, “Why did you choose that path?”, to try to understand what it was that made him take his life.
My father thinks that individuals tend to be more compassionate after a bereavement. That the harrowing experience of losing someone makes you see our temporary situation for what it is, and are more appreciative of friendships and relationships we have because of that.
I really hope that I can value this experience, use it to become more compassionate, more understanding, more empathic, towards those I encounter. And less wasteful of the very limited time we have left.