Some of you reading this may have known Mark, and in knowing Mark, probably know how i knew Mark. For those of you who don't, this is Mark St. Louis as I knew him. We met in the fall of 2010, at the United World College of the Adriatic in Duino, Italy, and on our first encounter, he tried to fit me into a washing machine. In his defense, I asked him to, and in my defense, I just wanted a reason to talk to him and that seemed like a pretty good one at the time.
I think it’s safe to say that I think about you everyday, that despite everything, the memory of you hangs over me, keeping the grief and the grace muddled up in a foggy heap and sneaking its way into the littlest corners of my mind.
You know, I went through these past three years very successfully shutting you out- making the occasional courtesy phone call where you talked about science and I talked about feelings and we both put down the phone feeling a little emptier than we had before. It was cold, and harshly hollow, but it made me feel in control, reassured me that you could no longer sway me, that you and I had cut off and rooted independently of each other. In one of our last emails you said that we’d probably always love and resent each other in equal measure, and that we just had to be okay with that. Funnily enough, letting you go has also meant letting that resentment go. You raised me, and you may have broken my heart doing it, but you will always be the one that I grew up with, that I grew up for, and there’s no point pretending that I don’t love you intensely for that.
It feels odd to me, how it’s already been two months since that day and that phone call. I had just gotten done with my Saturday bakery shift and mindlessly checked my phone only to hit a slew of cryptic missed calls from every corner of the globe. My mind jumped to the first three people at the forefront of my brain, mentally checking in and pushing out prayers as my fingers hovered over names, trying to decide who I could bear to call back, who I wanted to relay to me, what I already knew to be very, very bad news. I called Nifemi and crossed all my fingers.
I never thought it would be you. You were the strongest, most ambitious human being I ever met. You spent a whole year shocking me with your grit, your drive and often, your downright aggressive desire to achieve, to be in control. You spent a whole year infecting me with all of those things, knocking me hard every time I sold myself short, every time I didn’t try hard enough.
My little brother is living in Fore now, across the room from where we first met. Every time i think of him walking those hallways, our hallways, I have to stop, distract myself with other thoughts- of how many loads of laundry I need to do tonight? Do we still have eggs in the fridge? When is that econ paper due? Those memories seem too cruel, too twisted in their retrospective fragility now.
I try to think of all the things we never said, all the things we left unspoken- in fact, I’ve decided that now that you’re gone, you must be able to hear every thought I think about you, and so maybe now, we’ll be more honest with each other than we ever were before. Before, we were tangled in expectation and responsibility and half-baked emotions and enough teenage angst to power the world. Now, you are somewhere, in the space in front of me, in the universe around me and I imagine you mocking me for all the things I telepathically say to you everyday. I carry your mocking laughter with me as I work on a new art project. I hold onto your intense gaze when I find myself settling, not pushing hard enough.
These days, I try very hard not to romanticize you. I try to stay true to who you really were, what we really were. I bet you’re getting a kick out of that, watching me squirm in all that I never got to tell you to your face.
Some days I just need you to know that I’m trying, that if there’s one thing you taught me, it’s to not let our minds fuck everything up, to not get caught up in disappointing myself and crippling myself. We were the same like that, right? Using self-punishment as a way to drive us further, push ourselves to work harder? I think we relished that, that we had it in ourselves to go above and beyond, to be super-people and on the fucking Forbes lists of the future.
I often have to remind myself that there’s so much that I don’t know about you, that in these three years, just the way I feel like I finally shed my milk teeth and grew into a real person, you did too. Every time I see posts from other people about you, the things they’ll miss most about you, they things they knew- I’m jolted with how much I never knew. It heartens me, that neither you nor I are or were defined by the experiences we shared, the opinions we had of each other. That you really were the brilliant, intensely intelligent and awfully passionate idiot that I remember you as.
I really don’t know how to say goodbye to you Marka. So this weekend, whilst your family is holding that memorial service at Brown, I will be holding onto every memory of you I have, painful or not, and hoping that by squeezing them tight enough, and replaying them long enough, they’ll hurt less, and the fog around you, and me, and us, and everything about the fact that you are no longer in this world will blur less. I will be reminding myself how far I’ve already come in accepting what you chose to do, and in accepting all the guilt and hurt and betrayal I feel for not understanding why you chose to do it.
I love you so much.