Today is Justin's birthday. In preparation for this blog this week, I've been thinking about him, and about those last two weeks of August, and how life has gone on in these three years since Justin passed. It's so many things: trippy, surreal, and everything else.
I thought about those two weeks in August of 2004 the other night when the Lunar Eclipse was happening. Almost all of it came back to me.
I remember the night Justin asked me to come by his house. He said he had some people coming over. I remember arriving a little late, and actually a little surprised that there were quite a lot of people in the house. Turns out that was the night Justin let us all know he was gonna stop fighting.
I do believe that it was not long after Justin's announcement that I got a call from Susan and Kristin. They called me from Justin's house, and Susan told me that I should come by because there's a good chance Justin could go. I rushed over as soon as humanly possible. Besides Justin's family, it was still only Susan and Kristin that were at the house. The rest of the night saw a a steady stream of people walk up the driveway and through the front door. It was like that every night til the end of August and into September.
Justin was baptized in his room at his house on either Sept. 2 or 3rd. I can't be completely for certain. But I was there in his room that morning. I also remember receiving a call at around half past six in the am of Sept. 4th. It was Kris. He told me that Justin had passed in the in the middle of the night.
Frances didn't think I should be driving, so my sister dropped me off at Justin's house. I remember it was Steven that I first hugged, and then I think any memory of who I embraced therafter, and what order just gets blurry.
The summer of 2004 was by far the most difficult stretch of time for me personally. I had an anxiety attack in April. Went to the hospital twice in three nights. The specifics of what got me to that point aren't embarrassing or stupid, but definitely something I just shouldn't have let get to me. I was 19, and I let my worries and doubts kick me when I was down, and couldn't pull myself up. But in the weeks that followed I began to get over myself, and my fears. That is until Derek died.
Derek died in a freak bicycle accident as he was biking in Almaden Valley in San Jose. I remember looking into Patrick's eyes the moment he told me. My brother's eyes were watery and red. He had just gotten off the phone with one of Derek's cousins, Christel. The last time I saw Derek was a month earlier when he invited Patrick, Bella, and I to the A's 2004 home opener. Derek worked for Ross, which was a sponsor of the A's. I don't know that they still are, but being a sponsor, Derek's company gave him four tickets to the A's opening night gala. Food was everywhere. I remember dipping some of the deserts into the chocolate fountains. I haven't missed an A's home opener since. I love, and I miss you Derek.
I remember telling a few people of my anxiety attacks. I remember telling Justin of my anxiety attacks. He told me how he experienced them. We talked about things. We talked about Mark's father recently passing away. I remember when I let Justin borrow my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vol. 1 dvd. It has the first few episodes of the original 80s-90s cartoon.
I remember back in 2003 when X2-X-Men United came out. Justin, Jory, and I saw it the day after it came out, on Saturday. It was at Mercado 20 in Santa Clara. The original plan was to watch it at around seven or eight o'clock. When I got to Justin's place to pick him and Jory up. Then Jory suggested we should wait til nine or maybe ten. He figured Mercado would be festered with teeny boppers. So we hung out at Justin's for a while. When we got to Mercado later that night, I realized Jory figured right.
The closing shot of of X2 is a crane/helicopter shot above Alkali Lake. There's a voice over of Patrick Stewart as Professor X, talking about rebirth or something other, as well as a faint image of a Phoenix. The whole closing moments of the film, Justin was whispering and repeating aloud and to me: "The Phoenix. The Phoenix."
To my knowledge, Justin wasn't that much into comics. But he did tell me earlier that he went to see the movie the previous night with some other friends. Oh well.
I also remember Justin and I going to see a screening of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen at Mercado as well. It was a late screening. Something around eleven in the pm. He fell asleep somewhere in the middle of it. But it wasn't like he missed anything good. I stayed awake, and I don't know how I didn't fall asleep either.
I remember an episode of the Simpsons, where Jacques, Marge's bowling tutor is trying to seduce her. He's getting ready in his bathroom, waiting to see her. Among other things, he talks to himself about the anticipation being better than the moment itself. Obviously, he's alluding to sex, but what he's saying is certainly true for most everything else. Justin's passing was so numbing. We all knew it was coming, and that impending sense of doom was the scariest. The anticipation. Every night in those last couple weeks, we left Justin's house saying our goodbyes to Justin like they would be our last words with him.
I don't remember my exact last words with Justin because I had so many. I do remember sitting around Justin's bed in the afternoon once. I'm fairly certain it may have been the same day as his baptism actually. I'm also fairly certain that it was Kristin, Susan, myself, and... I think I'm forgetting who else was there in the room at the time, but we decided to have story time. So as it turned out, I was the one who did the reading. I want to say it was the Cow over the Moon story. But I can't commit to that. I do remember reading it to everyone the way that a Kindergarten teacher would read to his/her students: read a page out loud, then show each side of the room the illustrations on the page I just read.
There's a lot of other things that I remember about Justin, and about that summer and fall of 2004. Derek was a family friend, and although his death was tough to take, and I wish he was still here, but my brother was closer to him than I ever was. It was a very difficult time in my life. Personally, Justin's death was like the climax in the third act of a story.
In these three years since Justin passed, there's hardly a day that goes by that I don't think about what could have been. I say that because it's hard to not think about the guy since I wear a yellow Livestrong wristband as well as an orange wrist band that bears Justin's name. The orange band also has the words: "Don't sweat the small stuff." Wish he could've told me that before I had my anxiety attacks. Oh well. =p
I could talk to Justin about any and everything: music, movies, comics, books, sports, news, whatever. He loved The Doors and Jim Morrison, Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, we shared a mutual affinity for movies, The Clash, and he introduced me to Texas Hold 'em, and Da Ali G show.
More often than not, after each time I've visited him at the cemetery in Los Gatos, I would start my car and either Nirvana or the Foo Fighters (the Kurt Cobain connection with Dave Grohl) would be on the radio, and I'd smile.
I woke up this morning to find my mom watching The Today Show. Matt Lauer was interviewing Ellen Degeneres in promotion for the new season of her talk show. Then I remembered Justin was an avid watcher of the Ellen Degeneres Show. I smiled.
I love you Justin, and I miss you. Happy Birthday my friend!