Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Year Without Seth

A year ago, I woke up on the floor of my friend Brian's house in Fullerton, California. The sun was already out, shining through the living room window and bouncing off of the various bottles and cans of beer around the room. The furniture was old, almost antique, and the pastel colors on the walls of the house made the morning feel extra lazy as I walked to get water from the kitchen. Our gear was still set up in the other room – we'd gone straight from playing to partying. C'est la vie. This was the first time that Love Moon had played outside of the Bay Area, the first trip that we'd taken to play music without Adam. We'd played at a bar in L.A. the night before, but this house show had definitely been more fitting for us. 

I reached for my phone under the couch that Charles was asleep on. One missed call and a text from Tyler, “Seth passed away. Call me when you're up.” Even though I'd known that this was coming it knocked me over. Seth was gone. I laid on the floor for a long time trying not to think. No one else was awake.

He'd been slipping away for some time, even before he'd been given just two weeks left to live. I'd said goodbye over Facetime, me in Oakland and he in Brooklyn, surrounded by friends who'd gone to see him. He'd lost a lot of weight. The cancer took more and more away from his presence of mind. He had little energy to spend, but he perked up when he saw my face and we both agreed, one last time, that Converge was a great band.

From the other side of the sliding glass door to the backyard the cat tapped anxiously. I let her in and stepped out onto the patio myself, taking a seat in a plastic chair where I waited for the others to wake. Hesitantly, I called Tyler and we cried a little with one another. I sent Paula a text saying that I was around all day, although I'm sure she would be busy with his family. It felt like a weight had been lifted in the worst way. I missed him immediately.

That day was slow. Charles and James mostly just left me to be quiet on my own. We watched a movie I can't remember and ate Del Taco twice. I felt like breaking down completely and hiding in my room but we had one more show in Pomona that night before we would head back to Oakland. Throughout the day I got messages of sympathy and condolences from friends. Later that night I played songs I'd written about him and about death to strangers. I heard from friends getting together in Chicago, where I'd met Seth. “Wish you were here,” they said. I wished that too.

This year I woke up once again to a world without Seth, but in the time I've spent without him I've understood exactly what his friendship meant to me. When we met in Chicago we were both in destructive phases of our youth, drinking and living recklessly. Hungry, lost and unsure of what exactly our futures looked like, we were challenging our own invincibility nightly.

Over time, against all logic, we grew up. He left Chicago for New York City and I left Indianapolis for Oakland. I saw him in Brooklyn on tour just one time and he spent the day with us, exploring the city and hanging out in Central Park. He'd fallen in love with Paula and he'd taken on a more serious nature. Aspects of his personality that were always there seemed highlighted in the light of his happiness - his skepticism, his compassion and his generosity. 

I'd never realized that anything could break him until he told me he had cancer. The confidence in his voice was gone, an uneasiness had settled in it's place. His frustration was clear. I wanted to help but couldn't see how I'd be useful, so I continued to call him whenever I had the chance. It was a long battle and he fought bravely against an enemy so grotesque in form, so cruel by it's nature. I was proud to know him. 

When he was officially in remission he was just as confused as me. Despite the enormity of the obstacles he'd faced we were now back at the same point. Neither of us knew what to do with our lives. He told me he was thinking about becoming a veterinarian, then realized he didn't have any interest in going to school or dealing with animals all day. I had no plan of my own. He pushed me to write more and asked all the time why I wasn't publishing anything. I told him I didn't know, but I think we both understood that I was scared and lazy. 

The remission didn't stick - it was a mistake, an oversight. The cancer had mutated and gone unchecked into his brain where it had plenty of time to spread damage and pain. When it was found out, time was up. I got the call that he had two weeks left, that he was no longer himself. His strength was gone so it was time for us to be strong for him. 

Seth was brash, but considerate. He had convictions and he wasn't afraid of standing up for himself or others. His loyalty was hard-earned but undying. A little insecurity, hidden under a tough exterior and counterbalanced with a tendency toward frustration. A conversationalist, always curious about others and honest about himself.

He loved to walk. Anywhere we'd go together he'd have this directionless determination, as though he couldn't help but hurry to get nowhere in particular. He got lost a lot. I even wrote about a specific time he got the both of us lost in an essay that was published a few years ago. He loved the piece and was so proud to be a character in a story, even though that story made him out to be aloof, at best.

He became a confidant for me, and I for him. We talked about big ideas like careers and finding love and where we wanted to live. We talked about smaller things like music and sports and what TV shows were terrible. Anywhere in the world, at any time of night, I'd get a call and hear him pronounce my first and last name, “Jordan Martich.” He was a big leaver-of-voice-mails, and no matter how busy I was I found the time to call him back when he needed to talk. I still think about calling him once a week.

We thought of each other as brothers and I'll always remember him that way. His passing hurt, but his life meant the world to me. Only now have I begun to understand that. Tell your friends and family that you love them today. Everyone deserves to know that they're not alone. 

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