Well, it's only a few days until the Baltimore Con. All the comic-related blogs and news sites I frequent are unnaturally quiet leading up to this weekend. I can picture everybody hustling around, getting their stuff together and busily packing their bags.
Suzanne and I have never attended the Baltimore Con. The closest we've come was making the trip one August about three years ago to attend the HorrorFind Convention to see the author Michael Slade. See, the Baltimore Con usually falls on the same weekend we begin our yearly vacation at the beach. As I've posted before, Suze's family owns a couple of houses on the water on Harker's Island, NC and we usually spend a week there every year in September. I read and drink and she swims and gets sunburned. The past couple of years, Mike had stopped by in Richmond on his way up and had started leaving his car at our house and taking the train to Baltimore. It gave us the chance to buy him dinner and spend a brief evening with him before he went on his way the next morning. Last year, he was joined by his good friend Randy Green and the four of us spent a pleasant Thursday evening watching my beloved Dolphins get stomped by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Suzanne even baked us cookies.
Each year he tried to convince us to change our plans and take the trip with him. Each year we turned him down. See, my birthday is the 17th and our anniversary is the 11th. (Yeah, yeah. I know. It was OUR anniversary first.) We try each year to time our vacation so we can have at least our anniversary at the beach and sometimes we get lucky and get my birthday off too. But this year was going to be different. We had started talking about actually doing it this year. We've been taking the train to New York the last few years and having a blast. So we were thinking it might actually be fun to go to Baltimore with Mike. Hell, just the train ride up would be worth it since we'd get to spend a couple of uninterrupted hours with him.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Like so many other opportunities I had to spend time with Mike, this one too shall be missed. Instead, there will be a celebration in his honor, attended by his friends and colleagues. And rather than making the trip as planned, I will instead be driving down to Durham with my friend Christian Leaf to retrieve the last of Mike's things and begin the process of preparing the house for sale.
I've begun my second week of work since returning to Richmond and it's not getting any more interesting or any easier. At least a couple of times a day I see something "kewl" or interesting that I think Mike would enjoy and actually open an email window to send it to him before reality comes crashing in and I remember. Whenever I sent Mike an email, I always had an image in my head of him sitting at his table, the computer would ping and he'd turn to read what I'd sent him. Now, I see the house how we left it...shelves empty...beds stripped, closets bare...and no Mike. Sometimes I cry, sometimes not.
Mike wasn't just my brother, he was my friend, my protector, my idol and my mentor. We fought like cats and dogs growing up, especially in college when we took instant dislike to each other's girlfriends. But I always looked up to him. And, in the last 17 years or so, we both matured a lot and we became closer than ever. And I still can't believe he's gone.
I had planned on moving on to other topics by now. But every time I sit down with something in mind, it always turns to Mike. I can't get him out of my head. I don't know how you're supposed to deal with something like this. To quote a certain nearsighted Starship Captain, I've never truly faced death. And while I've never "cheated death", I've never before, with the exception of my Grandmother, had anyone close to me or even really so much as a casual friend die. Certainly not this young. This is new territory and I don't know how I'm supposed to be reacting. Writing it down here, whether anyone reads it or not, helps. But since this is a public blog, like leaving your diary open on a park bench, there's the risk that someone may read it and think, "Damn, this dude is nuts." I hope not. Because I don't feel nuts. I just feel sad and I want to get to a point where I'm not so sad anymore. And if airing this out in here in the open is how I get there, then so be it.
Next time, I PROMISE. Something fun. Just don't call the guys in white lab coats quite yet, okay?