Tuesday, July 31, 2012
"To keep silent about this amazing happening deepened this shock for me. It made Finny seem too unusual for—not friendship, but too unusual for rivalry. And there were few relationships among us at Devon not based on rivalry " - A Separate Peace
A friend of mine, Mitch Andelmo, died early Monday morning, late Sunday night, however you want to look at it. A story had come out earlier that evening, I had been reading about it, about a car driving through a barricade and straight into the crowd at a street festival. I, all of us, most people, didn't know that the two people in critical condition were Mitch and his girlfriend. Then the little poison tentacles of rumor started going around facebook, popping up through the cracks. Some accident, Mitch in the hospital, vague uninformative posts between friends asking others to keep them updated. Then one moment when the facebook info was sort of aligned, every one synced, waiting, a climax of tension, and a rolling down hill, the slow descent as the word started going round that he was off life support, and finally it was over. I've never witnessed a facebook death before. The experience is still haunting me. Haunting is probably a terrible choice of words here, huh?
I met Mitch for the first time at Wells' birthday party a couple of years ago. I had gone with Camilla and Christine, because I wanted to meet Wells after knowing him only on FB and twitter. That was also the first night I met Esti, Steve, and Kate. So actually, sort of an important night. Mitch was the guy in a brown corduroy blazer, with a rainbow scarf and a gold vintage rose pin. I thought he was gay. We talked about books, language, and danced to ELO and I was smitten completely.
Everybody was smitten with Mitch, he oozed a kind of playful teenage sexuality, this combination of athletic energy and popularity, but with a good dose of damage that made him real and accessible, you wanted to rescue him and aspire to him at the same time. He was beautiful, and I don't mean that in some "everyone's soul is beautiful" way. I mean, he was one of those people that are incredible to look at, and to watch. He cultivated the look of a 70s gay porn star fluffer, he retained an innocence that made him even dirtier. He was sexy in a Our Bodies Ourselves way, both weirdly healthy and filthy at the same time.
Maybe it's inappropriate to talk about how sexy a dead person was? It's impossible not to mention though, because he was so physically There all the time. He inhabited his body with 100% presence, he used every muscle and cell like...not machines, but like he was made up of moving horses. It was amazing to watch because he also punished his body as cruelly as any Russian novelist, he poisoned it over and over again, then pushed it hard as it could go, as if daring the rest of us to even try and be as reckless and uninhibited.
Every time he saw you, he was happy to see you, and there was so much genuine joy in the way he looked at you or hugged you, genuine interest in what you were saying. In a hipster scene full of judgment and gossips, and frankly a lot of unworthy petty people, Mitch didn't give a crap. My friend was remembering a time in his life when he spent too much time drinking in Tremont bars, and being a snarky smartass drunken jerk. He said Mitch was the guy who you never caught looking at you like you were an asshole. I understand that feeling, I collect assholes as friends too, I look over discourtesies I shouldn't if you're smart enough and interesting, because being smart and interesting is more important than being nice all the time, and Mitch was the same way with people, he just wanted you to be interesting and fun and if you were sweet and kind also then great but if not he forgave you. Because what he wanted was also forgiveness, for being as smart as he was and fucking it up. He fucked up a lot. He didn't fuck up other people, he just fucked up his own life, but he knew it. It was one of the first things he told me about himself, that very first night, what a fuck up he was. It's easy sometimes to think that sincere people are simpleminded or naive, because you can't understand their love for the world when the world is so obviously unlovable. But Mitch loved us because he needed out of his own head, to be rescued with other people's thoughts, and he was grateful for that, and that gratefulness came through in every one of his hugs.
He was so smart. He was quick witted, and tossed logic around like it was cat toy, pulled wonderful glowing ideas and phrases from his brain one right after the other. He was Phineas, you wanted to hate him for being so smart and pretty and decent, you wanted to come up with petty criticisms, to condemn him for his drinking or his silly hipster clothes, or his mustache cause you know, mustaches, whatever. You wanted to pull something out to feel superior, so that you wouldn't be aware of how little you shined next to him. You just couldn't. He transcended criticism or rivalry. You just had to accept that you liked him immensely, despite him being smarter and prettier than you.
He kept inviting me to parties, to bars, and I wouldn't go, I would give excuses and say "maybe". I wanted to see him every time, but I felt like I wouldn't fit in with the rest of his friends at all, and I would justify it like "it's a party, he won't even notice" and then he would text me the next day asking why I hadn't come. I feel terrible about that now, that maybe he never knew how very much I liked him, and that it was just the rest of the crowd that drove me away. And that I missed actual time with him, those minutes and hours that he kept offering me and I kept turning away because of my own insecurity.That was stupid of me.
When I heard he was in the hospital from an accident, before I knew any details, I assumed he had been on his bike drunk, without a helmet. Because the flip side of being so exuberant was the side of him that never wore a helmet, and got much too drunk, and hurt himself all the time. I wasn't the only one who thought that, a couple people had reactions of "this is why you have to wear a helmet", and while it was unfair of us, it was an easy conclusion to jump to and he would agree. What I find amazing about the way Mitch's narrative ends is that he spent so much time on a bike being irresponsible and putting himself on an absolute path towards a cautionary biker versus car tale, but in the end, even on foot, the cars got him. He was a cat who went through his nine lives, escaping and slipping away in the nick of time, only to have the enemy get him completely by chance. In a stupid, meaningless, random death. I know death will be meaningless for most of us anyway, but I'm angry because he deserved a death with meaning, even if he didn't think so.
A lot of people have been expressing condolences and telling me how sorry they are despite the fact they didn't know him. I appreciate all of that, but I was just a friend, not even a super close one. It's his family and close friends that need the support, and one way you can do that is to go send a donation to help with his funeral costs, please. http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4023733094/efblike
edit: my heaviest condolences to the friends and family of the second man killed in the crash as well, which I didn't hear about till this morning. It's humbling to know there is an entirely separate circle of people in this city also in mourning. There is also now a medical relief fund set up for Constance, Mitch's girlfriend who is alive, but severely injured. http://www.indiegogo.com/constanceP
Posted by Bridget Callahan at 1:10 PM