I've been working on synching two databases; it's not difficult work, but it's not uninteresting, either. I flip over to my personal mail account to see if anyone has said hello. There's a message in my Diego folder. (I've never deleted the folder or the filters on my account.)
Annoyed that he's contacting me about anything, I open the folder and see the subject line: Some bad news.
Afraid that something has happened to one of his parents, I open up the message:
John B. was killed yesterday evening trying to help someone else. I found out about it in this mornings Globe. Sorry for this news. I thought people would want to know.
Also within the e-mail is a link to the article about John B.'s murder. He had run to the aid of someone outside his house, whose purse had been stolen. He went after the culprits, and one of them plunged a knife into his heart. He was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly thereafter.
John was supposed to meet the Mayor of Boston in that very park the next day to talk about cleaning it up. He took pride in the park, his house, his neighborhood. He was well-liked by his community. He was a singer and an actor and had left his 9-to-5 job to become a massage therapist.
He was also a friend of mine, when I was seeing Diego.
It's hard to say how I feel about this, other than very, very sad and very, very angry. I just don't know how to sort out why it's bothering me as much as it is. John was a terrific guy, and I liked him a lot. He was one of the first friends Diego introduced me to, and I spent a lot of time during the summer I worked box office for the theater where he had a role in a show. The theater is outdoors, so the actors often had to walk around the field to the back of the audience to make entrances. As the box office person, I would stand at the back of the audience until the show had gotten going, and John would hover around the background, in costume, and chat with me. About what, I can't remember. Probably gossip about the other actors, talking about the audience, or just shooting the breeze.
When the relationship was over, I lost touch with John. He was Diego's friend, not mine. I was the boyfriend and as such, our friends stuck with the "side" with whom they had started. I haven't seen or heard from John in over two years.
I don't understand why this has hit me so hard. Yes, it was a brutal crime, made even more so because he was trying to help someone out. I'd feel bad for anyone who had been murdered just outside his home in an attempt to do some good. But I feel it more deeply than that. I didn't know anything about John beyond what can be said in casual conversation and over dinner. I feel as if I don't have a "right" to get emotionally involved in this.
I've never been a fan of borrowing grief. When someone hears about a tragedy that has happened to a person they've met once or twice, or knows about through mutual acquaintances and then goes on to talk about how he feels terribly, awfully distraught over the whole incident, I wonder why he is turning the situation back to himself. I've been through a lot of deaths of people very close to me; I somehow feel it's disrespectful to borrow someone else's grief. Feeling sad is one thing; everyone feels sad about a terrible event that's happened to someone they don't know, or don't know very well, but for this to affect me in the way that it has is completely out of character for me.
This isn't my story. This isn't my loss. John was someone I liked very much, but I didn't know him these past couple of years, and I honestly never expected to see him in any social way ever again.
When anyone has asked about my day, I've reported on John's murder, but I've tried to emphasize that he wasn't a close friend; that he was Diego's friend and I only socialized with him while I was in that relationship.
But I've been feeling a hard tug inside of me all day long, and somehow that seems inappropriate.
As The Fabulous Robert always says, "It's not about you." This isn't about me. This is about a good man who was viciously slain while trying to come to the aid of someone in need. This is about letting his family and friends know that he was well-liked and well-respected.
I feel for his partner, his family, and all his friends. Right now, the thing for me to do is send the appropriate sympathies to the people who are truly affected by this loss and then be quiet.
Rest in peace, John.