Rest in Peace, Jimmy

December 16, 2010

DISCLAIMER: This was originally written on January 14th, 2010 after the death of a friend. I’m just putting it on here so I don’t lose it.

When a person you know dies, you wonder what kind of impact this will have on your life. Obviously, when it is someone that is close to you that passes on, the impact can be quite significant. But what if it was someone who wasn’t close to you? Someone you may have known for a long time but would never consider one of your nearest and dearest? I found myself pondering this question when I received the news earlier this morning that one of my high school classmates had died in a car accident the previous night.

To classify him as only a high school classmate would be simplifying it a bit. We had been in the same class since I left the protected environment of private school and entered the public school domain in 5th grade. He was in my homeroom (Mrs. Rodas’ class) and was your regular big, doofy white kid from a small Pennsylvania town. Although academically we were always on different levels, homeroom and the general classes (gym, swimming, health, etc). had us spending enough time together to become pretty good friends.

One moment that stands out particularly in my mind from the thousands of interactions I’ve had with him was when we took a class field trip to Ellis Island in 5th grade. Coolio was the hottest artist that year and his single “gangsta’s paradise” was his crowning achievement . Since this was the age before iPods, the only portable device any of us had for listening to music was a walkman. Each person was trying to outdo the last with what tape they had brought with them on this long trip into the city, and my friend had trumped us all when he answered the question: “What do you have on your tape?”

“I have Coolio’s Gansta’s Paradise back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I taped it off the radio and looped it until the whole tape was full”.

Instantly he had the hottest tape on the field trip and we all had to grumble and accept it. Luckily I was assigned as his field trip buddy so I could easily listen to the hottest song of the year over and over and over again to my hearts content. We had a great time that day, cracking jokes, walking around Ellis Island and listening to Coolio’s masterpiece. It may have even been that trip that cemented my love for hip-hop, all because of one stupid tape.

In the years following 5th grade we grew apart. The innocence of youth degrades to the cliquish behavior of adolescence and as we grew up we went our separate ways. Although we were still cordial, we both joined groups on the opposite ends of the spectrum. There was no real overlap of friends or interests, and consequently the friendship deteriorated. By the time high school had ended, he had fallen off the map and I was ready to go try and conquer Temple University. Over the years, when I would come home for break from college, we would randomly run into each other and try to catch one another up with the goings-on in our lives.

The last time I saw him was about a year ago. Again, there was no real deep, meaningful connection. Just more of the same, sharing stories, seeing what’s new with each other, the kind of pleasantries you exchange with anyone you meet after an extended time. And now I sit here,in the second week of 2010, reminiscing about a dead friend and trying to remember what exactly it was that we talked about that last time. I can honestly say that I haven’t got a clue. I’m fairly certain I would have talked to him about medical school but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was he was telling me he was doing. I guess it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle in life that you tend to focus on your own thing and forget about everyone else. No one ever thinks “this could be my last conversation with this person”, you just say your piece and get on your way. I guess that’s what I’m trying to discourage by writing this. Take the time to savor the conversations you have with acquaintances. Try to shift focus from yourself and focus on what someone else has to offer. You never know when it could all fall apart.

To Jimmy Bonser, Rest In Peace man. You definitely made an impact on my life, even if I haven’t quite figured out what it was yet. I wish we could have one more pleasantry-filled conversation so I could really pay attention, not just stand there, half-listening and nodding politely. I wish I had more of an idea as to what was going on with you. 25 is way too young to go, but I hope you’ve found yourself in a better place.

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