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My Friend James
An Unspoken Eulogy
My friend James is dead.
He died back in June. I just found out a few days ago.
The circumstances around his death are not publicly known, I can speculate here, but I won't. Because James is dead, and no speculation will bring him back or make me understand it any more than I already do.
I met James in person a handful of times. He lived in the greater New York City area, so getting to see him physically was difficult. My best friend lives in the Bronx, and he introduced me to James when we hosted a podcast together. We instantly hit it off. James and I were like two sides of the same coin. He grew up in a single parent home, we both loved professional wrestling and baseball, and our shared love of the weirdest movies bonded us in a way that is rare these days.
I really got to know James thanks to a daily group chat dubbed "The Junction". We'd talk about everything there. Wrestling. Movies. Comics. Toy collecting. With a combination of text, video, and audio interactions, it was our own personal morning zoo radio show, complete with friendly jabs at one another, as friends normally do.
There were times that I would often drop a joke in the Junction just for James to pop (laugh) at, because we shared some weird secret language rooted in the movie La Bamba and stand up comedy. When we hit a particular note, a grand slam, we'd spam the chat with GIFs of home runs. I had to purposely mute the Junction on particularly busy work days, because I'd end up laughing at the most inappropriate times.
We were our own little brotherhood. Mixed in with the jokes were serious conversations; conversations about faith, relationships, and everything in between. In pro-wrestling parlance, James would often refer to me as the Undertaker of the Junction locker room, especially if he got out of line. James had a weird sort of respect for me. We were close to the same age, but he was like a little brother.
And I loved him like a little brother too.
Things happened. James changed. I can't say for sure what it was, but James had demons. He had what I can only describe as a mental breakdown, resulting in taking the necessary steps to give us all space from him. We were afraid for him, but we were powerless to really do anything about it.
One of the last times we spoke was right after I shared my 20 minute stand-up comedy special - Funny to a Degree. James was an aspiring stand-up comic, and his encouragement pushed me to finally take the stage, at least for a brief time. He'd help me punch up jokes, we'd make each other laugh.
To this day, when I crack a particularly esoteric joke, I'd know that he would be one of the only ones who would laugh at it. And I wanted it that way. Sometimes the most fun goal is to "pop the boys."
He watched my special. He told me he was proud of me. He said that he wanted to "sharpen [his] comedic iron on [my] sword." He was as inspired by me, as I was of him in some ways.
I can't speak to what was going through James' mind in the past three or so years. He became erratic, posting numerous times to Facebook per day, none of the posts seem to make sense. They rambled, they were confusing, and honestly, I didn't know what he was talking about most of the time. I had hidden him for a long time, but I would pop on his timeline, just to see if he was okay.
I didn't do that for a long time.
And now he's gone.
And I miss him. Just today I made a joke about CM Punk being Kevin Nash's quad in human form, (due to his tendency to get injured so easily), and while it made my other friends laugh, I knew that James would have loved that joke.
Wherever you are, James, I hope you somehow found peace.