His name meant darkness in a language that only I could understand. He stayed in the shadows, silent and brooding, while I flirted with every man in the bar. In this hall of torment where aspiring writers came to play, we wore the mask of anonymity and left our inhibitions at the door.
The Watcher Reaches Out
I came to interact, to create a spontaneous story with the characters in the room. He seemed content to watch, although he made his presence felt throughout the night. I don’t know how many nights we spent in that room without interacting. In fact, I don’t remember how we ended up talking on the phone. He intrigued me without actively interacting with my character.
Winning My Trust
It was ironic how after warning me not to take the men in the room seriously, he asked if he could come see me. After all, he was a stranger too. But he was visiting my home, he was not asking to meet me somewhere illicitly. I must admit I had been curious about the man behind the brooding character.
Behind the Masks
After watching the high-strung flirting of the character I created for the room, he must have been surprised when he met the real me – geeky and shy, not at all like my flamboyant character. He was friendly, if a little formal. He carried his protective big brother persona everywhere he went. Although he had been privy to all my uninhibited writing, he was respectful and kind throughout the whole visit. I liked his real-life self, but I didn’t expect to see him again after that. He had satisfied his curiosity, met the girl behind the mask and probably expected someone very different.
Becoming a Mentor
But I did hear from him, albeit indirectly. He drew me into his world and became my mentor. Five days a week, he’d saunter in sometimes without even saying hi. Like his brooding character, he didn’t say much – he teased and taunted from time to time – but he occupied a space removed from us. He was very particular about how he wanted tasks done and disobeying his strict rules was the best way to get his attention. He did not allow laziness around his code – another sure point of contact if you committed such a sin. And he loved challenging us, which almost never worked with me. My goal wasn’t to be a bad ass tech guru like he inspired everyone to be. I didn’t want to work on a linux machine, know the inner workings of a server, or read A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Being a great programmer was enough for me and he never pushed a challenge we didn’t want to accept. A more confident programmer would have rebelled at his micromanaging, but I had never done this before so I obeyed. I learned early on that he was a genius with code and he took the time to train me well in the guise of needing the code to be easy to troubleshoot.
Sometimes I watched him in his glass tower working out problems in his head, his hands absently romancing his drumsticks or brush. He could be so aloof at times, maybe because he saw so much more of the world than we did being so much smarter than any of us. Until his sister teased a smile out of him, tossed him a challenge that he would think ridiculous at first and then later accept. Of course, you could always just bake him brownies or approve of music he likes to pry the elusive smile from his lips. Or bombard him with overwhelming silliness – that always coaxed him out of his grim moods.
Although he watched us from his tower, we always knew that he was there. He could make any code work, fix anything. As long as he was there, anything was possible. And though I didn’t realize it at the time, he had already taught us to be without him – arming us with everything we needed to survive anywhere in the world. When I followed my heart across the ocean, I was ready to take on any challenge in the field he trained me in. I don’t remember ever thanking him for that.
When I learned of his passing, the tears just came. And they still come, every time I remember his unique light that had come into my life so unexpectedly. I have never been so close to touching a star. That was who he was – to his parents, to his sister, to his band mates, to his friends and to me.
And now that I have returned to my original dream, I find myself remembering him as I develop the heroes of my stories. He had all the traits of an endearing character. Mysterious and intriguing, dark and brooding, yet he cared enough to save a girl from her own folly. He could’ve just walked on and forgotten that foolish girl who was in over her head, but he didn’t. He had the heart of a gallant knight and helped. Now that I think about it, he reminds me of Royce Melborn.
Real Life Hero
This man who named himself darkness – whose light raged like a fire that warmed everyone who drew near – is a real life hero who inspired one of my favorite characters in a series of stories I am working on. I think that incorporating part of him in my series is my way of capturing the light he shone on the world. I am blessed to have known him – even for a short time.
I hope that you have found peace. I pray that you are up there with all the other stars shining upon us.