Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I'm like 25

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Cure#17: My best friend when I was 12 years old

Posted on | September 4, 2010 | 2 Comments

©2010 Peter Diamond www.peterdiamond.ca

“A Funeral” by Peter Diamond.

Dressed in a perfectly pressed black suit I look like an emaciated super model before arriving for make up in the morning.

I put on my most carefree smile and shake their hands with enthusiasm.

Across the table are three incredibly sweet women who will decide whether I get the job of Communications Director for the University of King’s College. One is a student, another has worked in the advancement office for years and the third is the boss, a  recently recruited public relations genius.  All of whom need to fall under my spell for this to work.

“How are you?” asks the boss.

“Great,” I say. “Really excited for this interview.”

I didn’t sleep the night before but I stifle my impulse to yawn.

I thank them for the honor of giving me an interview. I owe my interview to my sister who completely rewrote my cover letter. Since I got sick she has been there for me pretty much nonstop. Despite the fact that she refuses to call me Michael and will only refer to me as Brat. But something’s don’t change.

“Tell us why you think you would be the best person for this job,” says the boss.

“Besides this awesome suit?” I ask. They burst out laughing. Point for me. “The first time I went to King’s College I was five years old. I was eating Macdonalds while my dad was in a meeting and I remembered thinking this was the coolest place in the world,” I say.  “I was in a MacDonald’s commercial later in life but that’s unimportant. Though the money from that commercial paid for my first year of University. And I went here. So this is my-my-my university.”

They laugh.

More points for me. Bat my eyelashes. I’m your favorite grandson, dream future boyfriend or childhood friend. Love me.

“I have taken courses in every class they offer here. I have worked every student position including front desk of the girl’s dormitory,” I say, pause and wonder if that makes me seem like a pervert.  No. I don’t like young girls. I probably shouldn’t mention that. It would just make me look like a pervert. It’s like denying you eat pigshit without anyone bringing it up. Suspicious.   “I lived in residence, I have eaten food from Prince Hall. I have starved through formal meals. I know what it’s like to be a King’s student. This is where I grew up. Where I became the man I am.”

As they presently have no idea of the man I’ve became this sounds like a good answer.

“What is your biggest weakness and how have you overcome it?”

A variety of answers occur to me.

One is the typical bullshit answer to this question. “Well I tend to want to help people so much that I rush into burning buildings and can often be late for work.” Or “I love working so much. I don’t leave the office.”

There is also the honest answer, “I’m having a little trouble with anxiety. I don’t really sleep. But then isn’t that sort of a strength? I’m always ready to work. Though I may fall asleep in the middle of the morning if my chair is comfortable. I’m looking to overcome it with medication. I have an appointment with my doctor after this interview. Going to get something state of the art. And if you give me this job I’ll share.”

I decide to choose the middle road.

“My biggest weakness is that I sometimes work too independently. I tend to try to for big things and occasionally miss out on the small details,” I say. “Occasionally I have typos and spelling mistakes. I worked on this by carefully going over all of my stories three or four times once I finish them.”

We go back and forth doing the interview dance. It’s funny how much this reminds me of being on a date.  My eyes are always focused on the eyes of the woman talking to me.  I nod my head at the right times and laugh at their jokes. They do the same.  If this was a date I might end up getting laid.

Finally the question I have been expecting has arrived. This could be the job cock block.

“Last year you broke the story of the King’s Deficit. Using documents you received from the Bursar you exposed it to the general public,” she begins.  “And all the media.”

Basically every major news organization in the area covered the story.  I blink shyly like a Catholic school girl who forgot to wear panties to confession.

“You realize you can’t do that if you work here as Communications Director.”

“I do indeed realize that,” I say and go over the lines I have been rehearsing in anticipation of this very moment. “I take whatever job I’m doing seriously.  I covered that story as a journalist. That was my job. Communication Director means speaking on the very real virtues of a school I love. I’ll take that job equally seriously. And what’s more I love this school. I’ll make people understand why.”

“That was a great answer,” says the woman in charge.

We talk for a little while longer and my desire to have this job increases with every passing moment. I do love King’s. I don’t want to have become too old to comeback.  I have a job working for an online company doing some work in Search Engine Optimization but it’s remote work and I desperately want to be around people.  I’m getting rather sick of spending so much time thinking about myself.

The interview ends and I make it half way down the hallway before doing a little fist pump and muted war whoop.

Job interview completed.

Now it’s time to go get some drugs.

*************************************************

Everyone is wearing a suit or a pretty dress as if they were on their way to prom and somehow aged 8 years on the way there.

I’m in a packed hall filled with familiar faces that used to fill the hallways of my high school.

Faces have gained weight, silver circles have been placed under eyelids and the tiniest hint of wrinkles form laugh lines and adorn our foreheads. Not to say that we are old. Simply that we aren’t the children I remembered.

We have mid twenties faces, youthful yet formed, possibly at the very height of our beauty, before breasts sag and muscles get coated with fat. We have yet to graduate to Adult Face, usually caused by the eating which replaces sex when you have kids, where somehow our heads get slightly bigger and any semblance of those children we once were is wiped away. I can still see the children we were peaking out. If I blink we are laughing in the cafeteria and cramming for exams, dying to get out and find real life outside the walls of our high school.

Queen Elizabeth High School is in the process of being torn apart brick by brick. Eventually a beautiful parking lot will replace it.

A tripwire fence has been built to keep out intruders.

There is no going back and today reinforces that.

We are no longer jocks and geeks, freaks and weirdos, the in crowd or the outsiders.  We are just a bunch of strangers who are getting the first inklings of what its like to lose their childhood.

I am not at a high school reunion.

I’m at a funeral and anxiety medication has made me into a toy soldier Mike Kimber, offering comforting words from behind a wall of medicated numbness.

I stand in a line at the back of a hall packed with friends and family of the man who was my best friend when I was 12 years old.

His name was Dave Teehan and he was the class clown since the days of Sir Charles Tupper Elementary.

For the most part my memories of our friendship are vague and blurred by the thousand lives I have lived since then.

In the Grade 4/5 war over playground equipment, he jumped in front of me and took out the kid chasing me with one mean right hook. Kids were being pulled off the jungle gym and pummeled.  Some of us started throwing rocks. After all we were smaller and we had to do something to level the playing field. Soon they were in retreat. Victory and the playground was ours.

A young boy named Willie Fyles was our only casualty; his broken arm the monument to the tragedies of war.

I remember when our teacher told us that we were acting like terrorists and that this was how the conflict in Bosnia got started. Dave laughed in her face. That was Dave’s trademark. No matter what happened he laughed.

He was at my Grade 6 birthday party, the first party I can remember where girls and boys danced with each other.  It was one of those casual moments where we moved away from being kids and into something else. The girls wanted to dance with Dave.  He liked making prank phone calls. We called the kid’s help phone and followed Dave’s lead.  A girl in our class told the counselor that her boyfriend made her feel terrible about her body. Dave started shouting for her to get her fat ass off the phone. I remember how we laughed till our faces looked like tomatoes and then had cake and danced to shitty music that Dave was already too cool to like.

In the basement of my childhood home, he wrote sentences in permanent marker that can’t be erased, no matter how many layers of paint are used to cover them. Some day archaeologists will find these words as the last remnants of my childhood. “The Backstreet Boys are pieces of poo and Nick Carter is a fag,” written back in the days before we understood what swear words meant and used them as small acts of rebellion against the adult world that thought they could keep us young forever.

We grew up, drifted to different social groups and we got new best friends.  Nothing dramatic happened. Just time.

The boy I knew grew into a man I wish I had.

Staring at my friends as they give speeches, telling me about the man he was, I feel an intense desire to go back to those simpler days. Before I needed atavin to sleep. Before I spent so much of my time on the Internet in anxiety chatrooms getting scared about the drugs I was taking by maniacs I viewed as reputable sources. When I was going to be the youngest author ever published and Dave was going to be a professional skateboarder and make Tony Hawk look like a pussy.

I can close my eyes and we are back at picture day.  The photographer is telling him to stop making weird faces and just smile. He nods his head.  Then the photographer pushes the flash and suddenly his tongue is stuck out.

My eyes open and its still not a dream.

“When I had my accident I was feeling really terrible.  I couldn’t leave the house,” says one of the many people who called Dave a best friend and had more of a right to it then I do.  His name is Eric and listening to him speak makes my own pain small.  I can remember them hanging out as children. Always two peas in a pod.  “He came by every single day and kept me company.  He made sure that I didn’t get down. He would just say the most ridiculous things and make me laugh.  I remember I would ask him what people were up to. He would usually say they were having a great time without me. No one made me laugh like Dave.”

Next up is his old skateboarding partner.  Another kid I grew up with, that went through his time of trials and tribulation and grew into a strength nobody would guess he had. Standing in a suit instead of the brand name skater clothing he rocked as a child he struggles to find the words.

“Since we were kids I looked up to Dave,” he says, looking down at the floor and then making eye contact with audience. “Always wanted to do what he did. Which meant sometimes I did stupid things that made a lot of people laugh. He was the best friend I ever had. He believed in me during toughs and it meant a lot.”  Awkward, earnest and unrehearsed he reminds me of the days they spent at the skate park. Dave trying to teach me to do a trick and my miserable failure at being any kind of coordinated. I want to cry but I can’t seem to get there. Fighting past the white cloud of the meds isn’t possible. I’m the only motherfucker with dry eyes in this house.

I’m standing in the back, feeling the weight of my life pressing on my heels.  The speeches are all filled with amazing memories that speak to who Dave actually was.  The perennial class clown, the asshole who will tell you that you are being an idiot and the dude who would smash your face in if you fucked with his friends.   No one paints him as if he were an angel.

Which I find is the easiest way to erase someone when they die. Make them perfect so you don’t have to be hurt by remembering who they actually were. That a person is gone. The joy he caused means they are willing to suffer what it means to be a miss a person who can’t be replaced, keeping him alive by refusing to make him a person who was too good for this world.

He wasn’t too good; he was just what the people in this room needed even if they wanted more time.

His mother speaks and I can remember her thick Irish accent from years back, calling for him as we walked to school, telling him to come get his book bag. The way he used to always make her laugh whenever he got himself into trouble.

“We were always lucky to have David,” she says.   “Even from the beginning it didn’t seem like he had long in this world.”

Unbeknownst to me, Dave was born with a congenital heart defect. The day he was born his mother didn’t know if she would get to keep the child she gave birth to for much longer than a few days. From day one the clock was ticking.  Yet he survived childhood and prom and university and lived long enough to fall deeply in love and make his parents proud of the man he somehow became at the young age of 25.

I never would have thought of him as anything but healthy.

By the end of his mother and father’s speeches the whole room is laughing and crying. Except me.

The service ends and we are left to eat appetizers, buy drinks and figure out something to say when asked what we were up to.

We try not to ask important questions about what we were doing in our lives. There is an unspoken understanding that most of us don’t know the answer.

We remember old times.  The jokes I have forgotten and the secret codes that live inside the people you grew up with.  A few have gotten married. Others live in Europe and have come back for the funeral. Some are going to be doctors and the rest are like me.  Talking shit because that’s what we know about.

We don’t know each other anymore but tonight we pretend.

We thought the strands that connected us were gone.  Then one strand snapped and we remembered what it meant to be children together. To have been there before we were really people. Just a jumble of hopes and potential.  Before the world got to us.

There are so many facets to his life in one room. The people who were there when he was born.  The parents of friends who saw him at elementary school parties. The friends he got drunk with. The girls who had crushes on him and the ones he loved.  The brother he always looked up to. The mother who loved her kids as fiercely as a woman could and the father who always watched out for them, struggling not to laugh at Dave’s antics when he actually tried to lay down discipline. And hundreds of others who stood when there were no seats to remember a person that was my best friend when I was 12. Hundreds of people were as close to him as I was. Thousands even.

And none remember Dave as someone who was sick.

The same child who barely lived past his first days in the hospital was the same man who was the best quarterback in Grade 3, who always beat me in a race. The doctors said he was a man supposedly not built for this life.

I’m shivering as I take the first steps outside.  I can’t think of much I can say to offer comfort to his family or his friends.

My lips are blue as I exit the funeral and walk out into the snow in my suit.

For no reason at all I start running.

Tripping in the snow.

Running as fast and awkwardly as I did away when Dave jumped in and saved me from the Grade 5’s in the historic Grade 4/5 war.  Running forward, into the past, like a speeding bullet. Past the kids dancing to Vanilla Ice in my dining room as Dave looks at us like we are fucking idiots.  How he puts on Nirvana and we start moshing to Teen Spirit before we were teens ourselves.  Past graduation where we thought we had grown up and were entering the real world.

Pushing myself to keep running, like I could escape all the shit the questions about my future that had been chasing me if I can just run fast enough. My heart is screaming in my chest, begging me to slow down, telling me that I’m an old man.

I won’t stop until I can feel it. Until the loss hits me and I can let go.

I was 10th in the Province in Grade 5 in cross country running. Watch me go…motherfuckers….just watch me.  Some do. Rarely do you see a man in a suit bolt through the snow a hundred miles an hour.

I’m slipping on ice but keep running, ready to fall on my face if I have to.

Dave lived his whole life with the next day uncertain.

I’d been witness to the world he built on a foundation that was never meant to stand.  Seen the miracle of what he created in the limited time he stole from the world of science and medical probabilities.

I have depression and anxiety but that didn’t mean I couldn’t steal life back from the burdens of my biology.

So I ran until I fell and then I got up again and ran some more. Until my hands were numb and I wasn’t.

Just a child in his suit, waiting to grow up and become a man.

Weeping as I run, knowing that eventually life catches up to everyone and all you can do is keep going.

Onto the next thousand lives you get to live in the one life you are given.

Remembering what it was like to be 12 and have the world waiting for you.

When we were young.

Welcome to the Colony of Losers, a world of quarter life crises, anxiety, depression and the friends and the failures on the way to finding your future. This is the story of Michael Kimber’s panicked fall into adulthood.

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2 Responses to “Cure#17: My best friend when I was 12 years old”

  1. Cailin
    September 5th, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    Great piece Mike. Thanks for sharing :)
    Cailin´s last blog ..Cailin’s Copenhagen on “Do It While You’re Young” My ComLuv Profile

  2. Sarah Abriel
    September 7th, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

    I always enjoy your blog, but I never comment, so I thought I would this time just so you know

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  • About

    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

    Really obvious disclaimer:
    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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