Dear Chester

Dear Chester,

You hanged yourself today, but the rigor mortis seems to have set in our collective limbs. It is you who died, but we are all numb.

It was the most confusing time of my life when I was first handed audio cassettes of Meteora and Hybrid Theory. I didn’t quite fit in at 17; I sought my place in a new world and didn’t find one. Then, you came on the music player and spat out Somewhere I Belong. That day, I found my first college friend, one who taught me that I owed zero fucks to the world.

Linkin Park was perhaps as big a Western music influence on my life as Michael Jackson had once been. But MJ couldn’t do what you did. Whenever I was hurting, whenever I was caught in the undertow and needed to scream my head off, you screamed for me. The college bully suddenly knew I wouldn’t be ignored; every time I took one step closer to the edge of sanity, you took one with me; and I realized it was okay to have a voice at the back of my head, a face underneath my skin. My quest for an identity, the urge to rebel, to chase my dreams – had all found an indomitable voice. A voice that thundered through the windows while I stayed shut inside the house. I wonder what, or whom, you turned to when the chaos got to you. You repeatedly rescued us with your songs. I’m sorry we couldn’t rescue you.

It’s a little baffling that only in your end do I get to know you so much better. You, Chester Bennington the man, and not the lead singer of Linkin Park the band. Your interviews now pop up on my timeline; your history of battling depression, childhood abuse, and addiction reveals itself. I check out your latest posts on Instagram and find them tainted with your death. Your words, photographs, videos… everything has been stained the color of suicide. Your lyrics have acquired a whole new meaning; your screams are now soaked in pain. Now, every time we listen to one of your songs, we lose you all over again.

There are a few who are calling you names, fans who think it was selfish of you to kill yourself. Not everyone understands despair, Chester. Not everyone is acquainted with the kind of sorrow that plagues the mind and renders every success and joy meaningless. Thousands of people, including I, wanted to be you all these years while you were shedding your own skin with each song. I don’t blame you for leaving, but I wish we could’ve given you at least one reason good enough to not reach for that rope. I hope you finally find yourself somewhere you belong.

All that you leave behind – your songs, your grunts, your gut-wrenching angst – all of it will continue to echo through thousands of lives and lead confused young minds to peace. Knowing that we aren’t alone in our despair is sometimes just enough to hold on. I wish you too could’ve had that solace. I wish you could witness the grief that clouds the world of rock today. And I hope you know that, in the end, it does matter. In the end, you matter.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Still screaming along,
The boy who doesn’t fit in

You’re not alone, stranger

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Dear stranger who wonders why,

It was just another morning of bleary eyes peering into a can of coffee – dark-roasted and ground, and absent. I’d forgotten to get a new pack, again. The coffee machine stood waiting, mocking me like mom does, minus her tinge of affection, over my forgetfulness. At the mercy of habit, i dragged my reluctant feet to a cafe two blocks away. Fingers anxiously tapping the counter, i ordered my cup of morning addiction and waited. Whether it was the aroma of the beans, that purportedly began their journey on the hills of Chikmagalur and ended in hot water in a Delhi cafe, or the sight of you picking cuticles of finger skin while gazing out of the window, I couldn’t tell, but the golden morning suddenly seemed to seep in.

I could tell that you were hurting. Not from the skin-bruising, but from the questions that squabbled for space in your mind, and on your notebook’s last page. As the wind played peekaboo with the covert content of your moleskin journal, I could only make out crooked question marks at the end of each thought that seemed to run into another on its way to a possible closure. I could not see what they were, or what they demanded of you. But i watched their contours reflect on your pale forehead, creases which you ironed with a facade which smiled at the waiter, the girl on the counter and the old man on the next table. It’s only when you stared into the vacuum of life beyond the window stained by last night’s rain that the furrows sneaked out from behind your courtesy.

I recognize the abyss when I see it, stranger; I remember the fall all too clearly. The open page, which you reaffirmed against the breeze every now and then, waited for its second word, the first being a large, conspicuous WHY followed by a serpentine symbol that passed for a punctuation mark. A bookmark gathered dust at the edges, pressed between pages of a novel overdue. The half-full cup of coffee had long given up its attempts at seizing your attention and the stranger across the cafe could not concentrate on his. You were a reflection for him, of months gone by without a single straight thought. You were him, on grey rainy days and those marred by too bright a sun. You were his image, on hazy mirrors that clung to cobweb-riddled walls much like you clutched your questions. They won’t run away; they never do, stranger. They need you as much as you, them.

To question your existence, its purpose, and everything around it, is the greatest question ever asked, to me at least. And sadly one that comes with no promise of an answer. I have spent far too many days gritting my teeth over the anxiety of not knowing Why, stranger. I have turned far too many whimsical, intuitive corners in search of that one answer which lies just round the next one. And always round the next one. I have missed far too many beautiful sights on the way; lost touch with far too many places i called home. I have let go of many i could have walked with, albeit slower, and have sped past many others i could have loved. I continue to run on the same rugged path, believing my choice at that fork long gone did not just conform to an inspiring poem but will also lead me to a purpose served. But I’ve slowed down, stranger. Perhaps the answer isn’t waiting for you and me somewhere beyond the horizon; perhaps it lies in the very steps we take. Maybe, just maybe, it lies in the trail of dents we leave behind.

I hope you got the fresh cup of hot coffee, peppered with chocolate sprinkles, and the note I left with it. I hope you always remember… You’re a beautiful person in a magical world. And that you’re not alone when you drown in the despair of your existence. The only answer to it, i feel, is to love madly: not just the next boy you fall for, but everything from the cup of coffee on your table, the musings of another existentialist which outlived him and made it to your desk, the stray dog who rubs his snout against your palm, and the first sun rays that perch on your eyelids at dawn to that magnificent reflection in the mirror, replete with all its unique scars. All perfection is alike, stranger, but art comes from aberrations.

Until another magical morning,
The boy in the grey hoodie