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

Love is in the details, stranger

Dear stranger who spills her coffee,

I saw you at the station today, as I waited for the train to start another clumsy day. A day which was to be filled with mundane tasks at an easy job, banal conversations, and gulping down cupfuls of machine coffee. But then, there was you, cupping your morning cappuccino with both hands, like a kid his candy bar, and floating in the waters of one of my favourite books. The roaring light at the end of the subway tunnel failed to wake me from the nostalgic stupor your silhouette evoked. I was, for a moment, 18 again.

“She was beautiful,” I would later tell my friend. Not because you looked pretty in that unpretentious grey cardigan, or because your hair flowed effortlessly, like a river down your shoulders, before your collar bone split them into streams. Not because you had the perfect amount of kohl in your eyes. Not because you had the grace of a dancer in the way you tackled the bumpy train ride, which made many a commuter lose his morning feet.

You were beautiful because you stood and watched as an old man took the ‘ladies seat’ in front of you. It made him smile the most soulful toothless smile i had seen.

Because you made funny faces at the baby across the aisle until her laughter, like the jingle of a wind chime caressed, filled the heavy air.

Because when the coffee fogged your glasses at the station, you slid them into your hair with a dimpled smile and continued reading. The embarrassed innocence that found its way to your lips, and the knowing melancholy that stayed in your eyes made me want to cry. For it took me back to a time when you, and i, and so many beautiful people we know, smiled without crying within.

Because you skipped a few trains at the station to finish a chapter, and your coffee. I skipped them to read you.

Because when you spilled your coffee with the careless wave of a hand while Murakami occupied your mind, you gasped for your copy of Norwegian Wood, not caring for the stain it left on your sleeve. My copy stayed firmly tucked in my bag. You were so much more than an author could conjure.

If I said I fell in love at first sight, it’d make a poetic line, and perhaps a popular post; maybe even inspire a song or two, but it wouldn’t be true. For Love is in the details, stranger: the good, the bad, and the nasty. The ones that you flaunt, the ones that you hide, the ones that make you you: I’d want to know them all.

I want to know which birds sing outside your window at dawn. Do your groggy eyes smile at their melodies? Or do you steal a minute more of sleep at every snooze of a persistent alarm? Is your hair neatly tied up, or do you let them entangle your dreams? How do you take your morning tea, or coffee? What terrifies you? What excites you? Which is your favourite love song, stranger?

I’d want to listen to your idea of happiness, while you stared into nothingness and pictured it.  I’d lie beneath the stars with you, listening to your stories – the colours of your childhood, the elder brother or the younger sister or the imaginary friend; your first crush; the first time you dared to love, the times your heart broke; your hopes and dreams: the ones that stayed, others that you buried; the books that made you cry the most, the movies that made you laugh the hardest; moments of triumph, and those of defeat, and those that you hide between pages of a journal.

After all, Love is in the details, stranger. It’s only when you have seen the other jump with joy and curl up on the floor broken, laugh uninhibitedly and cry helplessly, love madly and hate fiercely, survive their mondays and live their fridays; when you’ve heard all their anecdotes, over and over again; when you’ve held their manicured hand at a party, and kissed their morning face in bed; when you’ve marvelled at their perfections and adored their flaws; when you’ve stormed out the door only to realize you miss them too much; when the spark has all but disappeared and yet you can’t imagine a day without them – only then are you truly in Love, a place where a whim does not decide your fate. You do.

What do you think, stranger?

 

Until tomorrow’s train ride,

The boy who can’t keep his shoelaces tied.