Trying to Say Goodbye

Last night I’d written about half of an entry before deciding that the rest could wait until morning. It was about how for most of Monday I’d felt really energized about, bizarrely, some bad news. How somehow I’d found myself finding the good side of it, and being really excited and curious for what this would bring for me. I’d been flipping channels when I finally got home and landed on an episode of Six Feet Under, just in time for a line from Claire that summed up so much of what I’d felt that I’d rewound it (god bless the DVR) and wrote it down word for word.

This morning I stopped feeling so charitable about the world and its wonders, when I got word that my friend John McCalla had been found dead in his apartment.

I met John through AIDS Marathon. Both of us needed a roommate for the Florence leg of the trip, and the program reps matched us up. “You’ll really like him,” Beth had confided in me. “He’s a sweetie.” Before we went to Italy we’d met up at a marathon happy hour, and we ended up spending almost two hours talking to each other and ignoring everyone else that we’d wanted to see. By the end of the night I was almost giddy about spending more time with him; we’d both just clicked with each other in that way that happens too infrequently.

He’d just received a huge promotion at work and was crazy busy, but we traded e-mails and played phone tag a lot. In Florence, we spent a lot of our time together; sprawled out on our beds and talking, listening to his choices in music, wandering around Florence, or trying to drink each other under the table. He had a new boyfriend, and I’ll admit that I was a little sad to hear that because I’d developed a big crush on him, but at the same time I couldn’t help but feel really happy for him. He and I were both sort of fumbling through life and trying to find relationships, and his happiness with having met Ed was infectious.

After the marathon we kept trading messages and swearing to get together soon, but something always seemed to get in the way. I’d teased him that I’d stolen my recent facial hair from him and because he was such a Six Feet Under fan that I was calling it the “Nate Fisher” even as I really was privately calling it the “John McCalla.” I hadn’t heard from him in a couple of days and when my friend Dave had asked last night about John, I’d said that he was probably on deadline again, but that we’d probably talk once that was over.

Now all I can think about is laughing together in a hotel bar, or trying each other’s food at Gorga (which had taken us and Amana forever to find but was absolutely worth it), or drunkenly collapsing into bed the night after the marathon with him passing out in mid-sentence. He’d been trying to quit smoking after his relapse in Florence, and swore that January 2nd would be his new start date. We’d promised to go running together, and soon. He was already talking about participating in another travel marathon, perhaps Honolulu. I wanted to hear how he was doing, to trade MP3s, to continue laughing over our horrible official marathon photos. He was smart, and witty, and fun to be around. He’d strike up conversations with cab drivers about what music they were listening to, and loved to travel. His smile always felt real and he always listened to whomever was talking.

We only met two and a half months ago and I miss him so much.

John McCalla

John McCalla on a scooter; Florence, Italy

3 thoughts on “Trying to Say Goodbye

  1. Kelly Sue says:

    Oh, Greg. I’m so, so sorry.

  2. Roxann Henze says:

    Greg:

    I am so sorry about your friend. I only met John once at a Reston Chamber program about media relations. He seemed very nice. I have always admired his writing talent. He was way too young to be taken from this earth.

    Roxann

  3. karen fryer says:

    you summed it up the 6 months i knew john were probably my best 6 months -his wit, charm and those gorgeous eyes. i will miss him terribly

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