So, I never thought I’d write this, but my friend Tristan died. About a week ago – on a Friday morning – Ryan walked in to the living room bearing the bad news, after seeing a few articles in the SF Chronicle and TechCrunch. He was in the tech community, so I suppose his death was tech news.
Tristan was my oldest friend, I’ve known him since I was maybe five. His parents owned a futon shop in the same quiet strip mall where my parent’s Chinese restaurant was located. We spent many long summer afternoons running around causing all sorts of trouble. Catching frogs, playing with his mice and monitor lizard, running toy cars up and down the sidewalk, camping out in the Drug Emporium and laughing at the ‘adult’ aisle. So many kid memories.
I don’t remember when, but eventually his family moved away to New York, and I remember being sad. Years passed, and every now and then I would wonder about him. This was before Facebook, so I kept wondering.
One day when I was living in San Francisco (about a decade ago), I got a Facebook message. It was from Tristan! He had looked me up. And what a coincidence, we both lived in the bay area! And he had co-founded Square… what? I was shocked by the randomness of it, but proud of his success. And so our friendship continued, but this time as adults.
Our adult friendship was a little bit different. Because as adults, there’s just so many other responsibilities vying for your attention. Work, home, family, and in his case majorly… relationships.
Many times I would try to hang out with him, and it would have to be worked around his significant other’s schedule. I remember one time we had finally nailed down plans, and he ended up cancelling on me that night because his girlfriend’s plans fell through. What the hell, man? You live together, you’ll see her at home!
We had good times together, but over the years his romantic drama became more intense. There were breakups and engagements (3). Then breakups again. I always knew to reach out when he was in a breakup. That was when he for sure would be ‘available.’ Kind of reminds me of the lyrics to the Smiths song “Hold on to your friends.”
But now you only call me
When you’re feeling depressed
When you feel happy I’m
So far from your mind
My patience is stretched
My loyalty vexed
Oh, you’re losing all of your friends
Then his life took a different turn when the money came in from Square. He stopped working a nine to five and started doing… what? I’m not really sure. Travel, school, photography, a number of different things. It was a lot harder to relate to him, but I was glad that he had this unique opportunity. I was jealous, what can I say?
The last few years were bad. He got into another romantic relationship. All of his relationships were up and down, but this one made being friends with Tristan harder than ever. I won’t go into details, but there was a specific moment that my heart just broke and I’d had enough.
I decided right then and there that I had to let this friendship go. I wasn’t going to kill it, but I wasn’t going to nurture it anymore. It hurt too much to be disappointed every time.
So from then on, I mostly observed from a distance. I saw him have a daughter. I saw him share his struggles with addiction. I saw him move to Los Angeles. About a year ago I remember unfollowing him on Facebook, and not responding to a text message from him informing me of his new phone number. I just had to take a break from it all.
Now that he’s gone, I feel incredibly guilty. I somehow mucked my way through the workday that Friday, and at the end of it I dragged Ryan to Last Rites, our neighborhood tiki bar, to pour one out for Tristan. I hate that the last memories that I have of him are of him going through hard times. I hate that I couldn’t help him more, and I hate that his life became a weird oddity, almost a running joke between me and my friends. Like hey, what crazy shit has your friend been up to?
I got really drunk at the tiki bar, but I did remember some good things. I remembered how funny, and present and alive my friend always was. He was so creative and geeky. He was a mega Apple fanboy, and I remember visiting his apartment, and seeing every model of i-anything decorating his room. He was very affectionate and sentimental. Sometimes he’d send me a text saying “Hey! I’m passing your favorite Starbucks, thinking of you!”. I don’t even really go to that Starbucks that much, it was just something that I’d said offhand one time when we were walking down Market Street, but he remembered. I still have a weird plastic friendship bracelet he made for me at summer camp, which is stored in a memory box in my room. Reminds me of better times. There was a reason that I tried to stay friends with him, even though it wasn’t easy to maintain.
Thankfully, I do have at least one adult memory of him that is pure and uncomplicatedly happy… One perfect day biking in the rain out to Sausalito. I even blogged about it. It was nearly 8 years ago to the day.
I’m so sad about losing you buddy, but I’ll try to keep this day and this version of you in my mind. You will be missed.