First of all, thanks to everyone for their sympathy and hugs, even if I didn’t respond directly to your replies.
We were at our friend John’s Christmas party last night and one of his friends mentioned that he worked at a bar called Adam’s Apple in Detroit. I mentioned that I used to hang out there now and then with Matt. Somehow in the discussion we realized that we both knew Matt and he told me that they had had his funeral next door to the bar a couple weeks ago, as the owners of the funeral home also owned the bar.
I asked him a few questions to verify it was really the Matt I knew, and it seemed to be. Apparently Matt had worked parking lot security for the bar for several years, but had been fired. He died that night and was found in his apartment the next day. The guy didn’t really know any details, since he knew of Matt, but didn’t really know him personally. I found his obituary after a few tricky web searches, and sure enough it was him. It just said he died “suddenly” but I don’t know if he committed suicide or what. It’s suspicious that he died the night he got fired, but it could have been a coincidence.
LUCAS MATHEW M
December 2, 2008
Age 40. November 29, 2008, suddenly. Father of Ricky. Beloved son of the late Frank and Barbara. Dear brother of Jerry (Vicky), Jan (Mark) Gray, Terry, Dale, Nancy (Chris) Cook, Ken, and the late Harold. Uncle of Allison, Courtney, Melanie, and Kevin. Visitation Wednesday at the Jarzembowski Funeral Home, 18957 W. Warren Ave. at Artesian, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m Funeral Service 5:30 p.m.
I first met Matt in about 1996, shortly after I moved to Canton from Riverview. I’d never been to a gay bar by myself yet, always going with several other friends to Gold Coast and Menjo’s, typically. I was still working on the whole coming out thing so decided to check out a place called Silent Legacy in Inkster (which later became Stilettos). It was usually a lesbian bar but had Boys’ Night twice a week.
The place was pretty dead when I went in but I got a drink and decided to shoot some pool. I was accosted by this tragic mess with long blond hair in a woman’s style and an awful mustache, who started hitting on me really hard. I was still pretty new to the whole thing, and trying not to freak out while staying polite. Fortunately Matt was working the door, saw what was going on, and came to my rescue.
This was the start of a three-year friendship in which we were nearly as inseparable as Aaron and I are now, the first year of which remained (despite my best efforts) almost completely platonic. I worked for him a couple nights a week as a valet at Silent Legacy, sat with him in his car while he worked lot security and talked for hours, and laid awake nights in my apartment until he got off work and came over to spend the night. I had it bad for him, but he would not let things go past a certain point because I was so new to being gay and he didn’t want to be my first boyfriend, as they rarely last.
Before I met him he used to be a distributor for Coca-Cola and managed his own region, until one day the top crate of a pallet of paper towels in a Meijer storeroom fell off and landed on his shoulder, requiring multiple surgeries and putting him on disability for the rest of his life. To supplement it, he did security and valet for a couple bars and, later on in our friendship he started a business making candles and selling them in bars and at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Taylor. I named it Kaleidoscope Candles, since he primarily made rainbow designs to sell at the bars and Pride events, and he came up with some very cool and unique techniques for them.
Over the second year things started progressing in our relationship but we never actually declared ourselves boyfriends or anything, since we weren’t exclusive. That Christmas Matt surprised me with a ring and asked that we formally become boyfriends which, though I happily agreed to, caused this tiny voice at the back of my mind to say, “No! No! No! Don’t do this!” It was strong enough that, after we’d fallen asleep, I apparently punched him in the back several times, which I still have no memory doing.
I should have listened to that voice, because declaring ourselves boyfriends caused everything to start going downhill. We started acting differently toward each other because we had attached this label to our relationship that we felt we had to live up to. He started neglecting me, we felt increasingly awkward toward each other, and because of my (undiagnosed) ADD, I couldn’t really get a grasp on what I felt, or why, and I certainly couldn’t articulate it properly.
It all finally came to a head after about a year of this. We both cried and apologized, realized that being boyfriends wasn’t going to work, and decided to try and just be friends again, but our relationship was broken beyond repair. We drifted apart, although honestly I did most of the drifting. I had outgrown him and needed to move on. I wanted more from my life and, while he was doing pretty well for himself under his circumstances, I realized (only subconsciously at the time) that this was probably as far as he was going to get. Sadly, I appear to have been right, although I take no pleasure in it.
He was bewildered by my pulling away, not understanding why I wasn’t trying harder to remain friends, and frequently saying that he didn’t “get me”. I couldn’t have explained it to him even if I’d wanted to (again with the ADD), but I felt terribly guilty about it anyway. After we finally stopped seeing each other entirely, I’d occasionally run into him at a bar or some event, where I’d feel very uncomfortable because of my guilt. The last time I saw him was when I was at Diamond Jim’s in Detroit with Aaron and jamie95. He made some snide comment or two, and stared at me intently the entire time we were there. I could feel his eyes boring into my back while I was standing at the bar, and I was so intensely uncomfortable I finally had to leave. He was still hurt and bitter, and I can’t really blame him for it. It was the last time I saw him.
Despite all of that, most of my memories of him are good ones. Even though we failed as boyfriends, we never fought or even really argued. We were both poor, but it didn’t matter because that’s all we’d ever known. We still had plenty of fun.
The things I remember most:
– Laying in his small bed and being woken up in the morning by his cockatiel, Sophie, while Matt sparked up his first cigarette.
– The mess in his house. He had a very small house and because he used it as a workshop for the candles he didn’t care too much about keeping it very clean, because it was a losing battle. There was always bird seed everywhere, though he at least kept it poop-free.
– Frozen Coke. Because most of the rest of his family were alcoholics, and his own early drug and alcohol abuse had left him with a permanent anxiety disorder, he never drank while I knew him. Instead, his two vices were cigarettes and frozen Coke. I don’t know how many trips we made to 7-Eleven to get them; morning, noon, and night.
– The parking lot of Silent Legacy. Parking cars, standing in the guard shack, or just sitting in his car shooting the shit for hours. Helping decorate the bar for a Pride event, then having the entire bar staff coming outside to look at the (appropriately enough) huge double-rainbow that formed after a sudden thunderstorm.
The reason I said in my first post that “somehow, I knew”, was that about a week or so ago I found myself thinking about him for the first time in a long time, and wondering why I never ran into him anymore. I clearly remember thinking, “I wonder if he died and I just didn’t hear about it?” So, when I found out last night that he had died three weeks ago, I was totally shocked, but a small part of me wasn’t, you know?
Anyway, I’m still sorting out my feelings now that the initial shock has worn off. I’m sorry that he died, and I wish his life had been better. I’m sorry we never fixed the awkwardness between us, and I occasionally wished I’d run into him somewhere again so I could apologize and explain. It’s too late for that now.
You were my first love, Matt, and the memory of that is a good one. Rest in peace.