It's 4:00 a.m. Central Standard Time...and I can't sleep.
At the end of May, 2010 I helped my fellow writer Kevin Aguilar move out of his garden apartment. Very little remained...mostly a pile of clothes and baskets. Kevin was leaving to California to see his family and start anew.
Months earlier, Kevin and I went through the iO writing program. The two of us, along with three other writers, put up a sketch comedy show that helped forge a friendship.
Kevin was brilliant. We would sit in classes at iO listening to his collection of juxtaposed jokes...You see, Kevin would take situations and turn them on themselves. He would take a JELLO pudding commercial and make it some statement about the Eastern Bloc in the 1980's. He once helped me rock a sketch by taking a heinous sexual act and linking it to Roosevelt's New Deal. He would come up with random ideas for shows like, Ferris Beuller's Reunion or Lamaze Class 30th Birthday Reunion Tour.
His two liners were so mind-blowing at times that you couldn't even laugh; you spent most of the time wondering how the hell something like that could come from somebody's brain.
Even with all of his brilliance, Kevin battled some demons inside. We talked about the darkness quite a bit. Both of us had suffered from some serious depression bits, but it seemed like Kevin's took a big toll as 2010 wore on.
As the months went by, and his announcement of moving to California came, I pleaded with him to start sending stuff to agents in L.A. He was too good to be sitting in a bookstore.
However, as the darkness sunk in, the writer's block paralyzed his creativity.
There is nothing tougher than convincing a dark artist of his own brilliance. You could thumb through his notebook for hours and see gem after gem after gem...but he couldn't see it.
I didn't pick up some clues. He wanted to sell all of his books; books that made him the man he was. He was filtering away his past, slowly.
When we said goodbye he kept saying cryptic things, but I just took it as Kevin going through one of his 'phases'.
In early August of 2010, I was hoping to work with a couple writers on getting together to put forth a show. When I contacted Kevin he was really excited about the prospect of doing new work...but he didn't have any new material. He kept saying that he couldn't write.
This was the same man that months before was my mentor. This was the man who taught me how to develop a writing schedule, how to never quit, how to 'write through the garbage' and into the clean. Here was my brilliant friend, unable to put pen to paper.
Midway through our conversation about the show, everything switched. We went from talking about the show to really dark things. I told him that he could always go to a hospital for immediate help or he can try to find a therapist. The conversation grew darker. It started going somewhere really bad...worse than I can remember for him.
I had run out of options of what to say. The conversation ended. Kevin tried calling and calling and calling and texting and texting and texting. I finally told him, and this was true, that I was on vacation and that I needed to spend some time with my kids...we would talk later.
It was August 15th, 2010.
Tonight, while reading some old e-mails, I wanted to see what old Kevin was up to these days. You see, after doing sketch comedy, I completely dedicated myself to just Chicago Tough. The previous Saturday I was on WGN Radio, then bigger things happened with other articles, then I started doing the RedEye (yada, yada, yada, I know 'we're happy for ya'). I cut off pretty much all contact with former writers and performers in Chicago. I had two kids now and my job was picking up. I never had the time to make phone calls to catch up with anybody; unless it was family or friends. I knew Kevin was just plugging away in California as a poor artist.
I went on Facebook to see if I could find him. I went online to see if some odd shows in California would pop up. Nothing showed. Then, before I turned myself in for the night, I gave one last search...a search that I knew I should've done from the start, but didn't want to. I did the name, and I just added 'suicide'.
And there he was. Deceased. The day after we spoke. August 16th, 2010. Word never got back to me. Hardly any words got back to anybody in Chicago from what I know now....and it was 14 months ago.
I'm reeling. It's now 4:20 a.m. This reeling in no way can compare to the pain that his family has been through. This reeling can't mimic the emotional upheaval he went through in those last 24 hours.
It is impossible to not think of the 'what ifs'. Did I say the right thing? Why didn't I answer his calls? Was it something I said?
I can't stop asking questions. One of the most brilliant writers I ever knew, and he died at 32.
I could go on...I can keep writing about this. But there is no action in grief. Only pain.
Tonight, I went through all of our late night gmail chats. I can't get over how bright, how funny, and how full of work Kevin was.
And I can't get over his death.
I can't get over the fact that his death went unnoticed. That it was just another silent death in our world...his death had only been recorded in a couple newspapers as blips in the obituary section.
So, I'm giving him his own. A real obituary. One that one of the more brilliant writers I've ever met deserves.
While this has seriously punched me in the gut, I know that the only thing that I can do from here on out is to be active on making sure that this doesn't happen to anybody else....
So, here it is: If anybody you know is in that dark place, and doesn't seem to find a way out...please, please have them call 1-800-273-TALK. Send donations to www.afsp.org or www.save.org . I will be dedicating more of my time to prevention.
I also plan on doing a show for suicide prevention in the next six months. All proceeds will go towards these benefits.
In the meantime, I'm getting myself one of those small writing notebooks...I'm gonna keep it in my backpocket. Everytime I see something that reminds me of you, I'll try to come up with something funny...and I'll come way short of your standard.
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