by Solomon Tate
“I guess it hasn’t really been that bad.”, Garrick said to Dr. Perlmuter, the cardigan clad Psychotherapist who bore a striking resemblance to Tim Curry. “I mean there have been many potholes, and a whole lot of wrong turns, but it’s really been pretty good.”
“So why are you here?”, the doctor asked.
“Well, out there may be okay”, Garrick answered. “But the shit in my head freaks me out.”
“Well, we’ll have to pick it up right there next time.”, he said matter of factly, “I’m afraid we’re out of time.”
The good doctor was right. They were out of time. Two hours and seventeen minutes later Garrick stepped in front of a train at the St. Patrick subway station, ending the life of a good man.
Charlie Garrick was 54 years old. He spent 30 years as a reporter for a group of small, community newspapers. He had written a book, but came to the realization that he could say everything he needed to say in 2 or 3 sentences. ‘The Decline of Modern Culture’, which he wrote in 1998, consisted of 250 pages, of which 249 pages were left blank. On the 2nd page Charlie wrote “The tyrannical web of deceit that has circumvented the universe has been left to run amok, unattended for far too long. Stop the fucking lying”. He was right about it,I mean he really didn’t need more than 2 or 3 sentences to say what he needed to say. ‘Stop the fucking lying.’, pretty much said it all.
Charlie Garrick was my friend. We served two tours of duty together in rehab, during which neither one of us could muster the courage to achieve any measure of success. During our conversations, usually held over a couple of pitchers of beer and numerous tequila shots, he spoke lovingly about his children, and passionately about Taoism. Charlie believed that life just is. Nothing more needs to be done. If we could all accept our lives, commune with nature, and seek and want nothing, all of the world’s problems would cease to exist. I don’t really understand much of it myself, but he was certain it was right. “Be like a river.”, he said. “All it ever is is a river. It flows, and nothing more. And in doing nothing but being a river, it carves through solid rock, creating valleys, and massive canyons. Pretty impressive for doing nothing.”
We sat at The Brunswick House one afternoon, many years ago contemplating life’s purpose, as 2 incredibly naive young men were prone to do. I was a psychology major, infatuated with opportunities to delve into the psyche’s of troubled souls, and help them change to live more fulfilling and positive lives. Garrick, reluctantly chose his major in his 3rd year. He opted for a combined major in history & English. He stated that since man was destined to repeat the past, someone should know what the hell had really happened, and be able to write about the dangers of repetition.
Although customary in these instances, Charlie left no note, leaving the usual culprits to ask why. All that they could do was to ponder circumstance and speculate in an attempt to rationalize what had transpired. I’m not sure if even Charlie knew why. More important and certainly more relevant is how no one noticed the anguish and desperation that was consuming Charlie. He had friends, and family and it just didn’t make any sense. It never did. Something was eating away at him, from the inside out, and it had probably been going on for years and years.
I hadn’t spoken to Charlie in a few years, and I suppose that should have been some sort of warning that things weren’t right. But we always assume the best, I suppose. People get busy, and their lives twist and turn like a river, taking them where ever the river leads. It wasn’t unusual for Charlie to disappear, but he was pretty consistent in letting us know that he was okay. There was always some kind of smoke signal, a letter or a telegram, and more recently, a text message or an email, simply stating ‘All is well. Glad you’re not here’. But there had been nothing over the last few years.
Charlie had once told me about the time he headed north and spent 2 weeks alone in the wilderness. He said that when one removes himself from the human race, even if only for a short time, it becomes evident that you never really belonged, and no longer wish to be a member. Isolation was liberating, and in isolation, he was able to truly know himself, and to become himself.
But even in his reluctance to be a part of humanity, Charlie Garrick was always there for me, and scores of others. When my wife became ill, Charlie was there, and when my first daughter was born with a disability that required her to undergo 11 surgeries in 7 years, Charlie sat with me at that hospital every single time. He was a loving and caring man who always seemed to put others before himself. Sadly, most people didn’t notice as Charlie acted within the realm of silence and anonymity. He hated the recognition and notoriety that often went hand in hand with doing the right thing so much, that he had refused to attend 3 separate award events in his honor. Few people knew that he sat on several committees that dealt with social issues, or that he taught a creative writing course for marginalized youth in the city core. And that’s how he wanted it. He did what he did, like a river, doing nothing more that just being, and he carved a life of good deeds, touching so many.
And now that he’s gone, I regret for not being a better friend. I regret that I was not there for him when he needed someone. I feel guilt that I didn’t take the time to find out what the hell was going on so that I could at least try to help. I will miss him. I will miss the way he argued with the server at Szechuan Palace that Peking Duck is really only a chicken that swims and flies. I will miss the way beer came streaming out of his nose like a fountain when he laughed. Most of all, though, I will miss his friendship. I will miss the commitment and dedication he devoted to being my friend. I will miss Charlie Garrick.