I got up Sunday in kind of a weird depressive funk I couldn't quite place the cause of. It was a lovely day so I decided to put on my skates for the first time in while. I hit up the skateparks down by the Hudson as was wondering where everyone was on such a nice day. I then pulled up the I Roll NY website to see if there was any event I was missing. There was. It was for a memorial fundraiser session in Flushing, Queens for a rollerblader named Alex Nunez.
After reading it I decided it was too late for me to head out there and I was just going to roll home. Somewhere rolling up Park Place I had to sit down. Before I knew it tears started to form in my eyes. I texted a rolling buddy of mine just kind of dumbfounded.
Now I don't want you to get the wrong idea, Alex and I were not friends. We weren't even crew buddies. We had a couple of mutual friends/acquaintances so I had skated with him a few times. I wasn't sure why learning of his death hit me so hard. It kind of sat in my head for the rest of the day stewing. As sometimes happens when I have a strong emotional reaction to something kind of tangential to my immediate life my brain starts looking for the real cause. It got a stuck on another person I knew and started to loop. Because this can sometimes also be the result of a cognitive misfire I didn't really trust it too much either. So I rode it out.
I wrote a blogpost about "brain looping" hoping the process would get me to some root cause, and also hoping if it was a cognitive misfire it would distract me long enough for it to pass. The loop passed but the emotional pain did not. I racked my brain a little to try and come up for a reason a "stranger's" death would hit me so hard. Then it occurred to me he wasn't really a "stranger."
Alex was in a bunch of video edits I had so I was pretty familiar with him. I felt like I knew him a little because of this. He also won the East Coast Real Street Contest the year I really, really got into skating. It occurred to me that Alex was a part of our community, this little subculture we call aggressive rollerblading or whatever you might call it. More than that he was part of the New York scene, and even more than that he was really close to me in age. We don't talk about it much, and sometimes we don't act like it, but this little community is a family, and we'd just lost one of our own. Now, we were all getting together to mourn, as a community, in the only way we really know how, by skating.
On top of that I realized that a part of my life was now done too. That competition was one of the last times I was really into skating, with a crew of friends to back me up. What I was mourning was a part of my life that was now gone. Suddenly I was very aware of my own mortality, and all the things I hadn't gotten done, and in particular, all the people I felt I hadn't told I cared properly. And then I freaked out. I think I may have texted/Facebook messaged three or four of my friends that night asking when I was going to see them again. I panicked a little when not all of them replied right away.
Then, as often happens, some more time passed, and so did the dread. But if you are out there and you didn't hear from me: Know I still care, a lot, even if I haven't said it in while. And if you knew Alex, were his friend, are a member of his family, or just some random person who rolled with him, know that I'm there with you too. Don't be afraid to tell someone you care about them, that you are sad or in pain at this loss. Care for yourself, care for others.
Be a family to each other.
There are donations be taken for the family here:
"Paypal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seriously, ANY contribution will help. Also, if you do decide to
donate, make sure you send it as a “gift” so paypal doesn’t take a
percentage of it."