I’ve been thinking a lot today about my friend Alex. And I’ve been thinking even more about his mother. Today would have been Alex’s 40th birthday, but he passed away 13 years ago very unexpectedly. It’s almost impossible to me that so much time has passed. The day we buried him was my 26th birthday. I will be 39 in October.
Everyone who met Alex loved him. He was charming as hell, with a devilish smile and heart of pure, solid gold. He was funny, and brilliant, and an incredibly talented musician and actor. He was effortlessly cool, and devastatingly handsome. Above all of this, he was one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known. He graduated from our high school a year before me and went off to a college I hadn’t heard of before, Emerson College in Boston. When it was time for me to start looking at schools, I knew I wanted to get out of Miami and head to the Northeast, so I went to visit some schools in Boston. One of those stops, naturally, was to visit Alex at Emerson. He had only been there a few months and already he had a close-knit group of friends and everywhere we went, people were glad to see him. I wasn’t surprised in the least. A year later, I arrived for my first year at Emerson, and although Alex wasn’t a student there anymore, I was welcomed by those same friends he introduced me to on that weekend college tour.
I have a lot of great memories of Alex, from high school to that summer in Boston when I lived in a giant rental house with him and five other guy friends from high school, to eventually a bunch of us migrating to New York in our early twenties. I also remember so clearly the very last time I saw him. It was early Fall of 2004 in Brooklyn. I had just come back from a six-month national tour (back in my previous life as a working actor in New York), and Alex’s band was playing a gig at a local bar/venue. There we were, living our dreams in New York, surrounded by this amazing community that we had built when we were just kids in Miami. It was the closest thing to magic I’d ever experienced.
After the show, Alex and I caught up outside on the sidewalk. There was that perfect feeling in the air, when the long, hot NYC summer started surrender into the cool night breezes of early Autumn. It was the kind of night songs are written about and indie NYC meet-cute movie scenes are made of. We talked for a little while, and then I had to go. I don’t remember why now. What I do remember is that before I left, we shared a giant bear hug, and the last words we said to each other were:
Him: “I love you, kid!”
Me: “I love you, too!”
I am so grateful for that. A couple of weeks later, he was gone.
I think about his mom a lot. In the years following his death, we’ve actually become pretty close. When I’m in Miami, I always make a point to see her, and sometimes I even stay at her house. This October, I’ll be taking J and our little man to meet her and have a sleepover and I can’t wait.
Alex was her only child. As I write this, my little boy, my only child, is in his swing a few feet away from me. I cannot fathom what it must feel like to lose a child, at any age. It’s not fair, and it never will be. Mothers are not supposed to outlive their children.
Alex’s mom lives her life with such grace and bravery, and I marvel at her strength.
Today would have been Alex’s 40th birthday. Tomorrow is my son’s four-month birthday. I know that nothing in this world is guaranteed or permanent, so I’m just going to love him with all of my might every day and live in gratitude for every moment.
Once again, I’m living in the magic. Thanks for the reminder, Ruiz.