Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mitch's Death

"To keep silent about this amazing happening deepened this shock for me. It made Finny seem too unusual for—not friendship, but too unusual for rivalry. And there were few relationships among us at Devon not based on rivalry " - A Separate Peace

A friend of mine, Mitch Andelmo, died early Monday morning, late Sunday night, however you want to look at it. A story had come out earlier that evening, I had been reading about it, about a car driving through a barricade and straight into the crowd at a street festival. I, all of us, most people, didn't know that the two people in critical condition were Mitch and his girlfriend. Then the little poison tentacles of rumor started going around facebook, popping up through the cracks. Some accident, Mitch in the hospital, vague uninformative posts between friends asking others to keep them updated. Then one moment when the facebook info was sort of aligned, every one synced, waiting, a climax of tension, and a rolling down hill, the slow descent as the word started going round that he was off life support, and finally it was over. I've never witnessed a facebook death before. The experience is still haunting me. Haunting is probably a terrible choice of words here, huh?

I met Mitch for the first time at Wells' birthday party a couple of years ago. I had gone with Camilla and Christine, because I wanted to meet Wells after knowing him only on FB and twitter. That was also the first night I met Esti, Steve, and Kate. So actually, sort of an important night. Mitch was the guy in a brown corduroy blazer, with a rainbow scarf and a gold vintage rose pin. I thought he was gay. We talked about books, language, and danced to ELO and I was smitten completely.

Everybody was smitten with Mitch, he oozed a kind of playful teenage sexuality, this combination of athletic energy and popularity, but with a good dose of damage that made him real and accessible, you wanted to rescue him and aspire to him at the same time. He was beautiful, and I don't mean that in some "everyone's soul is beautiful" way. I mean, he was one of those people that are incredible to look at, and to watch. He cultivated the look of a 70s gay porn star fluffer, he retained an innocence that made him even dirtier. He was sexy in a Our Bodies Ourselves way, both weirdly healthy and filthy at the same time.

Maybe it's inappropriate to talk about how sexy a dead person was? It's impossible not to mention though, because he was so physically There all the time.  He inhabited his body with 100% presence, he used every muscle and cell like...not machines, but like he was made up of moving horses. It was amazing to watch because he also punished his body as cruelly as any Russian novelist, he poisoned it over and over again, then pushed it hard as it could go, as if daring the rest of us to even try and be as reckless and uninhibited.

 Every time he saw you, he was happy to see you, and there was so much genuine joy in the way he looked at you or hugged you, genuine interest in what you were saying. In a hipster scene full of judgment and gossips, and frankly a lot of unworthy petty people, Mitch didn't give a crap. My friend was remembering a time in his life when he spent too much time drinking in Tremont bars, and being a snarky smartass drunken jerk. He said Mitch was the guy who you never caught looking at you like you were an asshole. I understand that feeling, I collect assholes as friends too, I look over discourtesies I shouldn't if you're smart enough and interesting, because being smart and interesting is more important than being nice all the time, and Mitch was the same way with people, he just wanted you to be interesting and fun and if you were sweet and kind also then great but if not he forgave you. Because what he wanted was also forgiveness, for being as smart as he was and fucking it up. He fucked up a lot. He didn't fuck up other people, he just fucked up his own life, but he knew it. It was one of the first things he told me about himself, that very first night, what a fuck up he was. It's easy sometimes to think that sincere people are simpleminded or naive, because you can't understand their love for the world when the world is so obviously unlovable. But Mitch loved us because he needed out of his own head, to be rescued with other people's thoughts, and he was grateful for that, and that gratefulness came through in every one of his hugs.

He was so smart. He was quick witted, and tossed logic around like it was cat toy, pulled wonderful glowing ideas and phrases from his brain one right after the other. He was Phineas, you wanted to hate him for being so smart and pretty and decent, you wanted to come up with petty criticisms, to condemn him for his drinking or his silly hipster clothes, or his mustache cause you know, mustaches, whatever. You wanted to pull something out to feel superior, so that you wouldn't be aware of how little you shined next to him. You just couldn't. He transcended criticism or rivalry.  You just had to accept that you liked him immensely, despite him being smarter and prettier than you.

He kept inviting me to parties, to bars, and I wouldn't go, I would give excuses and say "maybe". I wanted to see him every time, but I felt like I wouldn't fit in with the rest of his friends at all, and I would justify it like "it's a party, he won't even notice" and then he would text me the next day asking why I hadn't come. I feel terrible about that now, that maybe he never knew how very much I liked him, and that it was just the rest of the crowd that drove me away. And that I missed actual time with him, those minutes and hours that he kept offering me and I kept turning away because of my own insecurity.That was stupid of me.

When I heard he was in the hospital from an accident, before I knew any details, I assumed he had been on his bike drunk, without a helmet. Because the flip side of being so exuberant was the side of him that never wore a helmet, and got much too drunk, and hurt himself all the time. I wasn't the only one who thought that, a couple people had reactions of "this is why you have to wear a helmet", and while it was unfair of us, it was an easy conclusion to jump to and he would agree. What I find amazing about the way Mitch's narrative ends is that he spent so much time on a bike being irresponsible and putting himself on an absolute path towards a cautionary biker versus car tale, but in the end, even on foot, the cars got him. He was a cat who went through his nine lives, escaping and slipping away in the nick of time, only to have the enemy get him completely by chance. In a stupid, meaningless, random death. I know death will be meaningless for most of us anyway, but I'm angry because he deserved a death with meaning, even if he didn't think so.

A lot of people have been expressing condolences and telling me how sorry they are despite the fact they didn't know him. I appreciate all of that, but I was just a friend, not even a super close one. It's his family and close friends that need the support, and one way you can do that is to go send a donation to help with his funeral costs, please. http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4023733094/efblike

edit:  my heaviest condolences to the friends and family of the second man killed in the crash as well, which I didn't hear about till this morning. It's humbling to know there is an entirely separate circle of people in this city also in mourning. There is also now a medical relief fund set up for Constance, Mitch's girlfriend who is alive, but severely injured. http://www.indiegogo.com/constanceP


  1. this is beautiful and heartfelt.

    sorry for the loss of your friend.

  2. This was beautifully written. I am so sorry for your loss.

  3. This is excellent

  4. Bridget, thank you for writing about him. I don't think any of us could say it better, or even find the words right now. There were many times we'd be heading somewhere and he'd say "you might get to meet my friend Bridget tonight." He even showed me your blog at one point. It's funny I didn't put together that you were that Bridget until I finally met you a few months ago. Hanging out with you was a treat for him. He really loved you and valued your friendship, and I do too!

  5. This is really fantastic, and completely echoes my feelings about Mitch. He was so smart and so exuberant--the kind of person you can't help but fall a bit in love with. I feel guilty mourning, because other friends of mine knew him so much better than I did, and I feel like they should get all the grief, like mine takes away from theirs somehow, so I'm so glad you were able to articulate this. He was an amazing guy, and it's terribly unfair that he was taken away from all of us through such meaningless stupidity.

  6. Amazing. Well done.

  7. Beautifully stated. You clearly understood Mitch to the core. This is really a great tribute. -Anna Lee

  8. Bridget, I hope I die before you do so you can write something about me.

    I hope science figures out by then how to bring me back, so I can read it. Also, I don't want to die.

    I'm sorry I missed out on Mitch. Such a waste.

  9. this is very nicely written. you sure have a way with words... brought tears to my eyes

  10. I didn't know this blog existed until three minutes ago, when raye linked me to it. i wrote something about mitch this morning, on mine. you nailed it, like raye said. we had a lot of the same things to say.


    mitch was aces. hang in there.

  11. This was a great. You quantified our good friend very well. Mitch would be up rambling, dancing, pondering, smoking and boozing later than all of us. When we were lucky enough to have him surf our couch, he would be up earlier than all, ready to brunch and do it all over again. I was always pleased to see that he had stayed. I love this man and will miss him more than I can currently grasp. Thank you Bridget.

  12. Sorry to hear this Bridget. I can empathize with a lot of what you are feeling. I hope the surviving family and friends, including you, are well looked after by the community.

  13. Thank you Bridget, you are right about who he was, and right about his friends and the insincerity of that scene. Its sickening that his death is turned into a social event, though I understand staying united. Thank you for the well put together words. I've heard many drunk people explaining Mitch and its obvious who actually knows him and who doesn't.

  14. Bridget --

    You're my favorite writer in Cleveland. And now you're leaving us.

  15. Well it aint the mitch I remember from school but we hadnt really talked since jr high, but I do remember him being a good guy and very smart unique individual.

  16. I just wanted to pass along the many compliments I have received for writing this... even though of course, I was too fucked in the head to write anything at all, especially something that so perfectly describes Mitch. I have linked those people to you. Thank you for this.

    Bridget Gibbons

  17. I read this and I wanted to say, gosh, I hope when I'm dead someone says something this incisive about me. But lo and behold, someone upthread in the comments has already said that.

    I didn't know Mitch, and actually Bridget I've only met you once (at Dave Polak's place). It seems hackneyed for me to say I wish I'd made a point to hang out with you more before you left town. Instead, to be frank about my own flaws the way you're so good at with yours, I will have to admit at this point that I am pretty shitty at spending time with the right people in the right ways.

    So I guess I learned something from the death of someone I didn't know. That's good, right?

  18. well said, well spoken, Bridget. I'm also in the camp of people who knew Mitch but wished they knew him better. his every moment with you, his every movement and gesture was so welcoming. every time you saw or bumped into him, you were once again home. and you, luckily having known him better, were able to sum up those harder-to-define qualities which made him such a rare and beautiful person. your words speak so true of him, and it's the kind of truth you might feel the shape of when you're acquaintances with someone, but not fully be able to lay out to your own satisfaction just then when the love is so fresh. reading this, I felt like I was there with him again, but still seeing nuances I'd not known of, pieces then snapping into place. thank you so much for being your eloquent, thoughtful self and for saying the things that need to be said when the pain's still so fresh, the heart still sunk in its depths. love you!


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