I turned around as soon as he started mooning a group of schoolchildren.
I couldn’t take it. Daniel was just too much to handle. I began walking ahead of him, increasing the distance between us. But two minutes later, he jumped on me in hysterical fits. “No, no — don’t be angry! Please! I love you.” Typical Daniel. One moment doing something completely egregious. The next, confessing his love and affection for you.
For every bad thing Daniel did, there was an equal amount of love, kindness, generosity, and affection he gave to everyone he knew. He would do anything and everything to make his friends happy, giving all he had and asking for nothing in return.
It pains me to write this in the past tense, but maybe someday this will become normal: his heart stopped beating on January 23, 2012, 23:29 Holland time. His death is impossible to accept, like an unfathomable reality I cannot comprehend.
When I discovered his heart would stop beating at any moment, I first went to the gym. It seemed like the only thing to do. “Just follow the schedule, Matthew. Follow the damn schedule,” I told myself. And I did. I went to the gym and began running. But I had to stop. I couldn’t continue. It was as if someone or something was placing a white sheet over everything — all of the treadmills, weights, exercise machines, and my own ability to think. I had to do something else, but I didn’t know what to do — my best friend was dying.
Crazy. Lovable. Intense. Genuine. Impulsive. Creative. Attention-seeking. Sweet. There’s so many ways to describe Daniel.
We first met at a bar in Amsterdam called Prik. Daniel approached me because he thought I was 17 years old. After later discovering I was in fact 26, Daniel said: “The bar must have been very dark.” Shortly after meeting, Daniel introduced me to the rest of his friends. All of his friends were normal, unlike him. What a surprise! They didn’t sit on strangers’ laps, sing a show tune loudly at a random moment, or order four bottles of wine without having any money. His friends were level-headed and responsible.
We were all fascinated by his energy — an enormous ball of spectacular energy that made you his audience by virtue of proximity to him. Even at 5 am, after a long night of dancing and drinking — he would be bouncing off the walls while the rest of us could barely open our droopy eyes.
Most of Daniel’s life was an adventure in which every moment was seized.
On his 33rd (and last) birthday, Daniel smashed my face into his birthday cake. I grabbed a handful of cake and Daniel began running. I caught up to him in the next room and spread the white frosting in his hair like it was hair gel. The night before his birthday, Daniel took his glass of red wine and poured it over a friend’s head. On another friend’s white couch.
However, Daniel was not always causing trouble. He was one of the sweetest and the most intimate persons I have ever met — always hugging me, holding my hand, and wanting to cuddle on the couch. Intimacy was extremely important for Daniel, and whether you liked it or not you were going to be continually touched while he was around you.
Daniel’s level of intimacy made me initially uncomfortable, most likely because my dad is a former Marine. I was raised to believe intimacy between two male friends is socially unacceptable. However, Daniel forced me to become more intimate, as he did with the rest of his friends. How I appreciated those hugs! Those kisses! Those moments we had snuggling on the couch! How I would do anything to have those intimate moments again!
But it is not to be. He is now dead.
He had an epileptic attack on January 20th. I knew Daniel had had epilepsy. Vaguely. He must have told me he had it at some point or another. But I never thought an epileptic attack would kill him — cause him to not breathe and have a heart attack, and make him brain dead.
Daniel was a friend who danced, sung, twirled you around and around in circles, and told random people your dick size (or his best estimate of your dick size). Daniel detested boredom and mediocrity, and was focused solely on doing what he wanted.
“It’s Daniel’s world,” we used to say. “We just live in it.”
For many, like me, giving Daniel the spotlight was no problem. I loved his crazy personality and his infectious zest for life. For others, he caused a visceral reaction that had the person looking for the nearest exit away from him. “Daniel is Daniel,” we used to say.
Now we try to say: “Daniel was Daniel.”
The night after Daniel died, I had a dream that he suddenly woke up in his hospital bed and said, “I was just kidding guys! The joke is on you!” After I woke up, I broke down crying because I realized it was a dream. I actually expected Daniel to do this, because it would be so typical for Daniel to do.
Sometimes, I daydream that Daniel is going to come around the corner, and begin laughing at me like I am a complete idiot for thinking he was dead. Daniel’s seismic personality makes it unbelievable that he really is gone, forever.
He was not ready to die. Daniel was taken with his soul shrieking: “No no no no no no no!” Now everyone who loved him is crying: “No no no no no no no!” His death has been too much to handle, and all who love and loved him are coming to grips with a reality that is impossible to swallow.
A beautiful and raucous life, taken from us. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no…