"Rage, rage against the dying of the light" - In Memory of Byron Card

In the early evening on Tuesday, 18 July 2006, I received a phone call from my friend Quincy who relayed to me the ghastly news that my friend Byron had taken his life. I was sitting on the #23 to downtown from my office in SODO after a particularly gruesome day at work.

I don't remember much of the phone conversation after he'd broken the news to me. He didn't have much information other than Byron had committed suicide. I vaguely remember calling Chris and telling him. Beyond that, I've blurred impressions of the people surrounding me on my commute and the sharp *snick* and the hiss of the flame from my lighter as I lit cigarette after cigarette, savoring the bitter taste of the smoke and the burning of my lungs as I chain-smoked at my bus-stop on Yesler while I waited for the bus home. It reminded me that I was alive.

What I felt (and still feel to a degree) was an overwhelming sense of numbness. This numbness is wearing off and being replaced by a growing sense of anger.

I'm angry that the lovely, kind Byron is dead.

I'm angry that Byron, who was always so generous and sweet-tempered, was so despairing that he took his life.

I'm angry at myself for having lost touch with him - even before I'd moved to Seattle, we'd kind of drifted apart. I in the dizzying whirl of preparing to move, he in the dizzying whirl of finding a boyfriend.

And I'm angry because I've no-one at whom I can direct this anger.


Byron was a fantastic person. For a long time, he was the only person I'd have color or cut my hair. I looked forward to going down to Studio 120 on Fourth and sitting and chatting with Gail while waiting for him to finish up and then gossiping with Byron. He was never as sharp-tongued or venomous as me. He'd giggle at my acerbic comments and we'd make plans to go out later to the bar for a few drinks. We'd wind up spending far too much and far too many hours drinking and having fun with the others. He would dance and dance. Occasionally, he'd grumble about the rude straights; but generally, he kept an even temper and shrugged them off.

When Patrick and I lived together, I'd on numerous occasions had Byron over for dinner - either as part of a dinner party or one or two friends coming over for a quick bite before heading to the bar. One time, he brought round a few boxes of "Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans" candy. And I remember him, Chris, and me sitting in the kitchen trying them in between cocktails.

I remember Byron as the nice one - the foil to my bitterness. He had, on many occasions, chided me gently when I'd given too free of a rein to my acid-tongue.


I've been having a hard time accepting that Byron's dead. Of all of my friends (and this will sound terrible, but you know exactly what I mean), he was the last person who I would've imagined would choose suicide.

I hadn't any idea that he was filled with such despair and I am bitter that someone like Byron would be driven to such lengths.


I really haven't much more to say...

Other than one last shout of "HOOKERS!" to you, Byron.

I'll miss you.

You can read Patrick Jacob's comments here.


Blogger Wrongo Nerveman said...

Byron Wayne Card was my best friend in Myrtle Point, Oregon. We met when I was in 7th grade, and he was a senior at Myrtle Point High School. His step-father Cole oppressed him. I changed the irrigation pipes with him in the pastures by the Coquille River. His sisters Martha and Joanne and their mother Ramona were surrounded by sewing projects in that farm-house by Highway 42. My sister Jadene was friends with his sisters. This was the summer of 1987, when water-weenies were the rage. Byron and I loved "Push it" by Salt-n-Peppa. Byron especially loved "Naughty Girls Need Love, too" by Samantha Fox. He made out with Dezeri Rollins that summer, and I got Stacey Anne Kombol. (Later I made out with Dez, too, bless her heart.) I hid under my sleeping bag when Stacey's mom called down to us from the highway the next morning. We'd slept outside that night. A year or so later he mumbled Kristi Gurney, the most popular girl at MPHS, was hot, which surprised me: Her? Her?? Okaay... Byron drew, and later painted, beautiful dragons. He turned me onto Piers Anthony's *Xanth* series when the Cards moved into town proper and wound up our backyard neighbors. We listened to the weird short-wave radio signals on his stereo around the time Information Society's "What's on your mind (Pure Energy)" came out. We went for long walks with my micro-cassette recorder rolling, and I have those tapes still. (I'll play the entirety of them into my computer and publish them soon.) I got a paper-route and bought a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Byron's favorite game was *Castlevania.* Then the Cards moved to Arkansas. I sent Byron my NES to ease his boredom. It came back. My ones had looked like sevens when I wrote his address on the package, thanks to Mrs Sixberry, who taught English and French at the Myrtle Point High School (which included 8th grade). Having to resend it stressed me out, as we had no extra money then, but I was determined he should have it. I sent it again (another $20). He received it. He sent me audio letters, also on micro-cassette, including a recording of his teacher: Byron wanted to show me the southern accents. Cicadas are audible in the background on those recordings. Then he came back, but I never recovered my NES: That was the beginning of a troubled period for Byron and me. When he came back, something had changed; he was more worldly, perhaps. We were still hanging out at that time. This was when the NES game *T-n-C Surf-Design* had come out, and I played it at their new house by the tennis-courts. It was, like the farmhouse on Hwy 42, an old house, vaguely victorian, only this time fewer family members were in evidence. That house seemed emptier than the other one, except for Byron's cousins, who were younger than me... Byron's bedroom was upstairs, and we played Nintendo up there and listened to music and drew. I stayed over plenty of times, and Byron used to delight in tickling me til I'd beg for mercy.. It was around this time that the trouble began. Byron withdrew. I was clueless as to what could be the trouble, and he would not say. I would not learn the nature of his private issue for five more years, when I visited him in Coeur d'Alene, after my first year of college, and learned he was gay. But there, in Myrtle Point, it was forbidden, and he did not reveal it to me. I think I had by then picked up the redneck's habit of ridiculing homosexuality. Byron was then working with Cole the wicked step-father, and maybe Cole's older son from another marriage, whose name I forget. They were picking ferns and selling them, I believe. He was gone a lot, and since he'd already graduated, and I was still in school, I saw him less and less. It got bad. I'd play tennis at the court nearby, or walk by his house on my paper-route, and look at his house and wonder what trouble was bothering him. Finally, one foggy night, he walked across town and dropped a letter in my mailbox. In his lovely print he wrote, for the return address, "The Creep on 'C' Street, Grumpsville, OR." Still clueless, I defended him when a friend at school said, "Byron? That guy's a fag!" "No, he's not," I said, thinking it was a mean thing for him to have said. I think the Cards moved away soon thereafter, no doubt because Cole had some paramount economic reason for doing so. I heard he became a nurse, but got accused of perpetrating some perversion upon his patients, and became a stylist. Now if there was one clue I certainly missed to Byron's orientation, it was his style. Byron always had the best haircut in Myrtle Point. He basically looked like George Michael. I wish I had pictures. This is going back again into the late '80s, but it's worth mentioning. Picture a slender Byron, age 17, in cutoff jeans short-shorts with a black net X-large T-shirt. Maybe the MPHS Yearbook has a photo of his hair for you. You have to understand, this is in a town of loggers and dairy-farmers, for whom flannel was the height of fashion. When I visited Byron in Coeur d'Alene, he was not the least bit shy about telling me he was gay. We went to see Michael Crichton's "Congo" at a cinema, just him and me, and we roared like old times about the female gorilla hitting her chest and the electronic voice-translator proclaiming in a ridiculously feminine robot-voice, "Me Amy!" This was in 1995, by the way, and I met his boyfriend at the time, who stopped by briefly. He was a manly enough guy with a bit of a belly, shall we say, who shook my hand warmly enough and looked me in the eye. Byron seemed happy and proud of him, if perhaps vaguely housewife-ish. I did his dishes in sympathy. Byron and I did not have a lot to say, but I felt very welcomed, and he had to work in the morning, so he turned in early, gently shutting his bedroom door. That was the last I saw of him... You are not dead to me, Byron, not by a long shot. I will carry you and these memories with me the rest of my life. You are a part of me, delicate, graceful, in an Oregon full of clods and lurchers. Bless your talented heart, and I am so, so glad you touched people... In love, always, Jerit Adamson Fourman. Ashland, Oregon.

2:57 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home