Everybody has their history, everybody has their struggles…

It is a solemn Wednesday morning that I type this. I put my Kona coffee closer to my monitor so that there is room for a tall glass filled with orange juice and Champagne – a mimosa. However, it is not in celebration that I am drinking this concoction, but in deep reflection after having read something quite startling.

I was going over the files on my external 3TB Western Digital drive that I will be backing up later today, as the drive is failing and I need to return it for a replacement. While looking through my collection of pictures, including scans, digital photos, as well as pictures downloaded the Internet, I stumbled across one that got me thinking about days gone by.

Almost a decade ago, I moved from Reno, NV, to San Francisco, CA, the city I was born and grew up in. After waiting for one of the several temp agencies I had signed up with to deliver me a temporary job for several weeks, I secured the first of several positions I would hold over the next few years. After a few weeks at that job, I was temping at an office that was literally facing my previous temp job.

After an initial feeling out process, I soon realized that I would likely be hired at this company once the mandatory 90 days of temp work was completed (Spherion policy). I met many people at this job, and got along with almost all, save for one person. He was very nice at first, but soon revealed, via words and actions on and off the job, to be quite literally crazy. He was a person that you wanted to like, but then he’d say or do something that made you want to beat the snot out of him, if only you weren’t at work.

Once I figured out how his mind worked, I managed to keep an uneasy peace with him, with the fact that we were on different, but overlapping shifts, helping immensely. He would do things, like erase files I put for the morning crew to use in order to continue the work that I started the previous night, in an attempt to get me into trouble. I soon began emailing the files to all senior staff, ending that trick after one show.

He was a real people person, when he wanted to be. It didn’t surprise me that he used to be in sales, having mentioned a job, his first one I believe, where he showed up for an interview in shorts and a t-shirt, only to be told to change into something else if he wanted an interview. He did so, interviewed, and was subsequently hired. He bragged about being the best sales person, so much so, that his coworkers were jealous of him. He lamented that his “Dream job” was short lived, as he found out that his employer was scamming people, and left the state one day, leaving everyone out of a job and out several weeks pay.

He wanted to be liked, but also had a habit of hitting on straight guys like myself, and most of the others in the office, and then getting very angry when he was rejected. He was, for the most part, a good worker, and we tried our best to make him feel appreciated. For some reason, he seemed to thrive on chaos, and enjoyed competing with people, even though no one else looked at work as a competition.

He once ditched our office to work for another company a few floors up, bragging about them and bashing us – until he came back the afternoon of his first day, begging for his job back. I later found out that when his new employer wouldn’t spring for automatic staplers, he decided to leave them and come back to us. Really.

We ended up being on the same shift for the next few months, and developed an uneasy rapport. We talked about various things we went through as kids. I talked about growing up in a bad neighborhood, and being one of the few white kids in said neighborhood. He talked about growing up gay in a family and community that refused to even talk about such things. We talked about what led us to where we were and what our plans for the future were.

His nickname around the office, though not to his face, was “The 99” as in “99%” which I was informed, in Filipino culture (which a lot of my co-workers were), means “not all there”. Something akin to “51/50” in white American culture. He always had a running crisis, always searching for something he could buy to make him happy, always chasing contentment. From a Psychological standpoint, he was a fascinating person to study.

As 2004 got closer to 2005, though I’m not quite sure when, as my memory is not what it once was because of the Clonazepam I used to take for my anxiety (since cured, but that’s a different post) has erased a good 10 years from my mind, leaving only bits and pieces of emotionally significant information and muddied dates and times,  I noticed his weight fluctuating significantly. I knew he was getting closer and closer to 40, as evidenced by the balding in the back of his head that he tried to cover up by letting his hair get longer, so I didn’t think too much of it.

Then one day he mentioned that he went skydiving, having an instructor strapped to him so he wouldn’t panic and not pull the ripcord. He mentioned that during the jump, his contacts fell out of his eyes, and stuck to his goggles. He decided to get Lasik eye surgery, bragging about how inexpensive it was going to be, and the discount he was getting on each eye.

The day of his eye surgery, he arrived at the office in the afternoon, his eyes burning, despite having asked for, and got, the day off. He left and made his way back to his apartment to heal up.

Seeing him the next day we was back to his old self, that is to say, he was in ultra-rude mode. Within a few days he got a call, apparently from a doctor or hospital. I was trying not to listen, but at that point in my life, my brain tumor had not yet impacted my hearing, or anything else. As a result, my hearing was still VERY good. Apparently they discovered something very bad during a blood test, which I believe was a result of his having the eye surgery – most likely standard procedure. His demeanor over the next few days had changed. He went from being excited about a new guy he had met, to being nervous to the point of shaking from time to time, and being disarmingly nice, which was very unusual for him.

Then one afternoon I came in, my shift having been moved temporarily because of a large project we had going at the time. I was told that he was taking medical leave, for reasons that “he didn’t want to talk about”, and I was to take his shift.

I never saw the guy again, and only heard from my supervisor, who got a call from him around New Years of 2005, asking the origin of a check he got in the mail from the company. “Is it Christmas?!” he asked my Supervisor, who said that he sounded “like he was on heavy medication”. She informed him that we all got bonuses for doing so well during the year, hitting a then record level of revenue for the company. He later broke with the company, apparently whatever his condition was, it wasn’t getting any better.

This brings me back to this morning, having seen a picture of this guy I used to work with, who bragged about appearing in the paper years before, when Microsoft was in danger of being broken up. I decided to look for him online, just to see if he was still alive.

I stumbled upon two pieces of information, one of which indicated that someone with his exact name and who matched his age, died In early 2008. The other, was a long eulogy from an uncle of his. After realizing that it was the same guy I worked with, based on a story or two he told me that this eulogy contained, I read the whole thing. I found out that he was addicted on and off to various drugs, including alcohol and marijuana. I found out that he was sexually abused by an Aunt at 7, and by several men starting at the age of 10. I found out so many more things, covering his life from birth, to 8 or so years before I met him.

Having heard “the rest of the story” as it were, after all of these years, I can’t help but feel a deep sadness for him. Sure he was a jerk, likely bi-polar and paranoid, but he was human, like us all.

I guess the point of this post, is that while we all have difficult people in our lives, we should keep in mind that everyone has their story, their history, and their struggles. Knowing his story, has made me appreciate my life that much more, and painted a slightly different picture of a man that I do miss in a way, if only because at his best, he was an interesting person to talk to, and he certainly didn’t deserve the stuff that happened to him as a kid.

Rest in Peace.

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