Shortly after I began college, I started playing on some multi-user online RPGs. They weren’t, overall, very good, but I knew some of the players and admins from school, and gaming with them was fun. Eventually, I became an admin, too, and made some more friends among the staff.
The game on which I initially played the most, Dark Metal, had a small get-together in Boston. I missed it, but many of my friends got along well with one of the players who came up from New York. A few months later, he moved in with the owners of the box, just until he could find more permanent housing.
When I got back to BU in the fall, one of my best friends at school introduced me to Kevin in front of the Campus Convenience at Warren Towers. We got along well, and hung out a lot. Movies, PSX, whiskey, and Nintendo. He had a personality that I can only call ‘complex.’ He didn’t seem to like much at all, on the surface of things; this included himself and his friends. I think it was just through some kind of loyalty that his friendship was clear: he might still call you an asshole, but you became the asshole with whom he was willing to spend time. I still can’t tell you what, exactly, made that time worth spending with him. But it was.
I didn’t go home for the summer that year, and Kevin and I decided to get an apartment together once our leases were up. (Joining us in this endeavor was my roommate from the previous semester, Søren.) Kevin had, for most of the year, worked for XCom (now Level 3), where the NOC was halon-protected. As a half-joke, he carried a gas mask with him at all times at work, and when he showed up for our first trip to see an apartments he had it strapped to his messenger’s bag. The landlady was very polite as we wrote a deposit, and then rented out from under us.
We ended up renting a place in Porter Square, one of the best parts of Greater Boston. The apartment was somewhat dumpy, but the price was right and the location was prime. We filled the place up with televisions and other assorted electronics (The Machine God) from the MIT Flea, and screwed red light bulbs into the ceiling. There was much 007-playing and television watching. Sunday nights, Kevin made Sunday Dinner. I gave up vegetarianism to join in on the turkey he served for his birthday.
All in all, I think life in the Church of the Machine God was bachelorhood done right. Three guys living a relaxed and enjoyable life with few cares beyond their studies and how best to wire up the newest gadget. And then I found Kevin dead on the back landing, after he’d been two days missing.
It was nearly that unexpected. On a Friday in mid-December of 1998, Kevin bought a shotgun. He’d been talking about doing it for a while, and we all assumed it was just because shooting would be a fun pasttime. Some of the other guys and I had discussed getting our own permits and joining Kevin in going out to shoot skeet or targets. When I got home that night, Kevin was showing his gun, a Mossberg M500, to some of our friends, and he gave me the same show – a quick procedural demonstration. I helped him remove a retaining dowel from the cylinder. I retired early to get some work done. When he went to bed, he stopped by my door, gun in hand, and said goodnight. I said, “Please don’t point that thing at me.” (The barrel had inadvertently swung in my direction.) With an offended sneer, he sighed and went to bed. That’s the last time I saw him. It was a typical good-bye, for Kevin.
I left early for work on Saturday, happy to sneak out of the house before Kevin realized that I ate the last of the Trix. He still wasn’t around when I got home. Typical: he worked on call. Our friend Drew was there, and we went out and saw Star Trek IX. (It was awful.) By Sunday, still no Kevin. At Sunday Dinner, we joked that he had taken his shotgun and gone on a shooting spree – it was missing, but neither the shells nor the case were. Someone wrote a “Kevin goes shooting” magnetic poem on the fridge. Later investigation would show that his car was still in its usual space. If anyone had any idea where Kevin was, they didn’t say anything.
Monday morning, as I drank my morning tea and listened to OK Computer, I made one final scan for evidence of his location, and realized that the bolts on the rear door weren’t thrown. It was cold, and we hadn’t been spending any time on the balcony or roof, so we hadn’t noticed. I opened the door as far as I could, and saw Kevin’s legs, shotgun resting between them. I was shocked for a moment, and attempted to believe that it was a complex practical joke. This lasted for less than a second or two, though, and I was soon waiting for a 911 response on the porch.
When the police, along with the body, had left, the rear landing was a mess of blood, bone, and grey matter. “You’re going to need to clean that up,” one of the detectives told me. (The landlord would later handle this for me.) A mess was all Kevin left. His possessions were in their usual state of disarray and his computer (screamer) had been politely shut down. I cleaned up his room, helped divide his possessions amoung his friends and family, and searched everything he owned for documentation. There was none.
Kevin wasn’t the best adjusted person I’ve known, and had admitted to trying, on more than one occasion, to kill himself. But it always came off as a stupid mistake. It’s hard to believe, in light of the actual events, that he died without planning, and knowing that he planned to shoot himself while bantering with us over 007 and Simpsons just makes it all the more incomprehensible.
I miss Kevin, and I will never know why he died, but I want to.