I got the news a few days ago. I still find myself crying about it. Sinuses and eyes burning. Cold, crackling fist around my heart squeezing. My mind unable to reconcile that it’s real.
Zaine is dead. He’s gone.
How the fuck is this possible? It’s a joke, right? Inconceivable.
There was too much energy in him. Too much light, too intense of a presence.. Too much a part of my life, too much of an influence on who I am. It’s almost like a part of me dying.
We met in high school. Initially, we didn’t like each other much. A mutual love of Rush and Jethro Tull got us past that, made us realize how much we were alike. We bonded over theatre and art and music and humor and life.. When shit went sideways with his dad and he needed a place to stay, my mom welcomed him in, and he lived with us for over a year. We’d smoke and drink and laugh and talk of plans for the future. How we’d escape our shitty environment. Rebellious Bastards United. He got an apartment in Lewiston, and it became the hub for my Senior Year in High School. We’d go over there and drink and smoke and get high and talk about girls and life and art and how we wanted to change the world. And escape, god.. Always… How we wanted to escape.
The night before I left for California, the girl I was dating at the time let him drive her car against my protests. He was drunk. The car got into a minor scrape, he ran drunkenly down the street, blaming himself, saying “I should fucking die, I can’t do anything right”. I needed stitches in my chin, blood covering my chest like I’d had my throat slit, and yet I told my mom “We need to go after him. Make sure he’s OK.” My mom kept insisting on the hospital, I insisted we find him first. I prevailed and we found him. Made sure he was OK. Let him know that what mattered was HIM. Not a stupid car, or a stupid girl that (let’s face facts) I would never see past that night ever again.
Then I moved to LA.
Six months later he moved to San Jose.
We spent Thanksgiving together, eating TV dinners out of the metal foil trays. Both of us poor as fuck. Both of us scared as fuck. Both of us happy as fuck. We’d escaped. Sure, we had no idea what the future would bring, but the first step was made. We were no longer trapped.
Over the next five years, I saw him ever 6 months or so. I’d stay with him and his roommates Amie Sue and Eric, who became as much family to me as Zaine was. Any excuse to go to the bay area for “a short trip” became a multi-week camp out at their place. Shows and espresso and cigarettes and music and art and heated passionate discussions. And laughter. So much laughter.
My memory has gotten hazy and flawed over the years on a lot of things. I can remember incidents, but I can’t SEE them. My memories of Zaine are crystalline. I can see his face go from quiet contemplation to a wide grin. The way he twisted his head when he laughed… The way he’d give himself over to the laughter. Embracing it fully. I can see him dancing in my living room to 80s Christian New Wave music. I can see his head cock and raised eyebrow when I’d say something particularly absurd. I can see all of these things like a movie playing out before me.
We got our first tattoos together. I designed his. An Ankh made of green chrome with pieces pulled away, revealing the broken circuits underneath. We went to an old Korean tattoo artist who did a very poor job, the needle set way too deep… Scarification over tattooing… And blood pouring in sheets down our arms. Rebellious Bastards United. Later we saw NIN at the Cactus Club. Down In It had just been released as a single, but the show cemented both of our love for the band. I’d send him tapes of the band in the NW before they broke. He’d send me obscure industrial and darkwave stuff. We’d see each other as frequently as possible.
Tori wanted me to come down to Taos NM to hang while they recorded Under the Pink. I called Zaine and told him we were making a road trip. We headed out at night, driving… Driving… In the heat of the August evening. We reached Lake Havasu AZ in the early am. Deciding to see London Bridge we wandered around the park… Unsure if we should enter, not wanting to trespass. Two cop cars came screaming in to the parking lot. The cops had us up against the car, asking what we were doing, us trying to explain “we wanted to see the bridge”, Zaine thinking this was time to pull out the comedy of imitating the Zeppelin “Take us to the bridge” riff.
The cops let us go, after deciding these two long haired scruffy fucks weren’t a threat, and we drove on… Through the desert, the scent of sage heavy in the air, leaving our skin sticky from the pollen. Singing as we drove, writing songs on a beat up acoustic guitar. Finally getting to Taos. Watching meteor showers in the desert after the day’s recording. Listening to early mixes, stomping across the studio floors in Doc Martens. Having Eric sample the sound for the rhythm track for Space Dog. Driving back…. Not just to San Jose, but all the way to WA. Not wanting the trip to end.. Saying “THIS should be a MTV show. Not that Real World thing. Actual friends trying to deal with life on the road” Tori getting concerned when we’d “fight”… Both of us laughing, telling her “this is just how we are. We’re brothers. We fight and go at it, and we might not talk for ages… Even years, but we ALWAYS come back for each other. We love each other.”
Right before I got married, he crossed a line, said something that I felt went “too far”. I cut him off, told him “You can’t take that back”. And that was it. We didn’t talk. Years went by and ego and pride kept me from reaching out. In recent times, when I talked to Amie Sue, I had mentioned how much I missed him. When she talked to Zaine, she told him “You should talk to Rantz”
But he didn’t. And I didn’t.
I don’t have many regrets in life, but goddammit… This is the big one.
I read the post on Jennie’s FB wall… That he was gone. I knew it wasn’t a car accident or a robbery gone bad. I prayed… I prayed it was, but I knew it wasn’t. It’s been days. I thought I was immune to being affected by death. I thought nothing could get through. And yet, every hour part of me aches and hurts and wishes for a time machine. Some way that I could drive to San Jose and tell him “You dumb fucker, you KNOW I love you man, let’s cut the dumb ass bullshit. Let me be there for you.”
But I can’t.
I’m sorry Zaine.
I will always miss you.
You will always be my brother.