I didn’t know him personally, but our lives intersected on three separate occasions which made me feel entitled to mourn his death. The first time we met it was the fault of mutual friends. He handed me a heavy stack of pink and yellow flyers that advertised the punk show he was hosting in his parent’s basement, and I hid them between the pages of crisp, new books and clothes racks all around the mall. The flyer had all sorts of catchy words scrawled on it like ‘slime’ and ‘ooze’ and ‘scum’; words that seldom, if ever, entered my uptight, religious vocabulary. For the first time I felt cool in my oversized Catholic school jumper. I was punk just like Nik, minus the denim jacket and angrily styled hair.
The second time we met was, of course, at the punk show. I silently navigated the crowd of vegan activists who had set up camp outside the garage and puffed at their American Spirits. I gave the doorman a five dollar bill, walked past a middle-aged man watching The Price Is Right in his boxers, and down the stairs to the basement. My ears were met with the thrash of guitars, the buzz of a bass, and the heart-pounding rhythm of drums. Nik, the vocalist, jumped off the bass drum and dove into the electrified crowd, not caring when he accidently kicked someone in the face with his combat boots. The crowd didn’t seem to mind either.
The walls of the basement were lined with twin-sized mattresses that had been tied to support beams with bungee-cords and rope. At first I didn’t understand the necessity of this, but I soon realized after countlessly being pushed, shoved, and tossed about like yesterday’s garbage the mattresses served as the only barrier between my soft skull and the thick concrete walls. These people lived life to the edge; literally, they vowed to live life the straightedge way — at least that’s what their tattoos told me.
The third time we met he was five feet to my left. Alone and content, he sat silently as a no-name band from New York sung the night away between pleas to buy their self-released album. I wanted to walk up to him. I wanted to remind him that I was cool; I had been to his house and liked the same kind of music and considered animals sacred, too. I had imagined our conversation dozens of times, gaining more conviction with each mental run-through, but by the time my nerves had subsided he had disappeared. I thought I saw him through the window, standing outside in the chilly October air, but I didn’t pursue him; that would have seemed pathetic for a girl who was supposed to embody a free spirit.
It was a shock when I learned of his passing. No one knew what the cause was, or how such a thing could happen to such a good guy. All that seemed to result was a stronger belief that there was no god; at least not one anyone we would want to worship. His fans found space on their forearms to permanently commemorate him with needles and ink. His parents had a beautiful tombstone made. It could have been four times that we met face-to-face, but I chose to keep it at three — for now. Someday we’ll meet again.
Christina Dal Santo was not born and raised in West Philadelphia, but she did spend most of her days on the playground. Alone.