People are always asking me if I have ever had a “good date” off Plentyoffish, met someone I wouldn’t mind seeing again. I always roll my eyes, laugh haughtily and say no . . . but isn’t true. I met Kevin Jordan on Plentyoffish.
I have been meaning to write this a long time, carrying it around with me; planning it, tweaking it, yet somehow it never gets written. I was not even a bit player in the events of that night and part of me still feels I’m trespassing, stepping where I should not. To be honest though, that feeling was exactly what stopped me from reaching out to a friend when he needed someone most. So I’ll just write.
There have been few times in my life when I’ve struggled for words like this, but I am going to try my best.
* * *
I met Kevin in February, 2010, when I was 25 and he was 26. Plentyoffish (a dating site I routinely scorn publicly) had an interesting feature then, where you could put yourself on a list of folks who wanted to go on a “date” on any given Friday night. I had a habit of hooking a new fishie almost every week, mostly to entertain myself. The majority of these dates have slipped my mind, been reduced to a foggy blur of sushi platters, crappy food at the Santa Maria and diarrhea plagued scuba divers! But Kevin always stuck out.
He took me to the little French Bistro downtown, neither of us had ever been there. I remember every detail: what we wore, where we sat, what we ate. He was cute and had dressed nicely, a real gentleman; a suit . . . and his cowboy boots. Though it was clear we were not a romantic match, we got along great, talked about everything. He loved his family and his daughter. He was a swimmer, a fireman studying for his EMT, he showed me his Eagle Scout card- even then, I gathered he truly liked *helping* others, cared far more for them than he did himself. This was not something I encountered often.
After dinner, I usually make some excuse as to pack up and get the hell out, but not with Kevin. There was something sweet about him, something that put me at ease. It was Friday night and because he was someone you trusted almost instantly (in other words, I could tell he wasn’t a serial killer and that he was not going to eat my brains), we went to Tradewinds and got sloshed, something I *never* do with people I don’t know. But I was having a great time!
About two am, he walked me to my bike, made it very clear he wanted me to text him when I got home. We hugged goodbye and I went on my way, walked into the house and passed out immediately- I am sorry to say I did *not* text him!
The next morning (or the next afternoon), I woke up to quite a few genuinely concerned texts: “How are you?”, “Did you get home okay?”, etc. I smiled and told him I was fine, had just gone to sleep. I decided this was someone I was going to keep around. I never (but never) become friends with men I date . . . But who wouldn’t want to be friends with Kevin Jordan?
I did not hear from him until months after that, when I added a bunch of kids I’d known from elementary school to my Facebook- I’d gone to St. Joseph’s Elementary, he’d gone to Bishop Kenny High, so naturally he kept popping up as someone I had a lot of mutual friends with. I invited him to my twenty sixth birthday party and a great precedent was being broken- I was becoming *friends* with someone I’d dated. Unheard of.
I didn’t expect him to show up, but he did and again, we partied til two. He wrote “Happy Birthday, Brianne!” on all the balloons and there is a great picture of us from that night- I’m wearing a blue Playboy Bunny outfit and he’s dressed in all his fire gear. We’re both smiling hugely by the dart boards and it’s one of those great pictures you find yourself thankful for years down the line. Even if he were still around, I’d love that picture just as much.
After that, he became a “once in awhile” friend. Over the fall of that year, I was going through a rough time and I hid it behind cute and funny Facebook updates- Kevin saw through it. No one else did.
I’d get texts like this: “I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I will be there tonight bc I wasn’t there for you on your sad day.”
Next I knew, we were running through the surf on Vilano, trying to break into the CastleOtttis at midnight. Kevin always wanted to do things no one else wanted to do: follow paths that he didn’t know where they led for the hell of it, run up stairways just because they were there. That was Kevin- quiet and shy, but *adventurous* when he thought he could be himself.
The last time I saw Kevin was in May, 2011. He was in St. Augustine with family, he saw me riding my bike downtown, asked me to meet him at Mi Casa for a few beers- I didn’t even hesitate, it was KEVIN. In *my* St. Augustine. He would text me usually if he was driving his ambulance through town, but he almost never visited. Fantastic. I talked with him for hours, met his parents and what I remember most was how *excited* he was. Excited for all his dreams, all the plans he was making, thrilled about a new pair of cowboy boots. Euphoric about grilling a goddamn squirrel.
I’d have paid more attention if I’d known it was going to be the last time.
After that, he kind of disappeared, became hard to get a hold of. He’d been posting a lot about some girl- drinking with her, going to movies with her, blah, blah, blah . . . and being the nosy, meddling bitch I am, I had to know *all* about it. Who was this girl he was so sprung on, this Holly chick who was suddenly making him so happy? Expecting lots of gossip from the talkative friend I knew, I just waited for him to message me back. He always did. But not this time.
That wasn’t like him, but whatever. On the night of August 20th, I was out on some random date with some guy who turned out to be much older than I’d expected. I met him at Bistro de Leon and he didn’t want to stay because he said everyone there was “too old.” I rolled my eyes and sat down anyway. He was already thirty years my senior, would be anywhere we went and I was craving the French Onion soup in the worst way.
Normally I texted Kevin every time I went to the Bistro, every single time. It was our place, texting him about whatever weirdly inappropriate guy I was with was tradition- it was what I did. But he’d been ignoring me and I assumed he didn’t want to hear from me. So screw that.
Most of the meal escapes me now, but I remember asking the fellow I was with if he knew what he wanted yet: he licked his lips, lowered his eyebrows and said in a deep voice, “I want you.”
Talk about the creeps! I cannot explain to you how that turned my stomach! He was a nice enough guy, I mean, but the wayyyyy he said it was just beyond creepy. I think he was actually doing a combination James Bond/ Dracula imitation, it was totally unsettling. I flew to the bathroom and started texting Kev (the one person in the world who’d truly appreciate the British Vampire at a French Restaurant), but then I remembered he hadn’t been responding. I didn’t want to bother him.
Unsent. Saved to drafts.
The next morning I checked my Facebook and I had a message from a girl I’d met once at a friend’s birthday party, saying to text her bc she needed to talk to me. I couldn’t think of any reason in the world she would need to talk to me, but I did. She asked if I knew Kevin Jordan and I responded back that he was a great guy and I’d been thinking of him. When she called, I answered brightly, expecting gossip or scandal at best; certainly death was the furthest thing from my mind. Suicide was further.
I didn’t believe it at first, I had *just* seen him. Just spoken with him. But it was true. I’m still heartbroken.
I scrambled for answers for awhile, desperate to know what made him do it, but I’ve heard so many things. I heard it was a botched marriage proposal, I heard he failed a medic exam, I heard he walked in on his chick with another dude . . . But none of that matters now. What matters is Kevin.
He was everyone’s favorite redneck, he loved karaoke and the Rebel Flag. He’d wear his cowboy boots scuba diving and build a campfire at the bottom of the Atlantic! He smoked his cigarettes in the shower and he grilled a squirrel . . . hell, he’d have eaten it raw! Where there’s a redneck, there’s a way!
But Kevin was a *friend.* Not a fair weather friend, not a Facebook friend, but a true, honest to goodness FRIEND. The kind of friend you wish you had right now. He always made sure you were okay and when he listened, boy! He only listened to *you.* When you were in need, he’d drop everything for you- you were the only person who existed.
The last time I saw him, he was so excited about life, all the things he was doing, all the things he wanted to be! Maybe I’ll never know what happened to that vibrant person I last saw more than a year ago, but I grieve not only for the friend we’ve all lost, but for the life that will remain unlived. Because when he lived . . .
He really *lived.*
Here’s to YOU, Kevin Jordan!
Wherever you are.