Content warning: death, grief, sadness, friendship.
Last week, a close friend passed away unexpectedly. The world lost a beautiful person that day. Now, let me tell you how I met Gus.
It was June 2017, and I had walked to the QFC on Mercer Street to buy groceries. As these things go, I underestimated the number of groceries I needed to buy. Consequentially, I walked home carrying almost too many paper bags to carry.
What felt like a long time later, I was back in the lobby of the apartment building Corinna and I had been living in for two years. As a downside to living in an access-controlled apartment building, you needed a key fob to use the elevator. Because I had my hands full, I mentally prepared to set my bags on the floor to get the fob out of my pocket. Before I could put my thoughts into action, he door to the elevator opened. A guy was already on it and asked “what floor?”, indicating his willingness to help out with pressing the button for my floor.
That’s when I noticed the Wax Trax t-shirt. I smiled and said: “Nice shirt! I love Front 242.” He grinned, and we chatted for the elevator ride. I learned that I was talking to Gus. A fellow goth who visits Germany frequently, he was about to leave for the Amphi goth music festival. We both laughed and agreed that, yes, we ABSOF…LUTELY need to meet for drinks soon.
When he left the elevator, I told him the number of our apartment. I found a sticky note attached to our front door when I left for work the next morning. On the note was a name and email address. I sent Gus an email the same day.
Through a combination of Gus traveling to Germany and of our family visiting Seattle, Gus and I stuck to sending text messages for a few weeks before we met in person. I read his messages last night and teared up. They were kind and understanding. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but, today, I can tell how excited Gus was that we’d met.
It’s funny how it took us almost two years to meet when we were living within 100 feet (ca. 30 m) from each other in the same building. Gus would always introduce us as “my cool goth neighbors” even when we had moved out of the apartment in 2018.
Coming back to when we‘d first met: we eventually met for drinks at the 5 Point Café. We’d meet there almost weekly, sometimes bumping into each other randomly. Over time, I got to know Gus better and also met his partner Mary. I remember how Gus and I discovered that we both had attended a “Dark Dance Treffen” in Lahr, Germany, back in 2007 or so. As time passed, we went to shows, had drinks, dinner on Thanksgiving, or went to Match Game at the Re-Bar. When Gus got sick, Cori made lasagna for him. I still remember the slightly confused and amazed look on his face when we delivered food when he was sick for the first time.
When Corinna’s brother died in an accident in 2018, Gus offered to buy airline tickets in case we didn’t have the money (we didn‘t need his help), and he checked in on us almost every day. When my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, Gus sent postcards to Monika with messages of encouragement even though they had never met.
When we moved into a house, Cori and I both missed being neighbors with Gus and Mary. Still, we saw each with some regularity. We’d meet for drinks in Belltown or go to shows at the Neptune theater, at Neumos, or at the Showbox. He also listened to my frustrations about working in tech, and he gave helpful advice when I applied for a new job and later negotiated my new salary.
One thing that Gus said stuck especially. When I asked him about why he’d help me so much, he said: “What’s the purpose of being here if we don’t take care of our own?! So, that’s what I do. I take care of my own.”
There are so many stories like this from so many people over the world. It’s beautiful and sad. Someone on Facebook wrote that Gus was a person “zum Pferde stehlen” (“to steal horses together”). I think that phrase captures exactly who Gus was. It means: “a person to have memorable experiences and fun with; a person you can trust to always have your back and be there for you.”
When the pandemic hit, I could tell Gus was struggling. I was concerned about him. Our last meeting in person was in the summer 2020. We stopped by at his apartment to make sure he’s OK. We talked, hugged, and we listened to him. Later that night, Mary joined us, and we sat on Gus‘ couch and talked about how we’d go to Germany together. We’d show him our hometowns, toasty together at the Wave Gotik Treffen (which we love and which Gus was a bit anxious about), and we’d hang out at the Amphi Festival because Cori and I had never been there.
Over the last months, I was so proud and happy for him as he took care of his health and worked hard to get back into shape. In early March this year, he texted me to let me know that he was about to come home after spending time in the hospital. We made plans to meet in person and get piercings at Evolve on Capitol Hill. My last message to him was a kissing emoji. He replied with three heart emojis.
Gus, I miss you.