One night I was at a 24 hour diner in Atlanta called Dunk N Dine. It was there I met one of the great loves of my life. And by love I don’t mean we ever dated or did anything sexual. But I fell in love with him immediately. I never met anyone like Will Fridlin. He was a big personality. Huge. Even though he was small in stature he lit up the room wherever he went. I was awestruck.
Our friendship was intense. I was a big personality too. I still am. But for an endless spring we drove around Atlanta. Will said I was the first person who ever got him to sing for them. Like actually sing….not scream. He had a cute, shy voice. There was a folk album in him somewhere! We would drive around and Will would just sing songs to me a cappella. We laughed hard. And we clashed too. I felt too much too fast and I think Will got bored of my intensity. Even our most dramatic fights were entertaining in retrospect. One night I chased his car around my friend’s apartment complex for a half hour. He kept driving a bit and braking…and right as I was about to catch up to his car he’d speed off again. I chased him like a puppy and he loved to hate it.
Will used to pal around with these old homeless men almost like they were trophies. There was something romantic about it to him. I remember once Will brought me back to this homeless camp under a bridge. I remember the strong smell of urine. I was scared. But I loved all the different things that Will showed me and taught me. I’ll never forget him cooking a delicious vegan breakfast for me in his parent’s sunlit kitchen. Or trying to fall asleep next to him while he played the Cure’s Disintegration on repeat…on vinyl of course. Will and I would fight for hours about which Martika song was better. He said “Toy Soldiers” was the classic. I insisted it was “Love Thy Will Be Done.” Will would bring over the TV show “My So Called Life” on VHS. I remember being jealous that he had a crush on Claire Danes.
One time we went to a house show in Gainesville where his band Necrolust was playing. I was so high maintenance on that trip. Poor Will…I really put him through it. I was a bitch the whole seven hour car ride back. But he fell asleep on my shoulder. Little did I know I’d end up moving to Florida in 1998 and staying there.
I was so heartbroken by the way our friendship severed that I left Atlanta in March 1997. My friend Shauna was driving through. I got in her car and left and went back to New York.. I returned to Atlanta in May 1997. I met up with Will once. Something had changed in his eyes. The mischievous naive eyes had a bit of cloud cover. And I never saw him again. I never forgot him though. I think for years I was always waiting…and hoping… I could never imagine the rest of my life without my buddy.
The whole journey in that spring of 1997 is hazy and eerie in my mind. The hale-bop comet followed us everywhere. Will and I would look up at the sky at the comet. And we’d drive around and look at graffiti. And we’d listen to “Freebird” on the jukebox for the 1000th time. Or Bob Marley.
Once the 2000s hit I looked for years for Will. I heard stories about his life but this isn’t the place for them.
I found out Will passed away March 31st. I am heartbroken. There was always that piece of me that wanted to find him. To give him a good home and a safe place to be. I wanted him to know how much I loved him and for good reason. He truly was amazing. I never met anyone like Will…before or since. The universe is a little more dim without him. The hardest part is accepting that people have to want the good home and the safe place to be. We used to fall asleep cuddling. I always wanted to give him another hug.
Back in the day I wrote three songs about Will and one essay. He’d show up in other songs here and there…but these are the three major ones. I know it’s kinda stupid to post my own songs…but I feel a piece of Will’s spirit is captured in them in a way I could never just write. His magic carries on…
The first is “Cloudboy”. I played this to him in his car and he started crying.
Airplanes and jumping trains
I know he understands them
Shooting stars who sleep in cars
I used to live that life
Christmas lights shine off his records
As they spin
There’s more to my people
Than dirty jeans and safety pins
So I warn him
That I could love him
He might not feel the same way but that is okay
So just be my friend instead
Cause I’m a cloudboy
Yes I’m a cloudboy
And I live for the things that a highway can bring
Knowing you makes that okay
Yes I’m a cloudboy
“Free as a bird” says the jukebox and he sings along
And here at this table sit people who live like that song
Homeless Larry with coffee must wonder if life has a cause
Or if Jesus will turn out to be just like Santa Claus
I look at Holly…Keith and Aaron
And the boy in the corner who’s making me smile
Showing me doing nothing can be worthwhile
Now watch me hit the highway
TOO MUCH LOVE
The second song was “Too Much Love” — this one was written as our friendship began to fray. I played this for him in his bedroom. I remember him looking at me and saying “I don’t deserve this.” He used to always look at me and say “it’s all good…” :/
God I’m lucky I met you
Wish I felt more stable than I do
I often feel I’m in outer space
But when you sing in your car I felt I found my place
I love trains and the speed they go
A backpack and a jump we’re in Mexico
I wanna rest my mouth on top of your head
But I think you’re happy on your side of the bed
Don’t let these moments die…
Too much love and I don’t know where I should point it to
Too much love and I don’t know if I should give it to you
Asleep on my shoulder yellow lines speed by
And the clouds perform magic in the Florida sky
The best feeling I’ve ever had
I cry a lot lately and it’s not because I’m sad
I love trains they ain’t got no town
You’re a lot like them no one can hold you down
I really like it when you sleep here
But the cold night after is what I fear
Don’t let these moments die
It’s all good…that’s what you’d say right now
It’s all good…I know that’s what you’d say right now I’ve got
Too much love and I know I want to sleep next to you
And when I run will I run to you or run far away?
WILL AND KRISTIN
The final song was written years later when I lived in Tampa. I was thinking about the last time I saw Will. When I wrote this song I had no idea it would be the last time I’d ever see him.
The last time I saw you there
Pretty lips and dirty hair
Now everyone’s got a hole in their face
I ran like dog when you let me chase you
Kids in a nighttime driveway
Turntable bring sleep our way
My name was on the wall
Do we miss who we were
At that time at all?
Remember I said
What am I doing here?
Remember I said I cannot stay
Remember the hurt?
It’s still buried
Left part of myself there that day.
Check yes or no
’98 San Francisco?
Frenzy – there was no answer still
Sometimes you gotta accept that
If you’re gonna be okay with yourself.
Dawn breaks I’m about to shut down
He never was a red dirt boy
I visited San Francisco while playing a show in 2009. I stood on a street corner and called Will’s name hoping he’d hear me. He didn’t…but I did talk to him on the phone once in 2010. I am so mad I forgot to say “man, I love you” before we hung up the phone.
I mourn not only the loss of my friend but the loss of my youth and of the 1990s. Beautiful boys in band t-shirts. Sweaty rock and roll. Idealistic conversations and hardly any photos to remember it all. We were too busy talking and dreaming and scheming.
One thing I’m learning about myself this week is I think I’ll always be a person in love with love…enamoured by the romance, beauty, and wanderlust of the world. It’s unfortunate that it takes miserable tragedy to scrape off the barnacles caused by age and disappointment. I’ve come to realize my eyes are as wide and my heart just as open at forty as at twenty. And that a true friendship is a gift that keeps on giving…even death can’t compromise that beautiful truth.
I played “Toy Soldiers” in my car today hoping to have a profound moment. Sorry Will, I still think it sucks. Love you.
If you would like to contribute to Will’s memorial fund which will benefit the building of a home for drug recovery click here.