Molly texted me just as I was walking my deliveries into the Shadyside gym. She heard that Keziah had passed away and wanted to know if I had heard anything. I checked my social media and found the same sad news Molly had seen. I didn’t get the chance to take a writing break while riding my routes, but I thought about Keziah for the rest of the day. Molly filled me in on the details gradually. Keziah died alone in her room from a heroin overdose. Not an unfamiliar ending, as far as punks go.
I turned the tragedy of dying young, yet aged beyond your years over in my head, and felt that same anger I have felt so many times before at the news of so many other dead friends or acquaintances. I forgot a pickup and had to race back out to South Hills and missed most of a work meeting. I was embarrassed, but didn’t care much beyond that. Now I’m home, and I’m trying to remember everything I thought about on my routes.
I know I saw Keziah for the first time in the fall of 2006, when Lizzie and I were traveling together and rolled through Denver. This was back when Molly was a substitute at that weird charter school and Keziah was one of her students. She had just left home and was set to ride trains with a dude I had encountered and got bad feelings from earlier that spring. I remember Emil, Sean, and Teal were sketched out too. Lizzie and I tried to talk her into not taking off alone with this dude, but Molly ended up giving them a ride out to the yard later that night and told Keziah to keep in touch, and call if she needed help or money to come home.
I can’t remember exactly how that story ended, but I don’t think it ended well. That dude is dead now too. I can’t remember his name, but I remember hearing he was shot to death in New Orleans a few years back. I just counted. I know five people who have been shot in New Orleans. One who survived. I still have never been to that city, and doubt I will ever go at this point.
I know I saw Keziah again, and if I’m placing the time right, it was 2008, the summer I was 27. I was back in Denver for a month hanging with an old friend while she was pregnant and sleeping on a couch in the suburbs, in a sleeping bag that still smelled vaguely like diesel fuel from Lizzie’s and my previous trip, no matter how much I washed it. I’d go downtown to hang with Molly and other friends when the suburbs got to stifling. I think Keziah was dating that guy Sal by then, a charming and sociopathic seeming fuck up who rarely stopped talking. I remember that summer was also the last time I ever saw Mike Brown alive and all of us hanging out at a sketchy ass crashpad across the street from the Wild Oats where I had worked for a few years, and then was later “banned for life” for allegedly shoplifting
Molly told me later how her and Dustin had let Keziah and Sal live in the basement of their house. Their fights got too brutal (I’m putting it lightly here, and maybe skipping some details that aren’t mine to repeat anyway) after a fight that resulted in a bunch of broken windows in the house, they eventually left. I don’t think Molly ever saw either one of them again.
I saw Keziah a few years later after I moved to Olympia At a crust show at Crypt. She was with Maria, who told me she had moved Keziah out to Port Townsend with her to get her away from Sal. I meant to say hey, and then a fight started with some army dudes who had wandered into the bar and were getting too aggressive on the dancefloor. I sucker punched one of them. Shit popped off and I remember seeing him push Andreas against the wall in the dimly lit back room of the Crypt. I saw distinctly his hands at Andreas’ throat. I ran across the floor and aimed a punch square at his kidneys. I remember everything moving in slow motion, running up and realizing how big this man was. I felt my fist connect, and to be honest, I don’t even know if he felt it.
The trouble cleared out the door and they went across the street to McCoy’s. I lost heart for the show and slunk back up the Puget Street hill to my basement room and my books and my dog and my cat. I didn’t say goodbye to anyone. I never saw Keziah again. I saw Sal on 4th Avenue some weeks later. I remember wondering with a slight distaste if he had followed Keziah out to Washington. He said hey and I remained neutral and didn’t say much. He handed me a zine and I took it, only to throw it away as soon as I had walked another block.
I never really liked that guy.
I listened to the news on my routes all day today. So much intense rhetoric coming from the right about the coming civil war if Trump gets impeached. Some people have been talking for a while now about how we’re in a cold civil war, waiting for the first shot to turn this shitstorm hot. Trying to catch my breath n the Alley just on the other side of Negley Avenue today, it’s hard to not think those motherfuckers are right. I guess I’ve been feeling that for so many people across the world, one war or another since before any of us were ever born. There’s soldiers, there’s casualties, and there’s fucking profiteers. Today, dodging in and out of traffic and ticking down miles until I could ride home to my old lady dog, I kept thinking about Keziah dying alone in her bedroom with a needle hanging out of her arm while the Sackler family are secure in whatever compound they call home to keep themselves safe from the rest of us.
And I want to hack these motherfuckers to pieces and set their bodies on fire and allot their fortunes to healing the epidemic they have profited mercilessly from, that has been decimating the poor for decades, and put so many people in my community in the ground.
I remember trying to help another friend kick junk, a few years back now. I remember sitting in my too cold living room calling support line after support line, just trying to help find them resources. The walls we kept hitting felt like some maggot’s idea of black humor. Someone got it in their head to make the hellscapes we call cities and the drudgery and toil we call work so unlivable and impossible to extricate oneself from that so many people will be literally dying for a taste of escape, then to make sure they will never escape from the escape.
And I get it. I can barely go an hour without looking at my stupid phone. Not that these fucking cancer-making nightmare rectangles provide much escape nowadays.
I remember trying futilely to beat back my busted teeth at 23, before I lost a shit ton of them to car wrecks and rot (also a case of a lack of resources). I went to the hospital in my city and told them I was homeless and had a tooth infection (both more or less true). An overworked doctor gave me a bottle of antibiotics and a bottle of 30 hydrocodone, the number to the dental school across town, wished me luck, and sent me back into the snow. I washed the pills down and walked back to the house where I was crashing. I remember clearly the beautiful, washed out numbness that followed as the drug began to diffuse through my bloodstream. I can almost taste it writing these words now. I laid in a friend’s bed and listened to a tape of Amebix’s Arise LP and thought to myself: “I get why people get hooked on this shit.” I even remember recording notes of what I was feeling in my journal of what I was feeling. I wondered if this was what so-called “normal” people, who live with the luxury of not feeling this world’s dizzying joys and crushing horrors, so hard and so fast, and just so relentlessly felt like.
And I think about the brutal unfairness of this world, what it’s done to my friends, and how we are among some of the luckier people making our way through this this thing we call late capitalism.
And I think my lifelong best friend Molly summed it up best, talking about Keziah:
“Keziah got handed a heap of shit in her short life and when she needed to, she gave it back. She was resilient, defiant and curious. May she rest in peace.”