I must bury all my sorrow out of sight,
The Dawn of Tomorrow
Yes, it was eight years ago this very night when I met Shayne. I was a young man just out of school, and he was the father, the friend, and the love that I never had known. He was a good man to the end. One of his great passions in life was helping others who were in need, and ironically helping someone else is how he died. When I think about Shayne, just a trifle thought can wrench me from the present and take me back to that historic night. When I look back across the years I can see with clarity the closed world in which I lived, which must mean I have succeeded in a very important undertaking and have made my escape from it.
Still, I can hear that cracking of wood when the baseball bat
splintered as it struck across Shayne’s body. It is a sound that once
you have heard it, your mind always will know. To describe such a sound
is to describe something capable of shredding all hope and joy from a
man’s soul. That unmistakable thud when the bat first makes contact.
There is just a moment’s hesitation; the bones shatter when the shock
hits them with full force and the snapping of the bat as if it were a
mere twig across my friend’s head. Those sounds from that chilly
October night, standing frozen in time, on West 49th Street
in New York City, haunt me still. Shayne, noble as he was, had chosen to
help a lady in distress. She was being beaten, and he, her knight in
shinning armor, took those blows, which were intended for her. As
commanded by Shayne, I stood across the street powerless to move and
unable to cry for help. Partly out of shock and partly out of fear I
watched while the scene unfolded before my eyes. When Shayne’s
assailants had finally stopped, he lie motionless on the cold sidewalk.
They abandoned us only hesitating for a few moments to look back before
disappearing out of our lives forever.
His life had been extinguished so quickly, just a small ripple in the sea of life. As I close my eyes, I see the last moments we had together replayed endlessly in my mind, like a needle of the gramophone replaying the same grove in the record. I held him fast, never wanting to let go, while he just lie in my arms. Unable to hold back the tears, they flooded my eyes and stained my cheeks. Feeling helpless to stop it, not knowing what to do, I watched the life spill from him. The blood formed a dark glistening river on the sidewalk as it sought its escape. I remember the fear that enveloped my very being. Still I recall so clearly his sparkling blue eyes, stained as they were with blood, looking so peacefully into my eyes. Though in great pain Shayne remained strong, whispering in what would be his last breaths, he spoke words of strength and courage.
“I’m not going to make it,” he said. “Though you must not be sad for me, you have a whole lifetime ahead of you. Just always remember, wherever I go, I will be watching over you. Please be brave, and know I will always love you. I need for you to be strong for me.” Pausing as the pain intensified, his eyes closing as he tried to grip the pain, he slowly began to speak again, “I’m so sorry for this…” His voice trailed off as he yet another riveting burst of pain pulsed through him. His whole body stiffened in my arms and then went limp again. I stumbled through an argument for him to try to hold on, and that help would be there soon, though it was clear to me that he was beyond this world.
“Please Shayne, don’t leave me. God, someone help us! Anybody! Help!” Though just seconds had passed, it felt as if life itself had stopped, and an eternity had gone by. As he lie in my arms, I watched while what little life he had left bled out in to the darkness that cloaked us. Other then the buzzing of the streetlight as it flickered ominously, all was quiet. I held Shayne tight as he lie there lifeless in my arms. I had never felt so alone in my life as I did right at that moment.
In the days that followed, I embraced the emptiness and fear that enveloped me. Though, this was the darkest period of my life at times I felt the uncontrollable, irrepressible joy which had broken out sometimes in those days, like northern lights streaking across a black, murky sky. I lived as a serene man who wanted no more than to die but had no courage to do it. I could never have imagined a life without Shayne and some days it is still difficult to try. Depression grasped me in its clutches and held me tight. I veiled myself in the drink and drugs were my confidants. I knew no peace nor have I ever known the love of another. For well over a year an overwhelming darkness stocked me, like a fog shadowing across the landscape. Nameless faces and unspeakable acts crossed my path, while each time I sought nothing from them but solitude. In my darkest hour, there was but one glimmer of light; that of my friends who believed in me when I saw no hope. Without exception, my friends always knew that I would survive.
Never do I speak of these times nor does anyone know just what happened that night. I felt it better that way, leaving Shayne to be remembered for the person that he was and not how he died. The sights and sounds, the emotions and the losses of that night shall haunt me until the grave. I alone have to endure the images of his death. It is enough for me to have people know that he gave his life unselfishly showing great compassion for a complete stranger. I also want them to focus on the “Good Samaritan” life that he lived, not the horror of how he died.
It has only been in the recent past that I have been able to talk about my life with Shayne. A few friends remember him but most never even met him. I feel that he is keeping his promise and is watching over me. That may just be the wishes of an idle fool, or maybe it is something greater than that of my understanding. Either way, I at least have those memories of him. The thought of him gives me comfort in this cold and forbidden world. The images of that fateful night have etched themselves in my memory forever. The sharpness of the feelings still lingers but as time has gone by, I have become numb to the pain. I am starting to remember all the good things about Shayne. Yes, into my mind slowly awakens those memories, the self-same forms that I knew in those glad days that seem no more than brief moments now. Those dead, old hours seemed to be so full of joy. The two years I was able to know Shayne are some of the best of my life. The whisper of his voice in the morning, the carefree way he smiled, just the scent of him, these are things forever fixed in my heart.
The night Shayne died a part of me went with him. On the sixth anniversary of that dreadful night, I went to New York, that place which I had vowed I would never revisit. I said my last goodbyes to Shayne. On my quest, I learned he was right; life will go on and that is how it should be. However, a part of him will always go with me even into my new life. With my new clarity of how fragile life is, I embrace each day God gives me, and I look forward to the dawn of tomorrow.