By July 9, 2007

Motor on, Ghost Rider

Last Saturday I took part in a five rider motorcycle convoy. It was the largest group of riders I’ve ever been with, and we pounded neighborhoods, back roads, city streets, and the interstate. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a joy ride. It was the vanguard for Special K’s memorial service. My little motorcycle buddy from Starbucks committed suicide early in the morning on July 4th. His aunt, uncle, two closest friends and I formed the two-wheeled processional. Special K’s best friend rode the thrice-crashed bike in memoriam. I don’t know if I would have been able to do the same thing. When we arrived at the service, about a hundred people were outside, and applauded as we rumbled past and then back around again. I had planned on leaving before the ceremony started, but after seeing everyone watch us roll up my heart told me to stay.

It turned out that the Special K that I knew — bright blue eyes, warm smile, always happy to see people and hear about their day — was only one side to an otherwise grim coin. Even though he was only nineteen, Special K had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, had been in rehab, and was part of a non-denominational church set up by and for recovering addicts. He had been on mental health medication for years, and had attempted suicide once before, four months ago. You would never have guessed by his kind and enthusiastic demeanor that he was so unhappy on the inside.

His story reminds me so much of my own sister, who died under similar circumstances eight years ago this May. Before she died, my sister told me that she had two faces; one for everyone to see that she was getting “better,” and her private face that knew the truth. Like Special K, the therapy, medicine, and faith did little to resolve her inner problems. During Special K’s wake (held the day before) and reception, I introduced myself to people I never met before. They would raise their eyebrows and smile. “Oh, you’re DrFaulken. Special K talked a lot about you.” Apparently I made a stronger impression than I knew. Now that that connection is gone I feel especially guilty to have not enjoyed it to the fullest while I could.

I was in my local Starbucks the day after they found Special K’s body, and the store was full of strangers. I only recognized one of the regular staffers — everyone else was a replacement shift from Starbucks. I was moved to learn that the other stores in neighboring districts had sent people on their own time to augment my local store. Any barista that was unable to work had their shifts paid for and covered by the company. Starbucks also arranged for grief counselors, and donated coffee to the wake and the memorial service. It was also nice to see many of the Starbucks regulars at the wake and/or memorial.

I promised SK that we were going to ride down to Williamsburg to see his older brother, who attends my alma mater. I intend to keep that promise. The first conversation we ever had was about motorcycles. It was the last. Special K text messaged me the Saturday we were going to pick up Pearl, asking me to ride with him to Williamsburg. Already in DC, I had to decline. I have to tell you, I feel guilty about it now. I know from my sister’s death that there isn’t anything I could have done to alter Special K’s course; it was for him to decide only. But still.

Even though we won’t be able to make the trip together in the flesh, part of me wants to believe that part of Special K will be there with me when I make good on my promise. I am not a religious or spiritual person, but it’s times like these that make me hope for a hereafter. Regardless of my beliefs, I know that like my sister, Special K changed form upon his death. No longer is he stricken with grief, no longer is he bound by a pain that was too encompassing to overcome. Gone is the double-headed coin. Special K is dead, long live the Ghost Rider. Motor on, Ghost Rider, motor on.

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5 Comments on "Motor on, Ghost Rider"

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  1. Ed says:

    Oaths to the dead must be kept. To do less is not only to dishonor the dead but yourself as well.

  2. Hugs, DrFaulken. I’m sorry you won’t be seeing Special K at Starbucks any more. I understand your feeling guilty regardless of the facts. I think I understand Special K’s having two faces; it’s scary to contemplate losing friends or even just friendly faces if one allows too many doubts or dark thoughts to show too much of the time.

    I’m glad you brightened his life.

  3. rawcode says:

    That is awesome of Starbucks to do that for their employees. Too bad Special K had to go the way he did. I remember your thread about him in the lounge, seemed like a crazy guy for riding the way he did, lol.

    At least he has his relief he has been pining for.

  4. Stomper says:

    Doc, I’m sorry for the loss and sadness that you, the family and other friends of Special K are going through. I’m glad you had the opportunity to be part of the two wheel tribute to him and that you got to talk to his family and friends. More hugs and good thoughts for you.

    I’m glad you found the words to write this post.

  5. Kerri says:

    i still miss him.