I decided it wasn't worth thinking about and clicked back to his main page, only to discover something even more uncanny: The comments section was filled with the sorrow of his friends and family. This didn't surprise me, of course; but what I hadn't expected was the way in which they were commenting.
"Oh my God, Mark, i cant believe it! i was going to cook u dinner later this week. this is so awful."
"Hey Mark...just heard. I just wanted to say you'll be missed by so many people..."
"mark, u were my boy and u always treated everyone with repect and i dunno what im going to do without u man, ill miss u. i cant wait to see u again"
They were all writing as if he were upstairs, logging onto his computer and checking out what his friends had to say to him. As if, somehow, MySpace had become a portal for afterlife communication. Some were even just joking around, like he had moved overseas:
"one day every one will meet again....and when i get off parole, im gonna blaze a fatty for you, lol"
The imagery was funny and sad all at the same time. I could imagine him and his comrades smoking up in a basement rec room somewhere, laughing and talking of how they got messed up last weekend and tipped over a cow (as is an occasional drunken pastime in Ohio). It reminded me of my more adventurous evenings with my friends, and I couldn't help but laugh at the thought.
It brought out so much in me to read all the myriad things they had to say to him. But it was more than just some of the casual ways they were "talking" with him, it was how MySpace was an epitaph now. And not just that, either. His gaming page, his number of "frags," the messages he left on the pages of his friends and family. These words - sometimes stupid, often amusing - were his digital legacy, blazing a trail of that which was uniquely him across the internet.
The comments continued with people who had carried his coffin, writing out that "it helps that i got to carry u, just like i know if it was me, u wouldve carried me to my grave." Why did these people, having been to the funeral, feel the need to post these words on this page of intangible bits and bytes? Were they thinking it would be more likely to reach him, that talking to the sky or a photograph would have been less substantial somehow? Perhaps it was all catharsis, a way to remove the pain and pretend it was all right. After all, how could it not be, with that frozen, big-toothed grin of his staring back at you.
It would be like getting that girl on the sand to come back for another picture, if only to get a better look at her. And if you can't do that, you're just fighting the tide, trying to make sure the ocean doesn't wash away all that's left.
Tom Rhodes is a writer and filmmaker currently living in Ohio. He can be reached through Tom [dot] Rhod [at] Gmail [dot] com.