Thanks Alex

June 8, 2013

This post is about Alex Berman who died recently after a long battle with cancer.

I’m writing this because I want his family to now what Alex meant to me, after all these years, even though I hadn’t seen him since 1996(ish).

In 1994 I moved to Greenwich, Connecticut and started attending GHS. This school had roughly the equivalent number of students as the village I had just moved from in Switzerland where I had lived most of my life up to that point. I felt like I had been swallowed up. My heart was still raw from leaving my oldest and best friends behind and I was so. uncool.

Moving to the States was scary enough, but going to an American High school was terrifying. After all, I had seen enough movies to worry that a country mouse like me with a funny accent was going to have a hard time. I’d like to tell you I was completely wrong, but the social segregation and invisible boundaries and codes of coolness which others had navigated for years were completely foreign to me.

The school I had just left had 150 kids, GHS had 2500. I had to catch up on years of Simpsons and everything Jim Carrey had ever been in just to half-way understand the jokes. I realised I wasn’t really going to fit in with the main crowd. I was fine with this. I set my expectation-o-meter on to ‘survive’ and braced myself.

I wore my farewell gifts from my old friends like talismanic shields, that raggedy brown leather jacket my friend’s dad wore in the 60’s and my Red Hot Chilli Peppers shirt, rendered soft and muted from washing. I didn’t know how to be, if being smart was going to make me a target or help me make friends.

I’m telling you this because I want to convey how how nervous I was those first few weeks, how out of place I was. I feared being noticed and being ignored at the same time as I sat in Ms. Smith’s English class.

“Cool shirt” said a voice from behind.

And that’s how I met Alex.

All of a sudden making friends seemed possible. I went from being a complete outsider to feeling almost… normal. He had this breezy confidence and you couldn’t help but be swept along. He was just such a darn nice guy. He was genuine and completely unafraid of being himself. He seemed immune to the normal codes of high school. He treated everybody the same (even the new girl with the funny accent and the worn RHCP shirt). He always paid you his full attention and so you always felt important, like you mattered, when you spent time with him.

Maybe this school was going to work out alright I thought.

I cried when I heard he had died. I haven’t seen him in so long, but I am so very sad that he is gone. I know that he has left behind a huge hole in the lives of everybody who knew him. And I also know that we were all so very lucky to have known him.

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3 Responses to “Thanks Alex”

  1. Wendy J said

    Wow, great post. Your best writing is that which emerges straight from the bottom of your heart. 🙂

  2. Tara Jade said

    Thanks for sharing this. It‘s just a wonderful and touchy piece.

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