A good friend of mine passed away on Tuesday. He had only just turned twenty five. Instead of blogging, I spent that evening eating Chipotle and watching Disney movies. Though seemingly insincere, it felt like an appropriate way to remember him. Those who knew him would all probably agree. Chris was known for his love of Chipotle, and if my memory serves me correctly, I experienced my first Chipotle burrito at his insistence.
The Disney movies were a tribute to the Disney sing-alongs he and his roommates used to throw during parties at our college fraternity. I'm not sure how they got started -- a means to juxtapose the predictable pop hits that always sounded at parties or simply a love of Disney -- but they were really popular. The sing-along became a staple of our parties and certainly stand out in my mind as a cluster of positive college experiences.
Yesterday, I tried to write a blog post about him but simply couldn't. So today, I'm going to eschew the prompt and try again.
My most vivid memory of Chris comes from a car ride we took together from Greencastle, IN (home of DePauw University, our alma mater) to Bloomington, IN. Chris had sustained a concussion from a cycling race and needed to be driven to Bloomington for a follow up doctors appointment. I'd be lying if I said the drive wasn't painful. Chris, in normal health, was an upbeat, talkative guy. The concussion, however, removed some sort of filter on his speech, and he would not (or perhaps, could not) stop talking. We, or more appropriately, he, talked the whole hour there, the whole fifteen minutes we spent getting Chipotle burritos, the ten minutes we spent in the waiting room, and the whole hour back.
I got the Chris Alonzi conversation buffet special that day. There were the usual topics; Boy Scouts, whiskey, anecdotes of famous American figures, camp life, girls, cycling. But the most memorable one was his argument of why Batman was a superior superhero to Superman.
"So, you see, Superman's greatest superpower is his strength. And that's great. He does a lot of good with that. But Batman's greatest superpower is his character. And that's why, in my opinion, he's the superior superhero."
Of all the things I've heard come out of Chris's mouth, from the beautifully optimistic to supremely ridiculous, that utterance, that essentially expendable idea is the one that shines brightest when my synapses fire. Perhaps, it's my subconscious self giving him the memory he deserves. For Chris's greatest superpower was undoubtedly his character.
The last time I saw Chris in person was in June 2012, a few weeks after his diagnosis, a few weeks before he started chemo therapy. Matt Brauer and I went to visit him at Rush Hospital, hoping to cheer him up a bit and show our support, but Chris didn't even seem fazed by the Leukemia. He was thankful it had been caught early and spoke pragmatically about the treatment. His only real concerned seemed to be that he might embarrass himself in front of one of the nurses if he had a weird poop or something. I think he did more to cheer Matt and I up than we did to him.
The three of us had what seemed like a reasonable amount of conversation, and then he offered to take us on a tour of his floor. Dressed in a loosely buttoned flannel shirt, athletic shorts, and a face mask, he led us, IV dolly in hand, down the halls, into various empty rooms, and, of course, to a large window where one could view the United Center. At one point during the tour, I took out my phone to capture what I felt was the surreal-ness of the situation.
Surely, this wasn't cancer, I told myself. This was just Chris. Chris is strong, Chris is kind, and Chris likes to dress sort of sloppy when he's hanging out with his bros. I couldn't sense the change such was Chris's incorruptible sense of character. And that's how I'll always remember him.
Rest in peace, Alonzi.