This is one of the most recent pictures of a good friend of mine, Keanu van der Horst.
Keanu was a well-known, popular guy at my school. He was a great singer in a local youth chorus, and an excellent guitarist who played in my school’s Pink Floyd tribute show. He acted in last year’s school musical (Into the Woods) and was slated to act again in this year’s musical (Grease). He loved learning, and would always be seen carrying around books on whatever topic he was currently fascinated by (haskell programming, string theory, endocrinology, etc); he would often breeze through these books in a day or two. He treated everybody like an old friend, and would often be fifty minutes into telling a story to you before he remembered to introduce himself and ask who you were. He told the best stories too — parties, vacations, sex, drugs — you name it, this guy had fifteen tales about it going right or wrong for him. He had a never-say-no attitude: when he developed a condition in his knees that would have caused him to walk with a cane for the rest of his life, he said “fuck it” and decided to get used to the pain so he could walk like everyone else. He was charismatic, intelligent, friendly, lovable, and had a wicked sense of humor.
Late last night / early this morning, for reasons I won’t disclose, my friend Keanu passed away.
Never have I seen my high school community come together so quickly and efficiently. As soon as it got out to the students, the chorus room (where Keanu often spent his free periods) filled up with students in every grade, crying and mourning the loss of their friend, their mentor, their brother-figure.
Everyone had their stories about Keanu. About how he helped them, gave them advice, bought them food, supported their endeavors, had their back. He was such a distinct personality, and every facet of him made him a unique and charming individual. From his trademark throaty chuckle, to his crooked grin, to his subtle limp, everything about Keanu made him an amazing work of art.
I’ll admit that when I heard he passed, I cried nonstop. I felt cold and hot at once. I shook uncontrollably. I felt empty and tight and confused and weightless and a million other terrible things all at once.
And now, eight hours after I heard the news…it’s still surreal to me, but I’m coming to accept it.
I know Keanu’s looking down at us right now, doing that throaty chuckle of his, probably saying we’re all a bunch of pussies for crying, and cracking some joke about how we can only mourn him on leap years.
He celebrated life every fucking day, because he knew we only got one and it had to count. And even though I (and everyone else) wanted him around for another seventy years, I can take solace in the fact that in his seventeen-and-change years on this earth, he lived more than a great deal of people do in their entire lives.
Keanu, I’m never going to forget the diagram you drew for me to explain the theory of time being cyclical. I’m never going to forget the day you followed me to all my classes so you could keep telling me party stories. I’m never going to forget the costume party where you stole my hat to use as your costume. I’m never going to forget all those surreal conversations we would have on the stoop, or in La Bagel, or in the 7th floor boys bathroom.
And I’m never going to forget one thing you said to me, months ago: “Man, with the way I live, how the hell am I not dead yet?”
You were an amazing friend to me, and there’s still so much I have to say to you. I fucking love you with all my heart, you were like a brother to me. Save me a seat next to you in heaven, you fucking legend.
Rest In Peace Keanu. Brooklyn Tech will always love you.