One of my best friends on Earth, Frank Lauro, died suddenly this week. I wrote the following for a forum where we were both active, and I’m sharing a version of it here too.
Frank was the first online friend I ever met in real life, in the fall of 1998 when I was a sophomore in college. We had communicated casually for months in a chat room devoted to movies on AOL, and on the day I got kicked out of the room for cursing, he IMed me and offered to pass my messages to the room until my timeout had expired. I had no idea that making profane comments about the Ohio State Buckeyes would lead to the most enduring, most important friendship of my life.
One of his favorite stories was about our first in-person meeting. We’d spent dozens of nights on the phone from sundown to sunrise, and finally decided to meet near campus for lunch. I realized when I met him that he could be a psycho killer and spent our entire meal in a state of fear so profound I could barely swallow my food. But my sense of self-preservation is such that when he offered me a ride to my dorm, I said yes, and got into the psycho killer’s car all alone.
I soon learned that he’d kick a dozen puppies, skin them, and cook them into some cayenne-heavy spicy-as-hell dinner before he’d ever hurt me.
Frank was into Batman because Batman had no superpowers. Batman just fucking did the right thing. Frank lived his life that way. He would hate me for saying this, he would try to argue me down, he would swear I was wrong and insist I had no basis for saying this, but his ass isn’t here to correct me and I’m going to tell you: he would step in front of a bus for the people he loved. He would sacrifice his comfort and safety to stand up for people who could not stand up for themselves. He would end a conversation, a relationship, or a job if his own ethics were compromised – and his ethics, I promise you, were stronger than any of ours.
He introduced me to Pulp Fiction, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Usual Suspects, This is Spinal Tap, and tons of other movies. He introduced me to Thai food and Aimee Mann. He was with me when I first visited Sears Tower and the Brookfield Zoo. When I suffered from clinical depression so severe that I nearly did not survive, much less finish my degree, he was there. When my sister nearly died in a car accident that claimed three other teenagers, he was there that night and through the long months ahead. He was always there.
We dated for a long time, and then we stopped. And then we dated again, and then I moved away. And then we dated again, long-distance, and then we stopped again. The distance seemed too great. Our obstacles seemed insurmountable. But I loved him from beside him, and I loved him from faraway. I always loved him. I love him still. The web that holds my soul is woven through and through with hundreds of his threads. There’s only one problem. The strongest thread of all, the one that tied me to him over the distance and the years and the obstacles, the one I thought would never break? That one snapped yesterday, and I’m having trouble staying tethered to anything right now.
He and I were equally sensitive, I think, but I mystified him because he had developed a nearly impenetrable skin and I had none at all. He told me often that if the world was a fight, I kept going in with both hands tied behind my back. He pushed me often to be stronger, to stand up for myself more, and I did it because of him. Everything about him was stronger than I will ever be, but I have the courage and the strength to write this because I loved him and he taught me to be just a little tougher.
I didn’t know how I was going to write this, but I knew I had to do it. I knew that he would want me to. He read my website and my prose and my shitty screenplays, and he always encouraged me to keep doing it. He swore I would be a published author one day, and he’d be pretty disappointed if I didn’t write about him for you here. I could keep writing this for paragraphs, for years. I could write until your eyes burn out from the strain of the reading. But he’d want me to stop here.
I will miss him for as long as I live.