Friday, May 15, 2009

51 - 49


If there were 100 mistakes, he made 51 and I made 49.

He was Steve Lee. The partner who I started a small business with nine years ago in NYC. We'd met while working together at an ad agency. He was director of design, one of the founding members of the industrial design division of that agency. I was in my first job in NYC and clueless about how things worked in NYC, at the agency, and all things industrial design.

Steve quickly took me under his wing when we started working on a project together for the client I was responsible for. Slowly, meetings morphed into lunch. Lunch morphed into drinks after work, and drinks morphed into dinner. Little by little he became one of my best friends in NYC, and I found myself hanging out with him at his loft on Grand Street.

We were very close. So close that he accompanied me to my then girlfriend's (now wife) college graduation. So close that when an opportunity came for him to branch out on his own, I spent an entire week convincing him how great it would be, and how much cooler it would even be if I was allowed to join him as a partner.

So, there we went - opened our own shop out of his loft. Our own version of the American Dream.

But, it wasn't meant to be. I was too young and Steve needed a person that was more mature, more understanding, more driven, more knowledgeable, and more connected. Steve needed the person that I think I am today. Nine years ago I was just a kid. So we fought. We had some great early success, and looked to be on our way to more, but we fought. We fought constantly. Even in good times. And it made us both miserable.

My favorite memory is when we got our first large check from the client. It was over a quarter million dollars. He was so excited he was going to photocopy the check, and then fax off a copy to his mother and also have it framed. I had never held a check with so many numerals on one line.

It was an ugly breakup. But it was bound to happen. It didn't have to be that ugly, but then again, perhaps there was no choice. I lost one of my closest friends and I learned some valuable lessons.

I never got to tell Steve how much I learned from him, and how much he influenced my life. Or that I never considered him responsible for the breakup. It wasn't entirely my fault, but it wasn't entirely his either. 51 - 49. Let's just say the one extra was the catalyst for the breakup.

This week I found out that Steve is on his last legs, and not expected to beat his illness. His health is failing rapidly and he is not likely to live much longer.

I can't say I'm going to miss Steve- I haven't spoken to him for years.
I can't say that I should reconcile with him. It's pointless and disingenous at best - serves no purpose.
I can't say I'm his friend - we parted rather acrimoniously.

I miss his friendship.

The man deserved to live a long and full life. And I will remember him for the rest of my life.

Months after our parting, I bumped into him on the street. Well, not quite. He didn't see me as I was coming up the stairs of the subway station, and I didn't bother to alert him to my presence. We just walked right by each other like any other strangers in NYC.

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