Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sean Barnes. R.I.P. and Thank You.

I've recently lost a friend from high school. That is, we have all lost him, and I'm afraid we lost him years ago, certainly before March 8th, 2011. There is a man that I once knew, his name is Sean Barnes. As Ally Spotts has pointed out in her blog, he simply was incredible. In a world of easy to read static characters, Sean Barnes was as dynamic as they come. Rightfully noticed, when we were all stuck in our cliques, Mr. Barnes would tear down those walls. He was everything that she said he was and, honestly, probably greater than that.

I will admit, now, that I am not, nor was I ever Sean's best friend. When I knew him, that was an honor reserved for K (whom I barely knew). While I don't have the same rights to write about him that K does, or that even Ally does, I'm going to write just the same. I will write because, quite frankly, I read Ally's post (@ and it was heartwarming, and hit me in a way that I felt I needed to get out of my system as well. This blog that I sort of write, it isn't for the world, it's for me. It's for me to convey some emotions and troubles and fun and everything else with those closest to me. I realize it's on a public space, and make an effort not to give too much of myself because of that fact. Besides, I feel like I'm hiding my journal and letters to you in a library. People could find and read this stuff, and that'd be okay, but they won't. That all being said, let me tell you about my friend Sean Barnes I remember.

Sean Barnes is somewhere around 5'8" and has the body of a lazy athlete, or maybe an athletic couch potato. He isn't really fit, but looks like he could be. He isn't thin, or fat, really just an average body that looks to be on the healthier side but with a little pudge in the middle. He had red hair. His hair isn't bright, or at least it never stands out--probably because Sean has got you looking right into bright eyes or his giant smile, or maybe it's that beat up ol' cap he wears to cover it all up. For whatever the reason, there he is, every time you see him, with you. Sean Barnes isn't a man who sat next to you, or stood next to you. He is a man that is just with you. He stays with you, compellingly. The positive energy that he brings, always carries with it happiness to your day, and then to the days that follow.

Ally asks us to write our stories, or our memories of times that we've had with Sean. I have them. I have some vague memories of things that happened 8-10 years ago. But those aren't Sean Barnes--at least, not the Sean Barnes that I knew. He was much more than a collection of random moments and enlightenment in our lives, he was a man struggling. I think the best way I can honor and remember him is to get it all out--i think that's what Sean would like. At least, if I was talking to Sean about my friend who passed away, he'd expect me to share it all. So, Sean, here it goes.

You may not know this, in High School, Sean Barnes is elected ASB President. His margin of victory is enormous, and really, there might as well not have been any competitors. Sean Barnes loves the entire school, every day. That love is reflected in the election results. Unfortunately, Sean Barnes, though brilliant enough to make the grade--any grade for any class--he lets his studies slide. Getting As in everybody's hearts was only enough to get Cs and a D or two on the report card. Though seemingly cool and calm at school, this turn of events eats at him. Sean puts so much energy into the school and into its students that he lets his own welfare slip away. He's disappointed because he knows at least two things: 1. he let himself down- because he is able to do better; and 2. he let the school down- because he earned their respect and votes and now can't make good on those promises of change. We still love him. He is, after all, Sean Barnes.

Sean Barnes had lived all over the world. He tells you about the mysteries of the world in places you've never been, never heard of, and likely couldn't find on a map (at least not very easily). He learned a lot from his travels. He is sociable, and lovable. He can tell you stories. He can make you cry. He can make you laugh. He can do it all. As the senior year of school comes around, there's another guy in the ASB presidency spot. He's okay, though I don't like him much at this point, probably because he isn't Sean Barnes. A bit into it, Sean is still reading, and writing, and presents to us his memoirs. He had written up several pages about himself, about his own personal rise and fall.

Seans memoirs are a different side of him. We all get to see his smile, his eyes, and his charm, everyday in the halls and in class. Here, in his personal writing, are his general plans for school-wide domination. It seems that Sean had been planning on being ASB president since middle school. I didn't know him then, we only met our Sophomore year. I remember those days though. As I read through his explanation of plotting to be friends with everyone, learning about everyone, and pretending to love and care for everyone...PRETENDING!? Wait, what? Well, I remember that Sean Barnes. He's brilliant, and he's certainly amazing. Still, there's something more to him. Every day that passes, that I'm lucky enough to pass with him, I feel lucky and fortunate to have his attention even for a moment that we pass each other in the hall, but can also see a darkness enveloping him. His smile draws your attention, making you feel good. His eyes are gleaming, brightly shining out like one way lanterns or a lighthouse beam--bright and awesome but behind that light is a growing darkness as the night sets. That's how i feel about Sean.
At the Powderpuff Game, Sean is awesome. By 'awesome' I mean that he was the cheering squad. Well, Sean is there and his buddy Bek. I don't really like Bek that much, probably because I have a crush on his girlfriend but that doesn't matter. They're in pink and purple and tights and ridiculous. He asks me to join them, I don't know why. Maybe I'm the only that will. Maybe I'm the only one that would fit into the leftover 'cheerleading' uniform. Maybe...maybe it doesn't matter, of course I go. Sean Barnes didn't even have to try that hard to convince me, but he would've tried hard, and he would've convinced me if he had to. There we were, "cheering" for the senior girls. Sean sits on my shoulders, and we yell and cheer some more. The moment is brief and the game is over.

The CHS BRA really could have used some more members at the Powderpuff game at that time. There was a Senior Prom. It was fun. I wonder if there are photos with Sean, I just don't remember it that well, or if we had fun with Sean or not. He was there, and I'm sure he was having a good time. Hmm, I don't remember Sean at graduation, i really don't remember him until that first summer after freshman year of undergrad.

Sean has a girlfriend. One of my best friends from high school, whom i drifting away from but not worried 'cause it has only been a year at this point, is hanging out with Sean. Really, for me, hanging out with Paul meant hanging out with Sean, and that wasn't really a problem. I love Paul, we share random moments of togetherness, and he's very important to me. Oh the memories. Really, where Paul is bright enough to cover whatever darkness he's hiding, Paul is often somber and introverted to where his bits of socializing that you share with him feel special, like you're connecting with Paul on a deeper level. Honestly, I'm a little concerned these days. Paul and Sean, they're "doing drugs." Okay, whatever that means. They're smoking cigarettes, they're smoking marijuana, they're getting their hands on different prescription meds and taking them but i don't know why. Of course, I'm something of a goody-two-shoes, but wouldn't stop my friends from making their own decisions. Maybe I should. Well, I tell them no when they offer, I don't need anything, i'm just happy to hang with them. Back at Sean's place, some of Sean's light has faded these days. He's still sweet, he's still brilliant and much better read than I am, but he doesn't seem to shine the way he once did. He extols some brilliant ideas, I definitely can't keep up with any kind of debate, about life, about drugs, about books, about anything. Sean didn't care though, he's happy just to share his ideas. He's happy to just explain and examine what's on his mind. Wow. I only read a few things, because of college, so I didn't contribute too much, but it is always nice to talk to him.
Sometime later that Summer, we're at Paul's place. Hangin' out in the back yard. No parents were around, just us boys. Paul needed some smokes, but I'm not about to let him drive because he had a couple of drinks. Maybe it's Sean who needs the smokes. Oh well, Sean wants to borrow Paul's car to hit the gas station up the street to get the cigarettes. I don't think that he is up to the task, at least, I don't think he should go in his somewhat altered state. He's a little drunk. So, he decides to wrestle me for the keys. I'm not sure what got us here, but Sean is ready to wrestle--not totally seriously, but serious enough. I've probably got 80 pounds on Sean at this point--and pretend to be an athlete. As he comes for me, I remember wrestling with him to the ground constantly asking if we were done. It wasn't enough, and he trips me up a little. Again, I've got him in a headlock of sorts (i'm not a wrestler so I don't know the hold he was in-or if it was even a hold). After several minutes, he finally lets me take his place, always with that smile on his face. No hard feelings. Just one feeling lingers with me, he's heavier than usual. He wanted to really get something out, and the drinking and smoking is adding to his problems. Oh well, I'll go buy him some smokes--better than having him drive in this state. After buying the smokes, I show up to the back yard. Sharing and just hanging out is going on again. Maybe that tension was just me--how embarrassing.

I know this is a lot, but I'm trying to dredge up these memories. It's like reading a book you know, these moments are always there, right in the moment. Except, the details get blurry, the drinks you drink, the clothes you wear. The feelings seem stronger, and there's no momentum of time to sweep them away. We're just stopped in the moments to remember.
That's not all i can remember. I remember sitting at a table sophomore year. There was a member of the Chorus, a cheerleader, a hawaiian, a nerd, a new kid (me), and Sean Barnes. I remember his smile at football games, and those turquoise BRA shirts. I know we hung out after the first summer. He and his brother even came down to my apartment in College to drink. That was a random group. It seemed like every time I got to see Sean after high school, his light was growing dimmer, like he just didn't have it anymore and worse, that he didn't care about it anymore. I loathe to say his darkness consumed him, and we weren't there to bring him out, to shine the light back on him to see.
He was bright, and able to be even brighter thanks to inspiration from classics and literature and poetry and philosophers, but also thanks to the smiles and connections that he could make. He was an exceptional individual who gave out so much love and energy, that it took almost 2000 of us to give it back. He taught me more than I knew i would learn in high school. He taught me how to give, not just to the most important person in our lives, but to give to everybody. He showed me how to commit totally to a project, to an ideal. I've close to forgotten about Sean Barnes. What an awful friend I've been. I'm sorry I didn't give back as much as you needed. I'm not sure I had it in me. I'm not sure any of us did. You did. Thank you Sean Barnes, you inspire and teach us again. I wish we could talk one more time.

To Double-A: I love you. To the Feet Family: I love you. To Paul: I love you. To Everyone who is reading this: thank you, I love you too.


  1. Beautifully written..thanks for sharing. Love.. Mom

  2. Thanks for writing that. I think you really nailed it. I miss Sean, even though we were never best friends. His death hurts. The last time I saw him was at the 7-11 in Aloha, on Christmas morning. He was working, and I was headed to work. I hated my job, and he wasn't thrilled to be at work either, but he sold me my coffee and made me smile before I trudged off to something loathsome. And that memory that I have sums up the Sean that I remember.