In the last week, I’ve sat down at this laptop three times to start writing a new blog. Each attempt lasted 5-10 minutes before
I closed my computer and walked away.
I was planning on writing about leaving Buenos Aires and moving back to the United States. I would mention the biggest lessons I learned from my two months in South America. I would’ve told the emotional story of saying goodbye to my friends and girlfriend down there.
But on Thursday night, the day I flew back to my home country, prepping for bed after a long day of travel…I saw a missed call with a few Facebook messages.
“Hey man call me when you can. It’s about Tobias.”
I tried to come up with 20 different things it could be. But I knew. I hadn’t heard from this mutual friend in years.
I called back. He picked up immediately.
“Hey man,” he answered.
“Hey,” I replied. “What’s going on?”
He asked if I was sitting down. I closed my eyes and started crying.
The history of “salt and pepper."
Tobias referred to our friendship as salt and pepper. You can imagine why. He used the 🤍&🖤 emojis when commenting on photos of us.
I met Tobias McCargo in the summer of 2014. It was customary for young folks in Maryland to spend the summer working and partying in Ocean City, the closest thing that state had to Las Vegas.
He trained me on my first day ever working in a restaurant.
At least…he was supposed to. He called in sick that day so I was bussing tables on my own. I had lied about having restaurant experience because I thought I wouldn’t get the job otherwise.
It was a busy day. I got ripped apart, like jumping into a pool of sharks.
So right out the gate, I was like, Who the hell is this Tobias guy? I’m pretty sure we’re going to be enemies.
Then I met him.
I liked him immediately.
He was funny. He was cool. Every single person at the restaurant knew and loved him. He knew everyone’s name and stopped to talk to each person as we walked around setting up the dining room.
But above all, he showed a level of kindness and givingness I had never seen in a human being.
If you needed help, he wouldn’t just tell you the information you wanted. He would stop what he was doing to personally show you step-by-step how to do something.
I needed guidance in setting up a room service delivery. So he organized the tray for me and joined me in handing it to the hotel guests.
Aside from a small group of high school friends, I didn’t know anyone in Ocean City. So he invited me to his house and introduced me to his buddies and a bunch of coworkers at our restaurant I was too nervous to meet myself.
As fate would have it, we lived on the same street that summer: Gull Way.
We spent that summer partying, skydiving, and making cash at the hotel during the day only to spend it all that night. Ever since then, he’s been one of my closest friends.
As the years continued, we went our separate ways. Many months would fly by without us seeing each other. The occasional text or social media comment.
But whenever we’d reunite, it was always like we’d just hung out the day before.
I was scared that maturity and age would dissolve our friendship. It was built on the foundation of drinking Yuenglings, experimenting with drugs, and staying up until 5am.
But as we got older, we got closer.
Tobias could party, yes. But he could also just talk to you completely sober for hours about anything.
He loved to read. We discussed our favorite Stephen King novels, our favorite anime shows, and polarizing topics like race, religion, and politics.
He was patient. He told you what he thought but always wanted to hear what you had to say. He gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. This man was friends with the world.
And above all, he loved to mess with people.
God forbid you fell asleep with your shoes on. He’d take a photo of you and post it to Facebook. He’d find a nickname you hated and call you it every time he saw you. But he had this magical ability to do it in a way where you had to laugh too.
One time we were setting up the restaurant for a banquet. I asked him where I could find linens for the big tables. He told me to follow him and we started walking down a series of halls.
After about four minutes, I realized he was just taking me in circles.
“Dude where the hell are we going,” I shouted. We burst into laughter. Two dudes hunched over in an empty hotel hallway unable to breathe because they were having such a fun time.
It was impossible to be mad at the guy. And if you ever were, he would apologize profusely because he never wanted to actually hurt anyone or make anyone feel like less.
So, what now?
There are a number of cliches you hear about when a close friend or relative commits suicide.
“I had no idea.”
“I feel like I could’ve done something to prevent this.”
“I’m sad and angry at them for doing this.”
They all hold up.
I feel guilty for not being more assertive these past two years when Tobias fell off the face of the earth. We went for a long time without talking on the phone. He had a history of disappearing from time to time.
But no matter how annoyed I got at his lack of presence, I knew in the back of my mind that we’d reunite and do what we always do. We’d sit at a bar somewhere, he’d buy the first round of beers, and we’d laugh and tell stories. I knew he’d be one of my groomsmen whenever I got married. I knew we’d go to a UFC fight together.
I’ll never get to see those scenes play out though.
I think about his girlfriend who was expecting a life with him. I think about his family being told this news over the phone. I think about all the thousands of friends and acquaintances he stacked up over the years…each of whom will feel a sharp pain learning that one of the greatest people they’ve ever met is no longer living on this planet.
I also think about when I tried to kill myself in 2017. It never hit me until now how utterly devastating that would’ve been for the people around me if it had actually worked.
I’m so sorry.
There’s still a shocking level of denial in me. I keep thinking, Well let me just call him. If I just call him we can sort this whole thing out. If I could just talk to him…
He reached out to me last month for the first time in over a year. I was in Argentina at the time and felt it would be easier to just set up a call when I got back to the States.
I’ve reread these texts a hundred times. I can hear his voice. It makes me cry every time.
We never set up that call. The logical part of me knows there’s no way I could’ve known what would’ve happened. But the emotional part feels like not calling him back will be one of my deepest life regrets.
Just one more conversation. What I would give for that.
Looking back, one thing I’m wildly grateful for is the number of times I said “I love you” to my friend. Every hang. Every conversation.
We were extremely vocal about how much we appreciated each other and the friendship we created. As two masculine men, it never felt weird.
Tell your friends you love them. Tell them why. When one of you leaves, you’ll only wish you said it more.
And please. If you are battling with anything that makes you want to do something drastic, call someone. A friend, a relative, a hotline…
Email me if you have to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I miss my friend. Everyone who met him even once misses him.
Thank you for all the memories, Tobias. I love you, buddy. 🤍🖤