I was one of Allen’s first professors at Mondoville — he was one of my freshpeeps. I was also one of his last professors at Mondoville, teaching a couple of creative writing workshops he took as part of a minor he added to his psych major. I wrote a couple of letters of recommendations for him, and we’d occasionally nod to each other on Facebook after he graduated a couple of years ago and headed to seminary.
We got on well, I think — he took several classes with me in his time here, and would drop by my office when he wasn’t on my rolls. We both knew he wasn’t working as hard as he could, and we both knew he wasn’t making the grades he was capable of making, but he got what he earned from me, and seemed satisfied enough to come back. We’d talk about books, or the odd jobs he worked to make his way through school — process server, bingo caller, shooting instructor — and when he fathered a child, I asked him how that was and he told me that his family was taking care of the baby. We’d talk about video games and bad movies, and sometimes he’d talk about his work as a resident assistant in his dorm. He enjoyed working with the freshmen.
He seemed oddly aimless at times, particularly for someone who wound up a seminarian, and although I enjoyed having him in class and was happy to see him in the hallway or the cafeteria, there was always something elusive as well.
Or maybe that’s easy to say in retrospect, in past tense, after Allen killed himself over the long weekend. I heard about it Friday afternoon from one of his fraternity brothers, and I hoped that it had been some strange accident — a negligent discharge, a joke gone wrong. No, I was told. There had been a note, which the police still held. This morning, one of my students told me the note had been written for Allen’s child.
Allen hadn’t been away from Mondoville long enough to disappear — many of the students and faculty remember him, although now we all wonder how well we knew him, and how much of him he allowed us to know. And there’s a part of me that wonders if I reached out enough; one of his fraternity brothers told me Saturday that Allen had looked up to me. But I’m not really arrogant enough to think I would have made a difference, even had I known, and no one seems to have known — that elusiveness, again.
It pains me to think about a good kid — and he was a good kid — hurting so badly that what he did seemed to him to be a good idea, or at least the least bad idea. And I see a bit of there-but-for-the-grace, too; I’ve been closer to that point than I like to remember myself. And yes, there’s anger in me as well, for the people, even at my distance, who are left to wonder and doubt and have questions that no one here can answer, and for the stories he could have written, for the paths he could have found if he had given himself more time.
But mainly what I have a few nights later are memories of sitting in class, or in my office, and a pleasant grin and chuckle that seemed unguarded while hiding more than I knew. I hope he has found the peace that seems to have eluded him here, and that he hasn’t anything to hide any longer.
So long, Allen. I’ll miss you.