2014 has been a year of me trying to figure it out on my own a lot. Being stripped of a lot of mainstay friendships has been part of that. This is one that I was NOT ready for.
On my way to work one morning I see Darrius calling. Well… I know 2 things about Darrius’ call – he either wants something or he’s in town and wants to meet up. He’d just moved to South Carolina so I just figured, best to answer the call because it’s actually unusual that he’d want to talk to me THIS early (it was 9AM after all) – and I didn’t owe him any design work.
“Where are you right now?” were the first words out of his mouth, which I used to determine – he’s in town. “I’m on my way into the office.” He hesitated. “Why what’s up?” I asked waiting for him to reveal his whereabouts and plans for the day. “Where are you exactly…?” he asked urgently. “I’m in my car on the way to the office… what’s wrong D?”
“I just got a call from Shawn Crawford that Kevin Forbes passed away last night.”
“NO!!!!” i screamed and swerved my car to a halt. Why do people play these horrid jokes on each other? THIS CAN’T BE TRUE… I JUST spoke with him a few weeks ago. We were JUST on Facebook Messenger chatting LAST. WEEK. NO!!!
No. No. No. I remained in denial. “Let me call him.” In the background I heard D saying he’d tried to call his cell but I was already hanging up and in progress of calling Kevin’s home phone. A female voice picked up. “Hello?” “Hello…. Sharon?” I stammered. “No, this is Brittany.” (His only daughter). On the verge of full on tears I murmured, “Brittany, honey… please say it isn’t true…. ” “I’m so sorry but… it is….” She was completely composed and gracious. My GOD what an amazing job they’ve done with raising her because I would have been rocking back and forth in a corner somewhere at her age. The tears started to flow and I begged her forgiveness for not introducing myself first and asked if her mom was available. “No, I’m sorry she’s on the phone right now.” “Please tell her that Victoria will call back a little later today.” I hung up. And sobbed in a way I haven’t since mom died. I hadn’t even put the car in park yet… slumped over my steering wheel crying my soul out. I finally dialed Darrius back when I had the wherewithal to think straight. And upon uttering the words “It’s true…. I just spoke to his daughter” I lost all coherence. The rest of the day was me confirming what everyone didn’t want to believe. My friend, Kevin Forbes, had transitioned.
It was 1993 and I was having my every day struggle trying to fit in with the “black” kids in college. This problem always manifested itself for me because up until a certain point, I just meshed better with the nerds of the world and back then, there weren’t a whole heap of black nerds. And black folks are so cool… they’re a tough crowd to get into if you’re not already down. And I’d just begun my foray into being accepted. I’d joined the Pearl Visions interest group for AKA and the world of black folk was opening up to me finally :). As a result of “announcing” my interest in AKA by way of being in this interest group, I started to meet other greek / greek affiliated / greek interested people on campus. A note about my personal style back then… I was into platform heels WAY before it was trendy. It was really something… only ladies of a certain lifestyle wore at the time. But I loved the presence they gave me. I was tall, my legs were elongated — and my boyfriend at the time liked them quite a bit. So I wore them to class and events and… generally everywhere. Back then, they were quite comfortable so i rocked them. There was a group of Alpha men that hung around the university on account of one of them being a student. He dated a girl on the 7th floor (the floor where I lived) so I would see him around the dorm and on 7 quite often. One day, he stopped me in the lounge. “Excuse me… do you have a twin sister?” And I found that to be just the strangest question ever. “No… I don’t.” “Well… do you wear really high heels sometimes?” he asked. “Yes, I do.” “Well that must be it then… because sometimes I see you and you’re 6’4? and others I see you like now and you’re 5’6? … I thought you must be a twin cause I couldn’t understand why you’d be so tall and so short at the same time.” I laughed for about 20 minutes. It was the first conversation I remember having with Kevin. And I don’t know what happened, but over the years, he settled into my life as very much a mentor and a big brother. I NEVER felt anything else coming off of him aside from GENUINE concern for me and love. It was so easy to let him be a part of my life and he loved me so effortlessly.
We’d see each other at least yearly for some time at the Phirm Phamily birthday celebration (his birthday party and would invite all his closest friends). We’d have drinks and enjoy each other’s company. He started having these same parties yearly at a cigar bar – he became QUITE enamoured with them. I tried attending the first of these… and my clothes and hair smelled like smoke through and through when we were done LOL. But I’d do it for Kev. He kept tabs on me remotely via text message, email, IM, facebook – whatever he could use to let me know he was still a part of my life and still cared very much. I never felt the lack of him and tried as much as I could to fulfill requests he would make from time to time to help him promote something or get tickets to something.
The last time I heard his voice was on a Saturday of a long weekend. I want to say it may have been memorial day… or July 4th. The day was FULL of festivities of the family just being together, going to the park, and the plan was to shower change, pop some popcorn and watch Frozen together in the living room. The popcorn had just finished popping and we’d just pressed play on the movie. Here we were, my little family unit nestled in on our couch to watch a movie together. The stuff dreams are made of – my dreams. My phone goes off. For 2 seconds I thought to ignore it and keep on basking in this familial wonderfulness. But I peeked at the phone. “Incoming call from Kevin Forbes.” Without. Hesitation. I stood up and walked to the back of the house to take the call. That was the reaction a call from Kevin evoked from me… always. If he was calling, he needed me and I had to rise to the occasion. No matter what. He did need my help that day and I did all that was in my power to assist. I only hope it was enough because of course no matter what I did he told me it was of the utmost help.
He never stopped telling me how proud he was of me. How happy he was for me. How much he thought I deserved every happiness. There was never any question in my mind that he was my friend. I wouldn’t even have to think twice about it. Never any question that he’d always do whatever he thought would best help me. Best make me smile. Best put me at ease. And his love of GOD is so strong… I have NO doubts about where he is right now.
I was afforded the honor of putting together his memorial programme. It was hard. Going through all the pictures of him and reminiscing. His silly laugh. His cut and dry factualness. His endless optimism.
One of his long time friends, now pastor, spoke at the memorial and at one point thanked Kevin’s parents for allowing Kev to pass his way. And it resonated with me. How much BETTER I am for having had the opportunity to know him… to have him know my name and that he cared. I will miss him to the depths of my soul. I’m so sorry he never got to meet my Theena in person. I’m sad I didn’t get one last chance to hold him tight. But I KNOW he knew that i loved him. I never spared an opportunity to tell him.
Rest in sweet paradise my big brother. I love you now and always.