I lost a friend last week.

We weren’t the closest. We didn’t see each other that often. But there was grudging, unspoken respect between us. An understanding that we were cut from similar cloth.

I don’t know the circumstances of his passing but know he leaves a young child and a wife behind. He was a longtime teacher of writing at a local art school. I imagine he impacted hundreds if not thousands of aspiring novelists.

He only published one book but it’s a doozy. American Skin has to be one of the most vivid and specific Chicago books I know. The time and places it’s set in are long-gone and hardly recognizable today but Don’s depiction of that Chicago is imprinted on my psyche in permanent unsmudgeable marker.

I met Don through Irvine Welsh. Don had brought him to town to teach at Columbia College and he liked it enough to stick around for a decade. After Irvine split, Don and I kept in touch. I made an illustration featuring his beloved Cubs that was projected behind him as he read an essay at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Later, he commissioned me to make a drawing for his office.

We even tried making a movie review podcast. It didn’t last long but was a hoot for the time it did.

I don’t have any great point or moral to this list of memories. I could rattle off a bunch of platitudes and truisms the way we all do when someone we know checks out without notice, before we expect them to be gone. You can fill in the appropriate words here without my typing them.

There’s a memorial service in a couple days and I’m debating whether I should go. I’m not much for gatherings. But there’s a gravitational pull hinting that I should. Public grieving is not something I know how to do. I’ve only been to a few funerals in my life. None that have left much of an impression. Funerals are for the living and I don’t know that I necessarily need to commune with others who knew Don. We only had one friend in common and he doesn’t live here any more.

Feels like I’m making excuses to avoid a little awkwardness and discomfort. I’m still up in the air about it. All I know is I’ll miss the big lug.