May 7, 2024

My birthday was a few weeks ago and I was surprised when my best friend from high school, Eldridge, didn't call me. Even though we don't talk as much as we used to, I could always count on him to call and wish me a happy birthday. Since his birthday is just 10 days after mine, I figured I'd talk to him soon.

The night of his birthday, I got sidetracked and didn't want to call him too late, so I went on Facebook to send him a message. That's when I found out that Eldridge had died just four days before my birthday. I almost dropped my phone I was in such a state of shock. Eldridge was the closest thing I had to a brother and now he's gone.

Me, Eldridge, Jim and Liz at the Hopleaf in Chicago
Me, Eldridge, Jim and Liz in the early 2000s at the Hopleaf in Chicago. Perhaps the most normal picture I have of Eldridge.

Eldridge and I met the summer before freshman year at Evanston Township High School. We were both taking art and ended up at the same table. We immediately bonded over movies, video games, comedy and music. That summer, Tim Burton's Batman came out and we planned to go see it the day it came out. The day before, I had to make a paper mache mask by applying a bunch of wet strips of paper to Eldridge's face. He hated it. He could not wait until the next day when he would get to make a mask out of my face. Except the next day, I ditched class and saw Batman by myself, like an asshole. Eldridge met up with me at the theater after class and we watched it together but he was pissed. I swear he held that against me for the rest of his life. That was the first and last time (that I can remember) that I pissed him off.

Eldridge was one of the nicest, funniest, and most creative people I've ever known. He could draw, he could write, he could freestyle, and he could make us all laugh. Our friend group used to "heat" on each other relentlessly. (Think of the stereotype montage from Do the Right Thing). I like to think I was forged in such a fire of insults at ETHS that I could withstand the harshest criticism. Eldridge was the king of heating.

We spent most of high school cracking each other up, watching b-movies (which we'd sometimes dub over the sound with our own ridiculous dialogue), and playing a lot of video games. Particularly Street Fighter 2.

After graduation, Eldridge went to Columbia College and I went to University of Illinois. We didn't talk as much, but when we got together it was always just like old times. When I'd introduce him to my friends, they would immediately take a liking to him. Everyone loved Eldridge.

After living in Champaign for four years I moved back to Chicago to study sports journalism at Columbia College. Eldridge and I moved into a studio apartment, which was basically a dorm room with a small kitchenette and it's own bathroom. I slept on the floor in a closet. Eldridge hooked me up with a job at Dave and Buster's down the street and we had some great times working at one of the worst jobs I've ever had.

Eldridge play fighting with CJ.
CJ loved Eldridge, even when he'd pretend to punch CJ in the face.

I eventually moved back to central Illinois and then later to California, but Eldridge and I always stayed in touch. A few years later, I moved back to Chicago and, again, it was just like old times. I got a dog named CJ, who loved people, but loved Eldridge especially.

A few years ago, Eldridge moved down to Georgia with his mom. We'd still talk on the phone occasionally but I never made it down there to visit and I don't think he ever came back to Chicago. The last time I spoke to him was his birthday last year. We chatted late into the night about all sorts of things and laughed a lot. El was probably one of the only one of my friends who would tell me he loved me. And that last talk was no different.

I'm so gutted. I lost my brother. I wish I would have found out sooner so I could have attended the service. I wish he had gotten to meet my kids. They would have loved Uncle El and he would have loved them.

I owe a lot to Eldridge. He had a big impact on my sense of humor, my taste in music and movies, and my love of video games. He was the Poppa to my Puff, the Red to my Andy Dufresne. I'll miss you, brother.

Eldridge and me in our best b-boy pose.

Links to Eldridge's stuff

I'm Mike Aparicio, Principal Design Systems Engineer at Turquoise Health. I'm interested in helping companies large and small improve collaboration between design and engineering through the use of design systems. I specialize in creating custom CSS frameworks that empower engineering teams to get from concept to production quickly, while writing little to no CSS themselves. I write about web design and development, video games, pop culture, and other things I find interesting. I live in the Chicago area with my wife, three sons, and two dogs.

You can find me on most places on the Internet as @peruvianidol.

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