I still remember meeting my friend Ketil for the first time. I was sitting in Vondelpark in Amsterdam with my friend A who had just gotten me a job in a call center where she was working as well. It was my first real job. It was a sunny day. I felt excited and happy. Ketil worked at the same company I was about to work for. He was walking his bike through Vondelpark, a friend by his side. He stopped and said "hi" to my friend A who was really good friends with Ketils best friend. I thought: Wow, that man is beautiful. But not in a sexual attraction way - I somehow knew immediately that K was into men, even though he was not the kind of man with who you could just "tell". He was nice and had a British accent even though he was Norwegian (I later found out that he had lived in London and that's how he picked up his nearly perfect British English).
Three months passed and my company had a Christmas party. It was at this design-y place that had areas set up like different rooms in an open space. I immediately noticed the "Scandinavian corner" on the black sofas - everybody was wearing black, everybody was smoking and everybody looked incredibly cool. I wanted to be one of them. Of course, Ketil was one of them.
At the end of the night, before I left, K came to me and said "I heard from A that you are really into photography. I am too! Maybe we should take pictures together sometimes!".
And that was the beginning of a really special friendship.
We spent nearly every weekend together - either in the darkroom printing photos, out taking pictures or at a bar or coffee shop, Saturday or Sunday afternoon, drinking beer and smoking. The summers we'd be sitting at the canals and drinking wine and eating cheese and crackers or in Vondelpark, with some of our other friends. Through Ketil I learned that cheese, crackers, wine, tapenade and pate make the perfect meal. He taught me that all you need to be happy is a blanket, sunshine and good company.
A few years after we first started hanging out, we created a little photography club with two other friends. We'd be meeting up every few weeks in the evening to seriously discuss photography but we just ended up drinking a lot and smoking pot and telling each other how incredibly talented we are.
K always knew how to make me feel great. He was the first man who ever made me feel beautiful. He would compliment me constantly. One time he just looked at me and said "Wow, you look JUST like that girl from Lost in Translation" (he meant Scarlett Johansson - I don't look like her but I used to have long, blond hair and I have blue eyes, so it was at least a little bit believable). And whatever he said, it didn't sound phony. It sounded really genuine.
In all those years that we spent so much time together we never once had an argument.
I hadn't seen Ketil in a few years. He left the Netherlands to move to Spain. I missed him so much and even though we tried to meet up a few times in Spain and the Netherlands, something always came up that prevented us from seeing each other.
When I heard that he had died, I was surprised how much I am grieving and how I just can't stop thinking about him.
I haven't really lost a friend before K. So I am not sure how this is supposed to work. Like tonight I am supposed to go out to two parties. Part of me is afraid that I am going to get drunk and won't be able to stop talking about my friend. Another part of me thinks I really need distraction.
All of a sudden it feels like I can remember ever single conversation I had with Ketil. And I am realizing how often I think about him - even before I learned about his untimely death, I'd think about him every time I say "cool" - because he would never say cool - always "coolio" which was funny because he was not the kind of guy who would ever use slang or say something pretentious. Or every time I go to the dentist I think about when I met up with him right after he had had a root canal and he told me that whenever he goes to the dentist he feels a little bit like he had been "raped in the mouth".
I also remember one evening we spent talking about death and dying and how we think we are going to end up dying. And this is not how he was supposed to die. And when.