Boy Next Door

The house I lived in when I was a child (indeed, I lived there from birth until I grew up and left home for good, returning three summers ago to clean it out and close it up when my Mom finally downsized) was situated on a cul-de-sac.  The neighborhood kids called it "the circle", which it was, open only at one end for cars who knew where they were to come home, and cars who didn't to turn around and sort themselves out.

The circle was planted all around with ornamental cherry trees, which bloomed every year on my birthday.  The houses around the circle were classic mid-century tract, all variations on the same split-level theme, built with pride in the 1950s.  My family moved into ours in 1968, two years before my birth, when the service men had long been home, and the babies had long since boomed.  

The other houses on the circle had kids in them, too.  Stuart and Steve were much older, teenagers already, as was their younger sister Jessica.  Their youngest brother, Robbie, though, was our unofficial ringleader.  He had an air of worldliness and devil-may-care.  Something of the rebel was Robbie.  The kind of kid who could teach you to smoke and swear, but never get caught doing either himself.  My best girlfriend Debbie and her little brother moved away sometime around my 7th summer, and they were replaced by three brothers: Ron, Mike and Jeff.  Ron was the oldest, and had a crush on my sister Susie.  Mike slept a lot, as I recall, and Jeff, the youngest, was the apple of his mother's eye and an allaround pain in the ass to the rest of us.  In my house were David, Carolyn, Susie and me, our oldest brother Bill being away at college.  And on the other side of my house lived Todd, Shelly and Mikel.  They had it all, these three:  Their parents looked like Barbie and Ken (their dad actually named Ken, if you can believe it).  Their house had a pool.  Their cars were always a good 2 years newer than anybody elses.  Even their dog, Ralphie, had a cuter name than most.Mikel was the same age as me.  We had lots of other things in common, too:  both the youngest of the family, both non-athletic and kind of awkward.  Both of us liked words, and practical jokes, and any sort of torture we could inflict on older siblings.  When it snowed, Mikel and I were always the first out to the circle for the rare joy of wintertime snow.  When the cherry trees bloomed, we took turns climbing them and shaking the branches to make pink petal snow fall on each other.

The year Mikel and I were nine, we both experienced the implosion of a small universe that is the rule when your parents divorce.  In 1979, the "ME" generation hit its full, self-centered stride, and both our sets of parents split within the same year.  It meant that both our moms went off to work, and Mikel and I both became latchkey kids, at the mercy of our older (extremely resentful) siblings from the end of the schoolday to the exhausted return from work of our single mothers.  I seem to remember more than one time when Mikel and I both rode our bikes around and around the circle, not saying much to each other.  You could hear the yelling from inside one or both of our houses, and you knew that out here was better than in there, and it didn't matter why.  Maybe we would have preferred to be alone.  Maybe it was comforting that we weren't.

Mikel and I went on to middle school, then high school, taking each other's presence for granted in a way that we could not have done with our parents.  Through all my childhood upheaval, boredom, and personal evolution, Mikel was the Boy Next Door.  In high school, we had more in common than ever before, both falling into the same group of friends when we each discovered Drama Club.  I got to be on stage with Mikel a lot, and will consider him forever the most gifted comedian of his age.  His talent was instantly recognisable, his brand of obtuse humor rooted in his deep intelligence and gentle, loving soul.After graduation, I left the circle for New York City to study acting.  Mikel went to Alaska to seek his fortune fishing.  Mikel's Mom sold the house on the circle not long after that, and the Boy Next Door and I drifted off on our separate adventures. 

In a strange coincidence, Mikel attended the same community college as Phillip for a time, while I was away at school.  Phillip remembers with out-loud guffaws the times he found himself onstage with Mikel. 

The Boy Next Door, and all the things we shared, are now inalterable pieces of who I have become.  We got separated by time and distance, and the pursuit of happiness which neither of us had handed to us as kids.  I found a lot of happiness, and I know that a soul as sweet as Mikel must have done the same.

The world lost Mikel about a week ago.  In a bizarre twist, I heard that he had been moved from the hospital to his mom's house, not very far from the city where I live, and all his friends were invited to come to him, and say goodbye.

I couldn't go.  I couldn't bear to admit he wouldn't still be out there, somewhere, riding his bike around in circles, in case I ever needed to do it, too.  To sit by him and hold his hand and tell him what his being there meant to my childhood was more than I could bear.  To say goodbye to a talent like Mikel and thank him for every time he ever made me laugh required more spine than I have.  I know he would forgive me for that selfishness, because that's the kind of person he was.  I also know he would have wanted me to forgive myself, as well.

To say that his going is a cruel loss to his family and everyone who loved him is the most pitiful of understatements.  To say that he changed the lives of every soul he touched is, too.  However true they are, platitudes do not help those of us whom he left behind.  Mikel deserved to turn 40 next year.  To have his own theatre company.  To go on improving the travel experience of all his fellow adventurers.  And we all deserved to watch him do it.  The unfairness of a world without Mikel in it to point out what's funny, is indescribable. 

I wish everyone could have a Boy Next Door.

Mikel Anthony Boire, 1970-2009

Mikel Anthony Boire, 1970-2009