Every one is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows anybody.
Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
I apologize for the length of the following. I didn’t have time to make it concise.
How do I start?
On Monday evening, October 23rd, sometime before 6:24PM, a very close friend of mine for seventeen years, Wade J. Tyler, got into an argument over a utility bill with one of the tenants he was renting a room to. This might have just ended in a scuffle, thrown punches, someone calling the cops and perhaps a few charges, if Wade hadn’t owned a shotgun. As it was, it ended in a murder-suicide.
I first heard this news on Wednesday the 25th. The cops had went through Wade’s address book and started calling friends and relatives. People started calling people until eventually the news reached me.
How could Wade do something like this? How could this happen?
Wade was one of the most mellow, gentle people I knew. It was true that he was introverted among strangers but among friends, he easily and openly laughed and joked. If he felt strongly about something, and when he was among friends, he was unafraid to voice his opinion. He had an easy and unforced sense of humor. He got along wonderfully with children.
I don’t think he was the cliched creepy, quiet loner who stockpiled weapons. For most of the time that I knew him he seemed entirely sane and normal. He had friends. He had a life.
But he was complicated and real. I knew him long enough to see how this could have happened. I feel particularly able to judge him because of how similar he and I were and how long I knew him.
He, like myself, was a passive-aggressive. His general response to confrontation, stress and anger would be to shut down and withdraw–shut down and stack up his own anger. He was one to avoid stressful situations. People like this, and I speak from personal experience, tend to rarely show anger until it’s already gone too far. People like this tend to let others treat them like doormats until one day they flip.
Some people don’t understand or deal with passive-aggressives very well. They don’t get the feedback they expect from us and so, in confused irritation, they keep needling until suddenly, and to their great surprise, we explode in their faces.
My guess is that Justin T. Horne, the man Wade murdered, was one of these people. From what I’ve read in news and heard from Wade’s sister, Justin, justifiably angry yet oblivious to where his badgering was leading, pursued Wade through the house needling him until Wade blew up and drew out a shotgun.
Wade would rarely blame others for his shortcomings. If anything he’d turn all his blame and anger inward so as to paralyze himself further. Related to this, Wade was never one to ask for help. He tended to keep his troubles to himself. This is another classic tendency of passive aggressives. If only he’d asked us, his friends, to cover his bills while he got back on his feet, maybe none of this would have ever happened.
Wade, like myself, wasn’t especially diligent. Or if he was, it was in very specific, economically useless ways.
Wade was very intelligent and perceptive. He’d have remarkable moments of creativity. He loved to discuss very abstract topics and was quickly bored with what he viewed as trivial.
It wasn’t that he lacked ability, he was just unfocused and undisciplined in his pursuits. He, like myself, was a slacker and rather scatterbrained. He, and I, procrastinated constantly when faced with something difficult or unpleasant.
So I’m not at all surprised to learn that he forgot to pay bills, failed in his duties as a landlord, had unpaid traffic tickets or a suspended license. He’d forget a lot of important stuff like that. Actually he’d never really forget it. He’d just avoid it and fret over it until it grew into a crisis that had to be dealt with. This was a recurring pattern in his life. I myself have been there few times.
Wade, given these tendencies, really shouldn’t have been a landlord.
Wade, given these tendencies, probably shouldn’t have owned a gun.
I knew he owned one almost from the beginning of our friendship. When he first told me about it, perhaps anticipating objections, he went on at length about gun safety and training. Perhaps this lecture wasn’t really aimed at me. Maybe it was meant to reassure himself that he was being responsible.
His ex-wife was uncomfortable with it. His sister was uncomfortable with it. His parents were uncomfortable with it. Some of his friends were uncomfortable with it.
Why did he need that gun? If he were here, he’d probably give give us his reasonable opinions. And if we all knew him well, we’d trust him to be responsible and to make his own decisions.
But I think on that day, back in 1991, I caught a glimpse of Wade’s dark side. This is why I quote Twain at the beginning. Wade really liked Mark Twain as author and I think the quote is relevant.
He and I were different in many ways too. I’d never trust myself with a gun. I don’t even trust myself with a car.
But I’m a person who believes very strongly in letting others sort things out for themselves. There are lots of things others do, that I find objectionable. My friends are all a flawed bunch. I myself am very flawed. You try to look past that to find the good in people.
Now Justin T. Horne is dead. I mourn for Justin’s parents and friends. Justin is gone forever and I’m furious at Wade for doing something so stupid, something so unlike the rest of his life.
How could Wade show his face to me if he walked away from murder? Wade really cared. He was earnest to a fault. He had a code. How could he possibly live with himself after this?
I think Wade realized all this in the last few seconds after he saw what he’d just done. Overwhelmed with remorse, shame, guilt, he turned the shotgun on himself and escaped. The ultimate passive aggressive response.
The police say this sort of thing happens with depressing regularity all around the country. A bad day, a bad combination of personalities of all too real, all too flawed people that ends in death. It’s not a perfect world. It never will be.
Now, nearly eleven days after learning about this, my world is suffused with Wade-ness. Utterly trivial things remind me of him. I still cry at odd moments, though it is lessening now.
His sister told me that I was probably his best friend. That really, really, really hurt. Wade was a guy who deserved to have as many best friends as possible.
He’s left a huge hole in my life. All the more reason to be angry with him. He won’t grow old with us. He won’t be here to share any good news or bad news. He won’t be here to depend on. He left unfinished business. His life will always seem incomplete to me.
I suppose this essay should have talked more about Wade’s earlier life but I know, even as long as I knew him, that I don’t have the entire story. You all have your own pieces of Wade’s story. Try to remember them.
I still love Wade despite this one stupid, crazy day. On the whole he was a good person. If you knew him, you’d see past the flaws, to the generosity, the honesty, the warmth, the fair play, the sensitivity, the creativity, the honor, the patience and all the other things that made him a sad loss to the world.Pace Arko November 3rd, 2006