Looking back now I regret not writing this letter sooner. I guess now it’s too late. But not too late to express my gratitude to you for shaping me for who I am today. Back when cassettes were a thing, I remember listening to your song ‘numb’ at a friends place. Everyone stared hard at me for not knowing the band. In the pretence of acting cool, I head-banged along and found myself truly enjoying every beat. I was in grade 5 and hardly understood compartmentalising my emotions. I ran back home and waited for the weekend. It was a ritual for me and my father to go to our local cassette shop and look for the latest release. I finally got my hands on your first album. I was more fascinated by the graphic leaflet inside with the song names, graffiti, and lyrics. I came home to play all your songs on repeat on the walkman. To this day, I remember the lyrics by heart; your voice could soar with piercing strength or descend to a whisper. When I first saw your picture, I couldn’t relate to the shrapnel-laced howl that sounds like it comes from someone twice his size. Your hairstyle and tattoos were so unique and new to me. I knew this was love at first sight.
From you I learnt not everything is peaches and roses in life. I truly believe early day trauma teaches to be grounded and kinder to people despite of our own sufferings. You tend to vent out in a creative space and hope to achieve more than what you deserve. Despite of all the hardships you faced, you touched so many souls and changed lives (mine for instance) with just the purity of your words and humility. I wish I could meet you just once to tell you how much you mean to me. It has always been a dream to watch you perform live; all that adrenaline, the crowd feeling puissant by your presence. I watched your performances live online, your TV guestings, variety shows that you had. I’ve been a fan of you before – and still am. To be honest in my scrapbook, I wrote more about Mike Shinoda because that phase was rap influential in my defence (: I took every article I came across and pasted it in there.
Your letter after Chris Cornell passed away hit me hard. I only wish people cherished each other when they were alive and remembered them by even when they passed like you did. The song you dedicated to him on his farewell ‘Hallelujah’ completely changed meaning for me when I heard you sing it. You passed on his 53rd birthday. Was this some kind of a sign? I hope you could see how many hearts were shattered on the day you decided to leave us. How could a smiling face, so ahead of his time, determined to shine ‘one more light’ in others lives, himself be so bogged down with the bitter reality? What ran through your mind all along?
I recognise the heartbreak now that you are gone. This isn’t a horrific dream. I’m awake, and it sucks. I recognize the deeper layer of distress that ties the belief of simply how an awful lot of ache you must have been in. The weight is crushing. Your thoughts, riddled with the insidious lies of depression, failure, anger, maybe the world crushing down on you, and how you truly must have believed that this no longer makes sense from your perspective. If I close my eyes, I am transported right back to the exact moment the news sunk in – the need to be somewhere else howling with grief, not in college surrounded by people. My only consolation is that you can’t see what is happening in the world right now. I can imagine the expletives from here. I miss you, every day. I wish I’d told you how amazing I thought you were, and that you really were a one-off.
Yours ardent fan forever,