One Monday a few weeks ago, my friends and I were hanging out after a gym class. I don’t remember how it came up, but someone mentioned that a popular rapper named Mac Miller lived around the corner from us. I’d never heard of him so I looked him up on Twitter and saw this tweet: “No one in my neighborhood invites me to their parties.” Being who I am, I tweeted back, “Hi, Mac! I’m your neighbor, Ellen. Nobody invites me either. Come power-walk with my friends and me sometime.”
I joked that I should make him “Welcome to the neighborhood brownies.” My friends thought this would be awesome. Being who I am, I did. That Wednesday, I baked brownies, attached a friendly note, and tried delivering the tongue-in-cheek gift. No one answered at the front gate, so I brought them home.
On Friday, I decided I’d try re-delivering the brownies at lunchtime. I was about to leave when I got this text from one of my friends: “Mac Miller OD’d.” Moments later, the helicopters began hovering, always an ominous sign in our celeb-adjacent neighborhood. They would be there all day, as were the news vans that quickly arrived, passing the coroner’s van on their way up the hill.
As I watched news reports, I thought of Demi Lovato, who only months before had survived a near-fatal OD. I spent a season writing for her show, Sonny with a Chance, and knew her to be a talented teen carrying the weight of a TV series and music career on her young shoulders. I also thought of my friend, Jimmy. You see, I lived through the experience of seeing a friend, dead from an overdose, being carried out of his apartment in a body bag as the lead story on the evening news.
In the 1980s, a hot young actor named James Hayden starred on Broadway in the play American Buffalo, alongside his mentor, Al Pacino. Industry buzz was that Jimmy’s role in the upcoming film, Once Upon a Time in America, would catapult him into superstardom. On the day he died, Jimmy and I were supposed to have lunch. Instead I got a devastating telephone call. When an up-and-comer ODs while playing an actual drug addict, it’s front page news – national front page news. I was in shock for months. Jimmy’s sister moved in with me for a while, and we grieved together.
My Mac Miller story soon took another surreal turn. It turned out I’d been trying to deliver the brownies to the wrong house. One where an Alice in Chains musician lives, who was probably mystified if he saw a woman of a certain age in gym clothes with a plate of brownies buzzing his gate.
A few days after Mac Miller’s death, I walked up to his actual house, a nondescript ranch on a cul de sac around the corner from me. Flowers, candles, and talismans covered the front steps. I saw the memorial and began crying.
The note I wrote to Mac is still sitting on our hall table. I don’t know what to do with it. I know I should just tear it up or recycle it, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
I found out who Mac Miller was on a Monday. I made him brownies on Wednesday. By Friday, he was dead.
That haunts me.
Readers, asking a question for this post feels wrong somehow. But I’d love to hear any thoughts my story generates.