I collapsed on those stairs when I heard.
You remember, right? Those old concrete stairs you find in any Soho building, caked with footsteps from all across New York. I had my ass on them as I sobbed.
You were gone.
You are gone—yet somehow so fresh in my mind.
I was 19 when we first met, you were 20. We’d just been hired to be Resident Assistants together at UF (the University of Florida) and were on a staff full of more seasoned folks. We were babies and it showed, constantly learning and messing up. Remember when you got locked out of your room while doing laundry and had to walk across the green in just your underwear?
It all came rushing back when Lucy called and told me you were gone. I sat there, sore and surprised, convinced she must mean some other Patrick because we had just spoken yesterday.
You said you’d been biking for Bike and Build for weeks now. You’d started in Portland, Maine and your two feet and two wheels were taking you all the way to Santa Barbara. You told me the bike gave you time to think, to remember what’s important. You told me how you thought of Suzette, your sister, and of me.
You told me you loved me.
My mom says that we rarely get to say goodbye, but I did. And for that I should be thankful. But I wasn’t trying to hear that, I’m still not. My best friend was killed by a distracted driver. Our goodbye was a series of texts I still hold dear, but they aren’t the same as a hug. God, I miss you.
At this point I think it’s important to give you some context.
Patrick Wanninkhof was a tall, goofy, hyper-intelligent musician and engineer. After college he decided to teach science, which brought him to New York City where he taught physics and computer science as Mr. W. at Fordham High School of the Arts in the Bronx. When I first moved to New York I crashed at his apartment a few nights.
I recognize that the primary purpose of TWLOHA is to encourage us all to celebrate ourselves and circumvent self-harm, so I want to apologize if I led you to think that he took his own life. He didn’t. It was taken from him. I wanted to share this story because it sums up exactly what ‘Another Day With You’ means to me.
The last time I saw Patrick he was biking up 3rd Avenue to head home. He rode down to meet me for some cheesesteaks and to watch the NBA Finals. He knew how much I loved basketball so he made time. We laughed and cheered, and I’m pretty sure we (The Heat) lost that game. Then he rode off into the night like he always did.
In a way, it was a perfect representation of him: he’d worked a long day teaching kids about inertia and to believe in themselves, and then he booked it downtown to hang with me one last time before biking 2,390 miles of his scheduled 3,987 miles to raise money for affordable housing projects. That was Patrick.
I guess if you got to this part you’re reading thinking of a friend you’ve lost or one you’ve lost touch with. I want you to remember the good times you had together and reach out to them if you can. If not, tell others who loved them the memories you have and celebrate that person’s life. In the inevitable moments of pain and darkness, try to remember that you are someone’s Patrick to their Aundre and don’t go yet. Because we need you.
I’ve always hated birthdays. All the hoopla, deluge of texts and expectations usually leads to a day that’s over before it started. But after Patrick died in 2015, I understood why they matter so much. It’s a celebration of life. A celebration that we exist and that we are together. Life isn’t always inherently precious, it is bolstered and given staying power by those who we let in and those we uplift.
To me, ‘another day with you’ is a mindset. A mindset that asks us the simple question: If we get another day, how will we spend it?
I know that for me, I would go on a long bike ride with Patrick, down to Rockaway Beach. We’d scarf down some subs before drifting away in the ocean. I never had his stamina, so I would probably beg to take the train back only to lose the argument and have him outpace me for the final ⅔ of our ride. It would be dark by the time we got back but on that final day, I would say, “Thank you for having a consistently generous spirit. I love you.”