Standing six foot seven inches tall,
John Heckbert is easily spotted in a crowd, but it’s more likely you’ll hear him first. His booming, musical laugh is a quirk he has tried and failed to tame, evidence of a wild streak that enlivens an otherwise dignified bearing.
I first met John at the University of Waterloo, and our friendship blossomed quickly, strengthened by a shared belief that an undergraduate degree is best treated like a sojourn in a 19th-century literary salon. Our flared jeans betrayed us, but our penchant for debates and debauchery gave us a spiritual place in the company of Hemingway, Stein, and their ilk. Or so we thought. When you’re 21 and a smartass, the possibilities are limitless.
When I moved to Korea after graduating, John and I kept in touch; the first time I flew home he met me at the airport. But the second time I visited, he barely acknowledged me at all. Something had darkened our friendship, and I didn’t know what. Over the years, I tried to re-establish contact by email, then Facebook, but John didn’t respond. I never stopped wondering what I could have done to maintain our friendship, and its loss was a regret I carried for years.