Remembering Will Gary

I only go to class two days a week, and every time I go it is the same routine. I hop on the N or the Q from Astoria, usually squeezed between quiet strangers as the train rocks back and forth, then force my way out of Union Square. Down 14th, left on 5th, right on 12th. Every Monday and Thursday. Mostly I hurry my way through the crowds, everyone styling leather or wool, all bustling around as if they’re the most important people in the world, just in the manner that I do and likely for the same reason. All I’m really trying to do is get to the familiarity of my school and see the faces I recognize.

When I arrived on campus Monday, still huffing from my power walk from Union Square, I looked through the clear revolving doors and immediately noticed that Will wasn’t there. I can’t quite pinpoint what I felt when I saw he was absent. There was some confusion and disappointment, but there was also an uncomfortable sense of foreboding which I quickly pushed aside. A decided that he likely had the day off, or maybe that’s what I hoped. I pulled out my ID, something I hadn’t had to do in a while since Will seemed to recognize everyone, waved it meekly and went on up to class.

His had always been the first face I could count on seeing, every Monday and Thursday. It’s something I’d grown to expect and cherish. A broad smile, a hello, a handshake. I had only just formally introduced myself a few weeks ago while volunteering for the National Book Awards. He was all smiles then, as was his custom, and we exchanged light conversation while we both greeted attendees. I even managed to snag some catered food that had been left at his counter, grabbing a sandwich that he told me was good. He always had a way of making you feel welcome.

I’m struck by how much someone’s passing can affect you, even if you knew them only briefly. But Will was always there. There with that youthful smile and cheery personality, constantly surrounded by people while still greeting anyone who came in. I had just started to get to know him and understand why people always gravitated towards him. Now I can’t seem to shake that feeling that creeped over me when I didn’t see him there on Monday. I really wish it had just been a feeling, nothing else.

I’m truly saddened to see him pass, but am glad I had the chance to meet and know him. My thoughts are with his family and friends. He will be missed.

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