I lost a friend today.

I met Maa at a Christmas party in Japan — his mom was one of the people organizing it, and he was there helping out. From the get-go, it was clear that he was a little bit off. I’d soon learn that he was diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and light schizophrenia.

Still, he was a delight. He’d dance around and act goofy and make funny faces. We started inviting him out to karaoke and dinner, and he’d always show up on his little yellow scooter, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He loved the color yellow, and would excitedly (and exaggeratedly) yelp out “ye~e~errooo~” whenever we showed him something yellow (including my friend Ananda’s hair).

Maa was going to design school and wanted to make sports shoes for a living. He worked very hard, struggling with his tests, but making good grades. He worked so hard that it was sometimes difficult to get him to come out and join us for our frivolities, but we tried nonetheless. His mom would tell us how much she appreciated it — he didn’t have many other friends.

Almost one year to the day after I met him, Maa killed himself.

I didn’t learn about this until today. My friend Amy, who is still in Japan, went to lunch with her Japanese “grandmother,” and asked about Maa, whom she hadn’t seen in awhile.

“He’s dead,” was the reply.

Amy stammered. “…what?”

“Jisatsu. He killed himself. Suisaido. On Christmas.”

Amy began to tremble. The grandma continued. “Long hair boy right? Yeah, he’s dead. Shinda.” She didn’t even phrase it politely, the way a Japanese person would, by saying “nakunarimashita” (went away).

She then started talking about how delicious the salad was.

When Amy began to cry, the grandmother comforted her by informing her that Maa’s dad had two sons, so it’s okay.

And it’s about there that I completely lost my shit and started crying.

It was preventable. The whole fucking thing was preventable. Maa was always full of life and energy and willing to hang out. And we were the only people who would talk to him. Everyone else ignored him, even his own family — actually, especially his own family.

And I think, if I’d just emailed him a bit more since I came back, invited him out a couple more times, just… done something… he might still be alive. I know I can’t blame myself for this, but…

…this was preventable.

As Amy and I sat there, typing to each other from across the planet and crying, I felt so alone. Like I’d witnessed some sort of secret tragedy, one that nobody would ever know about, that nobody would ever care about. Something I’d carry in silent, in the dark.

And that’s why I’m telling you. I’m telling you that once there was a bright and beautiful person named Maa. He always did his best and never stopped smiling. He was my friend. And now he’s gone.