Chris Al-Aswad via Twitter on July 23 at 4:49pm: There are no second acts in American Lives. –F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This is as much a story about alphabetical order as it is about hashtags.
Ahluwalia, Anisha then Al-Aswad, Chris. With the serendipity of the alphabet, we grow up next to each other on classroom seating charts, in awkward yearbook photos, and all the other critical elements of the grade school and junior high social reality. So a longstanding bond develops between a girl with coke bottle glasses and a class clown.
Like most childhood friends, we see each other less and less, and eventually lose touch somewhere during college. I hear about Chris battling demons, and wonder.
Years later, we predictably reconnect. There’s the friend request from Chris, a connection that holds significance in a wasteland of acquaintances. An exchange of messages ensue that laughs us back to Ms Ingrisano’s carpeted 3rd grade classroom that always smelled of popcorn.
We spy on each others lives. Chris has channeled his passion into spearheading Escape Into Life, a burgeoning artist community.
Escape Into Life “is a philosophy, an experiment, a dream 2 fuse the visual & literary in the most spectacular way possible” (@writeasongtoday). I, along with many others, admire and follow the success and his ongoing cultivation of a true labor of love.
Then last week, amongst the Facebook commentary that peppers the day, somewhere in between Patricia “taking a boat tour in Key West” and “18 friends have changed their profile pics”, is the unexpected news that punches in the gut.
@EscapeIntoLife erupts into a tour de force of accolades from the legion of artists and friends he’s inspired, mourning his death and honoring his legacy.
So each minute and hour, after a wake and after a funeral, more and more continue to join the digital #TYCHRIS celebration, proving Mr Fitzgerald wrong.
Because sometimes nudges as happenstance as alphabetic order lead us to people that matter, ingraining us in the fabric of the first act of their lives.
And sometimes, spaces as intentional as digital communities empower artistic pioneers to create a different kind of connection, one that impacts so many more so differently, fostering a bullish creativity that lives and grows long past a tragedy.
Yes, for Chris, there is a second act.