I began working on this writing for Clay in the middle of September 2016, just days after he died, but it was so upsetting to me I just let it live in my drafts not sure when I’d be able to get back to it. I then told myself that I would post it on his birthday (which was 1/10), but then that came and went and I just couldn’t do it. I’m having trouble posting it at all, really. I almost don’t want to. This is painful. This is for Clay. I miss you.
I first met Clay in 1999 at Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA), where we were both guests. I fangirl’d hard when I met him in Artist Alley… I couldn’t even fathom that we were both guests at the same convention… like the thought of even remotely being on the same level of “guest status” as C. Martin Croker – AND George Lowe – blew my little voice actress mind. I remember Clay drawing Zorak for me and personalizing it… I have it saved somewhere… it’s too hard to go looking for it right now. I’ve tried. Kind of. I’ll find it at some point.
You know how you meet someone and you immediately click and you just know you’re always going to be connected? That was Clay. We hit it off from the beginning and that started a 17 year friendship. Life got in the way of us seeing each other through the years, but we kept in touch. Clay always found me. I really don’t mean that to sound like anything other than it is, he just always found me. Sometimes a year would go by, or maybe two years, then I’d get an email from him out of the blue. He would just be checking in to say hi… First it was through AOL (fucking AOL, man… THAT is how long we’ve known each other) then yahoo email (ha), and then Facebook… The last time I saw him in person was 2000, at the second AWA I attended. That was a long time ago.
This coming weekend (edit: when I starting this writing, “this coming weekend” would have been 9/23-9/25/2016) was the first time in all of these years that I was actually going to be able to see him again. He was coming to Wizard World in Austin and we were making plans for tacos and Mexican martinis and just some Clay and Jessica time. I was ecstatic. He didn’t know this but I was also trying to figure out a way to weasel my way into Artist Alley at Wizard World to sit at his table and watch him take commissions. It’s something I could never do before during the AWA days because I was always too busy with my own panels and whatnot… but to be able to just lurk at Clay’s table while he worked and to show my support to my talented friend… was truly so exciting.
I didn’t call him nearly enough after we had reconnected on FB, but we did have a three hour phone conversation two summers ago to catch up. Not 10 minutes would go by during that call when he didn’t break out into some bizarre voice… Zorak, or some other random character. He always made me laugh. I love him for making me laugh. I love him for being him. I just loved him.
I’ve been obsessively checking his FB wall (again, this was in Sept. 2016)… I stare at it and try to catch up on the gazillion posts that were made since the hour before when I checked it. Everyone has been telling their Clay stories and reminiscing and sharing. I have some stories of when we guested together at AWA, but my best story just happened two days after he died, actually.
During an FB chat him and I had this past July, he had mentioned he was ill and we were both making jokes about the state of his health. As is the case with most of my close friends, we can’t be serious for too long (if at all) so after I was sure he was in recovery mode, the convo derailed into twisted and sick humor (thank goodness!). After going back and forth about the release of various bodily fluids, Clay explained “there may have been urine involved,” to which of course I asked for clarification, and to which of course he responded:
Leave it up to Clay to lay that comedy down without missing a beat, all the while making it relevant to the topic. I laughed because it was ridiculous and I laughed because it was twisted and I laughed because Clay was quoting from freaking SG and I laughed because Clay.
Anyway… fast forward to early Sunday morning, 9/18, I was scrolling through Facebook and started seeing “RIP C. Martin Croker” posts in my feed. My heart sank.
Facebook, the ultimate spoiler. I hate it because I always find out things I’d rather not know. I love it because I always find out things I need to know. Also, I hate it because I always find out things I’d rather not know and need to know.
So days later, after a particularly horrid day for obvious reasons, I attempted to go to the gym but instead was sitting in my car avoiding going to the gym and logged into FB. At this point whenever I logged into FB, it would automatically open on Clay’s page because that’s the last place I had been. On his page people were posting that Space Ghost Coast to Coast eps were airing on adultswim.com, in honor of Clay, for free. I clicked on the link and sure enough, it brought to me a SGCTC ep., the Bjork one, in fact. And by the way, if you haven’t seen this ep, you should. It’s fucking hysterical. Anyway… so maybe 20 seconds or so goes by and I hear Space Ghost say “On the couch, with the urine.”
I didn’t make the connection at that moment. I was too busy laughing and crying while sitting in my car because that particular Bjork episode is funny as hell. I watched two more episodes after that one and then attempted to lift a weight or something and then went home to cry.
As the night went on, I just… something was nagging at me. At first I thought it was just the horrendous feeling of anxiety and dread and depression at losing my friend of almost 20 fucking years who I was just days away from seeing. Then I thought it was the awful guilt of not having kept in better contact with him for nearly two decades. And THEN I figured it must have been the crushing and far worse guilt of not doing a better job of checking in on him after he was horribly sick just 2 months prior. And it definitely was all of those things, but something else, too. I opened up our chat FB chat, back to July when we had been talking when he was sick… and then I found the quote, pasted above.
Now, I’m not religious, nor spiritual even, and I don’t believe in the dead finding ways to reach the living. I wish I *did* as I think I’d have an easier time processing death and other painful loss(es) in life, but it’s just not the belief system I’ve adopted. But holy fucking hell…. out of all the SGCTC episodes to catch while Adult Swim is “… airing as many SGCTC episodes we can get our hands on in honor of Clay’s passing” it was the Bjork episode?? THAT was the one I just happened to stumble upon? And not only that, but I tuned in just in time to hear the exact same line that Clay quoted to me, in chat, while he was sick 2 months before? AND NOT ONLY THAT but Clay didn’t quote SGCTC lines to me really… we would do funny voices and impersonations, but we didn’t quote… but he definitely quoted that line and it just HAPPENED to be from the very episode that I just *happened* to click on while the station was airing hundreds of episodes… and in that very moment??
There is a part of me who wants to believe that through the twisted humor we shared, he was trying to make me laugh just one more time. Like he was actually reaching out via the Bjork ep and making sure I heard that specific line, at that specific time, which sounds so ridiculous and I can’t believe I’m typing it. I mean…. is it really just coincidence? It’s fantastic that a line about urine makes me question my faith, or lack thereof. It’s absurd and it’s hilarious and what would even be more hilarious (because it’s not funny enough that he’s dead), is that it might even possibly be poignant, because he very fucking well may have goddamned died on the couch with the urine (I have not gone searching for the details of his death (I actually don’t want to know) but if he did die on the couch, with the urine, then Clay, you are a master-mind brilliant sick comedic *genius* and I want you to know that now I *do* believe in spooks, I *do* believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do, I *do* believe in spooks!)
And I miss you.
It kills me that I was less than a week away from seeing my beloved friend, and then, all of sudden… he’s gone. I keep reading over the rest of our chats… from the early days where we reconnected on FB to the recent plans we were making for a reunion… I keep reading over them and I start to write him back but then I stop because I’m afraid he won’t write back to me. And I guess he won’t but there’s a part of me that thinks he might and because I want to believe that he might I’m scared to write to him because him not responding would mean he’s gone. This makes sense in my head and it gives me a false sense of comfort, and you know what? I’ll take it.
Clay was a wonderful person. Kind and loving. Thoughtful. Talented. TALENTED. Sincere. I just can’t believe it. I don’t want to. I was supposed to see him this weekend. He was going to be able to meet Menchi. I was going to selfie the shit out of him.
I love you, Clay. I wish I could have told you that because I’m looking back on our chats and I don’t see where I actually said it to you and it fills me with sorrow. I wanted to squish your face and hug your hair and cuddle your spirit. I’ll never get over this. I will always miss you. I was so close to seeing you again and now it’s gone and I feel confused and gutted. I am heartbroken.
“Certoinly” you guys. Clay said “certoinly.”
Toonami aired a beautiful tribute to him on Adult Swim the Saturday after he died. I’ve watched it countless times. I had to stop though, because it makes me cry. It really is wonderful, and I thank Toonami for creating something honoring him.
“Think of me when you look to the night sky.” -Zorak
I will forever, my friend.
Love, Jessica, on the couch… with the urine <3