Patrick Iskandar was my best friend and also the most perfect and special person in the world. I would argue, in fact, that he was probably the easiest person to love in history. Patrick died unexpectedly four months ago, which is pretty much the worst thing ever, and undoubtedly the worst thing that has ever happened to me, my friends, or especially his family. His death has been an unspeakably dark and painful experience and it does feel at times that I’ll never be happy again, despite the advice of online forums, family and friends, books on loss, and grief counselors. I realize that Patrick’s death hurts so terribly because of how amazing he was. I try to allow myself to feel gratitude for the time we did have together. I also spend a lot of time preserving his personality in my memory, because nothing is more terrifying than the thought of time fading my image of him. I wrote this honest and loving portrait of him for this reason.
Patrick’s family is from Lebanon, and he loved being Lebanese. He was always reading books about Lebanon and watching documentaries about the civil war and telling stories of his trips there. Patrick was very proud of his heritage, his grandparents, and especially his parents. They lived through very tumultuous and painful times and he often bragged about how brave and tough his whole family was. When his mom would call him “Habibi” on the phone, his entire face would light up and his shoulders would perk up and everything. He liked to decorate his room with things from Lebanon and would always practice Arabic in his room, or in the living room when he wanted attention. He got really excited when practicing Levantine Arabic. His dream was to marry a Lebanese girl and have lots of children. Patrick really wanted to be a father and a husband (he talked about this often) and it’s incredibly painful to consider the loving and abundant family that he will never have.
Patrick had so much respect and admiration for his sister Tanya and his brother Gabriel. He used to tell me how much he loved them and how he wanted to be close with them forever. Tanya and he had one of those classic sibling banter routines going, and he would always go to her apartment when he needed alone time or someone with whom he could communicate without even speaking. She would often bless him with uber eats after a day(s) of malnutrition. I don’t think Patrick had more intellectual respect for anyone than he did for Gabe. He used to say that his brother was the smartest, most interesting person to talk to about the state of the world and what made it that way. Whenever something interesting came up, he would say “we have to ask Gabe what he thinks.”
It was so much fun being around Patrick and you felt so good and safe and like you could do or say anything without being judged — which is all a person really wants. I miss being with him so much. Patrick had so much solidarity with a person’s fears, compulsions, anxieties, struggles, and pain. There is a general pressure people feel to hide how sad and alone they feel, but Patrick completely disarmed this inhibition. In his presence was the freedom to ask for help and to reveal yourself honestly. I shared with Patrick my true, authentic self in a way nobody else has seen. He was very powerful in this way. It felt so peaceful to be in a room with only Patrick, like he was a natural extension of the part of you that feels most comfortable alone. For all his pantomiming about being the silly, ‘immature’ one, he had a remarkable degree of emotional intelligence.
Patrick loved hoodies and sweatpants, and he loved them even after they developed prohibitively disruptive holes and tears. He would wear sweatpants and a hoodie to class, at home, to parties, and to the park. When he would have to put on real pants, he would grunt, and say emphatically: “I hate wearing pants.”
Patrick would get very cute as well as silly when he became sleepy. He loved sleeping, and when he wasn’t sleeping, he would still prefer to be positioned horizontally.
Patrick was my most curious friend, which I always considered an elite quality. He always wanted to take a discovery further, to research it and to dive deeply and to become an expert in his own way. It would take him three hours to watch a one hour lecture at double speed, because he was always stopping and googling and doing his own scholarship before moving on. Still, he never let this verge on condescension or pretentiousness and he would always just say intellectually innocent things like “learning is fun!”
Patrick and I used to brush our teeth and wash our faces together. He was really into lip balm and would sort of just constantly be applying it. Definitely an orally fixated person.
In college, secretly, every time I heard about a party or club plans, I would hope that everyone wanted to go except for Patrick, and that he and I would stay in and get alone time. After a few times of this happening, I couldn’t contain my joy, and I told him how much I preferred these nights to parties. Like always, he said he completely agreed. He said that whenever he hears I am not going to a party, he decides to just stay in with me. Pretty much nothing has ever felt better than that.
Patrick had a little lisp that was so cute you could just scream. His smile was so special, I am going to have trouble describing it. I used to take a lot of pictures of him smiling which he always got shy about but I did it because his smile had an overwhelming power to it that makes you want to explode in a good way. I think his smile actually releases serotonin in your brain — or at the very least, it inhibits serotonin reuptake.
Patrick had great politics. He supported unions, economic redistribution, and sovereign self-determination for the Global South, and opposed austerity, western-debt-based neocolonialism, Israeli apartheid, and the racist criminal justice system. Obviously, since these were Patrick’s politics (and incidentally, mine), they are clearly and irrefutably correct.
Sometimes Patrick would skip class and say it was because he had a really bad pimple.
Patrick really loved gossip girl xoxo. It was really fun to watch with him because it involved a lot of gasping and sighing and jaw-dropping and shocked body-motioning. Patrick was never afraid to smash the repressive force of masculinity. He also loved The Wire for its portrayal of systems and their path-dependent influence on oppressed communities, and the Sopranos for its portrayal of the bonds of family dysfunction, or perhaps for the gabagool.
Patrick was an expert at theatrical improvisation. It was like he was classically trained. Relatedly, Patrick was a huge fan of the British accent. He wasn’t particularly spectacular at British accents, but it certainly was not for lack of trying. He was also famed for his remarkable impressions of drill rappers, most notably the late Pop Smoke.
Patrick loved to develop and then rely on routines. By this I mean he would eat the same food for weeks at a time. For a while, it was the Portuguese breakfast sandwiches down the road. Then it was a 10 inch Philly cheesesteak, also down the road. Then it was the cheese pies from the local Middle Eastern market. Purchasing these cheese pies actually involved him having to walk 20 minutes to his Sisters apartment, begging Tania for 10 minutes to let him borrow her car, driving 20 minutes to the store, and then parking it illegally on the street for 3 hours until she called him and made him bring the car back. Despite the grueling nature of this journey, Patrick needed his cheese pies.
Patrick loved listening to music and yet his headphones never seemed to work. He loved jazz so much: Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderly, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Joe Henderson, Thelonius Monk, Herbie Hancock, Coltrane & Ellington. He also loved rap: Freddie Gibbs, FBG Duck, Maxo Kream, Roddy Richh, Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine, 03 Greedo, and the 90s classics of course.
Patrick used to frequently say “nooooooooo” in a very long, drawn out, multi-tonal manner, and it used to make me laugh all the time. Sometimes we would be walking and I would ask him to say no and he would say nooooooooo. I would laugh and laugh and laugh. He loved making people laugh so it’s lucky that he was hilarious. Patrick’s laugh was piercing. So much joy and surprise packed inside. All I wanted to do when he was alive was to get him to laugh, and it was just so easy. I miss his laugh so much. Now, the only thing in the world I want (and I mean this more than I’ve meant anything before) is to make him laugh again. Even just one more time, if it’s a bargain.
Patrick said the best pizza he ever ate was in New Haven, Connecticut. I was there with him and I ate that Pizza and I agree.
Patrick liked to make everyone feel included. He was socially perceptive and understood when something was wrong. In a room, if someone was alone or looked sad or something, he would make his way over to them and fix everything. Or try to. Many people can attest to this and will read this and nod along in agreement.
Patrick’s eyes were so precious you could melt. They are so large and expressive and they contained multitudes. I used to just stare into his eyes and he always got shy about that but I couldn’t help it. I’ve been staring at his eyes in pictures since he died.
Patrick and I shared a wall for the last two years of college but it wasn’t really a wall — it was like a sliding wooden plank with giant spaces. So I would hear his sounds and he mine. And we would talk to each other from our beds and sometimes joke and say, for instance: “Hey Patrick, my mom said I could sleepover at your house…” “ok Brandon my mom said she would order us pizza!” This used to make me wonder what Patrick was like as a kid. I bet that was insane to witness. At Patrick’s funeral, I tried to talk to his childhood friends to get a sense of what he was like then. No surprises there.
Patrick was my favorite person ever.
Patrick got really into art or philosophy or games and then would obsess over it. He would pick a show and binge it in a very worrisome way and then find a song he loved and listen to it on repeat for weeks. Nina Simone’s Baltimore is an example of this phenomenon as was East Asian Philosophy for like three weeks, as was the acclaimed iPhone application known as 2048.
Also… Patrick had those V-lines on his abs and he loved when girls mentioned it.
Patrick really loved playing basketball. He was good but he could get competitive, which I won’t explore. One time we left the apartment at like 4 AM to go play basketball in downtown Montreal. The police yelled at us. Patrick also really loved playing basketball video games with our other roommates, Dean and Dimitri. Us 4 were the greatest friends and roommates ever. Just immaculate vibes on Rue St. Urbain, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Patrick loved hanging out in Dimitri’s room. They would play video games or watch TV all the time and besides, Dimitri’s room was closest to the Kitchen, wherein lay the sausage. Patrick used to eat irresponsible amounts of sausage.
Patrick and Dean liked to just do pushups all the time for no reason.
You wouldn’t ever be allowed to touch Patrick’s belly button or even more generally, you couldn’t touch Patrick without him getting irresponsibly ticklish. The human belly button horrified him. Some of the only times he’s been genuinely upset with me were because I was able to penetrate his defenses (arm flailing) and make it inside the hole.
Some nights Patrick and I would get into deep Wikipedia holes and research a specific person, place, or event until sunrise by accident. Some examples: The Jonestown Massacre, the Dyatlov Pass incident, Boris Yeltsin, the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the Dalai Lama.
Sometimes Patrick and I would get the urge to write and record rap songs at 7 AM on mornings when Dean had a girl over.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning I would bring my blankie over to Patrick’s room and snuggle as he woke up over the course of hours. He liked to pull the blanket over his head, completely burying himself under the covers. Often times he would get into a little ball under the covers. Like a small creature. A turtle perhaps. There are many pictures and videos of him doing this… very adorable and extremely cute. Patrick would get very silly when he became sleepy. He loved sleeping, and when he wasn’t sleeping, he would still prefer to be positioned horizontally.
It is essentially impossible to live a truly virtuous life if you choose to reap the benefits of being wealthy amidst a world filled with poverty, homelessness, war, medical bankruptcy, etc. That said, I genuinely think Patrick got close. I’ve never met a person who was more empathetic, or better paired concern with action, than Patrick. More often than anyone knows, Patrick would buy groceries and clothing items for Montreal’s unhoused Indigenous population, and any time he got any money he would donate a chunk to causes from Palestinian liberation to fighting police brutality to drug addiction policy reform. In Judaism, acts of charity have been ranked by philosophically-minded rabbis: most prestigious are deeds done anonymously, when the giver is confident enough in their righteousness that they do not need any thanks or recognition. Patrick definitely attained that highest level. Patrick’s moral compass was properly calibrated, and his passion for the pursuit of justice was infectious. I won’t ever be able to ‘do good’ without thinking about him.
I had sort of just assumed — and had taken for granted — that Patrick would always be here. He was going to speak at my wedding, and he was going to be an Uncle to my children, and we were supposed to explore the world together. I was supposed to always be able to call him when I felt sad and scared and alone. I was supposed to always have someone who understood me the way I understand myself. I feel so alone now and the weight of this loss feels so heavy. Grief is incredibly strange; clocks keep ticking and the world keeps moving along but you feel frozen. Still, we thaw slowly by embracing gratitude for the time we had, readjusting our priorities in life, and keeping those who have passed alive through our memory of them. I am trying my absolute hardest for you, Patrick. I love you so much, bestfriend.