I was 26 when I met Chris Carter. We worked at the Hechts Department Store in Bethesda, MD. Chris had a smile and a laugh that were immediately infectious, and I quickly fell under his charm. I was very career driven in those days, and very high-strung. Chris was very life-driven. Determined to live his to the fullest every day, and just as determined to help others do the same.
When I first met Chris, he was newly out of college at JMU, and liked to laugh at the fact that the executive recruiter for Hechts had essentially sold him a line about what working in retail was like. He wasn’t angry, he just found it funny. Chris was the reason a great many of us found some reason to laugh. Between the 14 hour days and the endless pressures of being a spotlight store, our group of managers had a stressful existence. Chris’s humor and positive attitude kept most of us sane and smiling. He had the unique ability to take any bad day and make it not only bearable, but beautiful.
Over the year that I worked with Chris, we became good friends. We went to countless parties for the store, for birthdays and going away parties. We spent lunches together, when schedules aligned. And there was no one else I would rather close the store with than Chris. He made the longest days feel like the best days. After I left the store, Chris left the company. We kept in touch and made an effort to see each other as much as possible. He made the (his words) “long-ass trip” to Frederick, MD several times, and I spent time with him in Crystal City and Arlington. For New Year’s Eve, 1999, our friend Carmen and I joined Chris for a black tie evening in Georgetown, the one and only time I ever bought a dress for the New Year celebration. We had a blast. Chris made you feel like you were the only person in the world, even as he did the same for multiple people at one time.
In 2000, I moved to New Mexico. Chris and his friend Jason came to my going away party. It was amazing. Chris never let me down, and he always made me feel like his best friend. After I moved, Chris was (and is to this day) the only friend from the East Coast to come visit me. And he flew out here twice. I dragged him all over the desert, playing tour guide, showing him how amazing the New Mexico landscapes are. He would laugh and tell me to get a job with the local tourism department. We drove up to the foothills of the Sandia Mountais, right up to the base of the tram. Chris didn’t want to ride, he didn’t seem to trust the tram car, but was amazed with the view of the valley, and how far into the West you can see from there. He let me show off my new home, and then came back for more.
After Chris’s second trip out, our lives got hectic. I met and married a man from Albuquerque, and he did not approve of my relationships with most of my friends. At first, I understood that he didn’t want me to have friends who were men that he didn’t know. Over time, it became clear that he didn’t want me to have friends at all, unless they were his friends first. I lost touch with my pal Chris. I was weak and foolish for allowing it, but I was afraid too. I didn’t want my friends to feel uncomfortable, and I didn’t want my marriage to fail.
After several years, my husband became increasingly abusive and controlling. He didn’t want me to wear make-up, or dress nicely. I wasn’t suppose to see friends unless he was with me, or visit with family. These things upset him. When I went back to school, he decided it was because I wanted to find someone else. When I began to speak up, he became violent. I had become a statistic, a victim of domestic violence, and I was terrified to say anything. I became more afraid of his reactions, and I was quickly losing the battle to keep even the smallest shred of myself whole. Then, I found Carter, on LinkedIn.
I had searched for him over the years, several times, on networking and social sites and one day, June 10th of last year, there he was. I was stunned! My pal! I sent him a message and he responded “Well what do you know!? How are you stranger!? Good to see you’re alive pal.” And it was if we had never lost touch at all. I looked forward, everyday, to chats with Carter. He was like a life-line back to myself.
By the end of June, my homelife exploded. My husband became so frightening that I thought, for the first time, that he was really going to kill me. My world was a terrifying place, and I needed help. And I needed it fast. Enter Chris Carter. Who, without even realizing what he was doing, reached out and saved my life. Chris called and emailed, texted and left messages. He refused to let me sink into the depression that was reaching for me. And he refused to let me go back to the terror that I had just escaped. Along with my family and two of my best friends, Carter reached out his heart to me. And I grabbed on to it with all the strength I had left. Chris Carter helped save my life. I truly believe that. Without his unconditional love and support, I doubt I would have made it.
In September of last year, I flew home for several days. During that time, I got to see Carter. We laughed and joked, and talked of things that were serious, and things that weren’t. He told me about his life, I told him about mine, and we were amazed at how effortless it was. Friends. Nothing was more important to Carter than his family and friends. He and I had a great afternoon, and when I left to come back to NM, I knew I would never lose my friend again.
In December, I went back home again, for the holidays, and this time I spent almost an entire day with Carter. I was now divorced and looking to the future, feeling better about who I was than I had in over a decade. I asked Carter if he was happy with his life, if he ever wanted that one special person. He laughed, smiled at me and said, “Pal, I am truly happy. I have a great life. Every person in it is special.” He loved his world. He loved being the uncle, the brother, the best friend. At first, I couldn’t really understand how he didn’t miss the closeness of the one special person to share a life with. Now I understand. To Carter, every person he loved was that one special person. He shared every bit of his soul, and in return he received more love than most people are ever blessed with.
I love Chris Carter. I love the way he would come up with the most ridiculously filthy thing to say, then laugh out loud when it didn’t shock you. I love the mischievously innocent look in his eyes that told you he was about to do something over the top. I love his never-ending zeal to be a part of life and to live every minute like it would be his best yet. I love the fact that he never made anyone feel like second best, or unimportant. I love his smile and his laugh and the spark of love that always lit him up from somewhere deep inside. I feel like I was blessed by the presence of one of God’s most generous souls, and the world’s most loving hearts. I miss hearing from him everyday, and having him be a witness in my life. I miss being a witness in his. But I do not miss his love for me, I still have that. I do not miss the warmth of his sunlight, I still feel that. The part of my heart that is his is always full, and I am privileged to have him there.
Olive Juice, Carter.