I recently had coffee with Rob’s friend, Kendra, and she was not what I expected.
We decided to meet at a Starbucks in Santa Clarita, which is where she lives and about an hour north of Venice. I, of course, got there early. While I was waiting, I reread the letter I’d written to her a few months ago, explaining what had happened with Rob, and just as I was finishing up, she walked in.
We awkwardly said hi to each other, grabbed some coffees and then sat outside, where it was much quieter.
“So where should we begin?” I asked tentatively. “I guess, maybe at the beginning. How did you know Rob?”
This is what Kendra told me.
Kendra immediately surprised me by saying that we had met before. She was the girl who was with Rob the day his landlady frantically called and said that I needed to get him out of the apartment in Beverly Hills right away or she was going to call the police. Kendra first met Rob at the pie shop (which came as another surprise), where she was one of the bakers, and they became fast friends. She was also with Rob the night he got into a car accident a few days before Thanksgiving, but later on that evening, she was smart enough not to get in the car with him and the driver, who were both wasted.
Some months later, she lived with Rob for a short time in Long Beach after her mother kicked her out of their house. She had brought along her cat, who didn’t get along with Rob’s cat, Biscuit, and they had to keep the two pets separated. So Rob gave her his bedroom while he and Biscuit slept on the couch. She was mourning the recent death of her boyfriend—who, coincidentally, had also taken his own life—and mentioned that Rob was consoling and understanding. When I asked her how someone as young as her had endured such twin tragedies, she just shook her head as tears welled up behind her sunglasses.
Kendra then handed me an old iPhone with a cracked screen, which reminded me of every phone Rob had ever owned. It no longer worked, and she only kept it because of a 10-second voicemail from Rob, softly saying “I love you.” I listened to it three times and could’ve continued to listen all day.
It was clear to me why Rob loved Kendra. She’s a smart, funny and damaged soul—his kindred spirit. In a lot of ways, she reminded me of a West Coast version of Rob’s friend Sarah.
We talked for almost two hours. I told her that I’d thought they were more recent acquaintances and had known each other from Long Beach or from the casino. I asked if she had any idea about the severity of Rob’s depression and if he had ever mentioned suicide, and she said he had hid that side of himself from her. That was Rob’s go-to move in L.A.—hiding in plain sight. I told her that he had always been an unreliable narrator. She smiled and said, “That’s Rob.”
She was totally shocked to hear about his passing. The last time they had texted each other was in early February, just a few days before his death. She was living in Chicago at the time, and he texted that he was at O’Hare Airport, about to get on a plane. He told her that he had recently had his heart broken and was going backpacking in Europe to get over it. That’s where she’d thought Rob had been for all of this time.
Then Kendra showed me another text message thread and pointed to two photos. They were close-ups of Rob’s left hand—there was the four-leaf clover tattooed between his thumb and forefinger—holding a black revolver. One photo showed the gun’s cylinder open and the chambers filled with bullets. I don’t remember the exact date of these texts, but it was apparent that he had been thinking about doing what he finally did for some time.
I asked Kendra what she was doing these days, and she told me that she coaches a girl’s swim team, though she might get back into baking or doing something else culinary-related, she wasn’t sure. She lit up a cigarette after finishing her coffee (a signature Rob move) and smiled. Kendra couldn’t have been any nicer or kinder to me, and I felt heartsick about everything she’d gone through.
We sat silently for a moment, and as she stared into the winter sun, I stared at her and saw a familiar look—one that I’ve often seen in the mirror this past year. It’s a manufactured mask that we show to the world, barely concealing the enormous pain of loss hiding right beneath the surface. It’s impossible to notice unless you’ve walked a mile in those shoes.
Feeling I had taken up too much of Kendra’s time, I thanked her for meeting with me and for sharing her thoughts on Rob. Then I asked if I could give her a hug and she said sure. I held Kendra in my arms just a few seconds longer than I ordinarily would. I didn’t want to let her go.