I don't remember the first time I met Volodiya, but it was sometime in the first few months after I transferred to University of Alaska Fairbanks, so it would have been in the late Winter or early Spring of 1994. He was an RA in another dorm, but was friends with some of the girls in my dorm. He and I were friendly, but we didn't become friends until the Fall semester, when I became an RA and we worked in the same dorm.
Volodiya and I got into the habit of watching Letterman together. We'd order a Supreme pizza and hot wings from Pizza Hut, then go down to the little store in the lobby of the dorm complex to buy a couple Fruitopias while we waited for the pizza to arrive.
V spent a semester in France. He was either forgetful about the time difference or a very inconsiderate friend. Either way, I'd occasionally get a 5 AM call from him. He'd tell me about the boys he'd met and I'd catch him up on the gossip.
One year, for Spring Break, we stayed at a lovely cabin in the woods where V was housesitting for a professor. There was drinking, and inappropriate behavior amongst all of our friends, and it was so much fun.
One of our favorite bars to hang out in was the Captain Bartlett Inn. Volodiya would give me tarot readings there and tried to teach me the meanings of the cards. I have a terrible memory for things like that so I usually reverted to making things up based on the pictures when I would give him readings.
We graduated from college in 1997. Our class voted for Volodiya to be the graduation speaker. His speech was fun and nostalgic, like an internet meme. He talked about roller skates and parachute pants and Madonna.
Some time after graduation, when I was back in California, V was living with his boyfriend in Seattle. I visited them for a weekend. It was my first time there. I loved his urban life. Seattle was like Alaska Light. A lot of my college friends settled there.
The last time I saw Volodiya in person was about nine years ago. I went to Seattle for a visit and stayed with my best friend, Joanne. We spent one of the evenings with V and some others, hanging out like old times.
After that, we kept up through phone calls, but mostly online, through MySpace, then Facebook. A few months ago, when I posted a new picture of my slimming self on Facebook, he commented, accusing me of getting a facelift and saying he'd scratch my eyes out if I had.
Last week, I saw fake tarot readings in a sitcom and it prompted me to post that memory of us on Facebook. I tagged him in it and I am glad I did. Because of that post, one of his friends reached out to me today to let me know that Volodiya died yesterday, after a long bout of pneumonia. When he was living in Seattle, he contracted HIV, so the manner of his death does not come as a complete surprise. I did not expect it to come so soon, though.
I'll miss my friend dearly. He was the type of friend I could pick up with after many months without contact and everything would be just as it always was.