Matt and Me
Growing up, everyone should have a best friend like Matt Hatch. Matt and I became friends when I was only eight and he was nine. He lived down the street from me with his mom and his sister. Going to his house was always an adventure. When I would walk over to his house it seemed like a long trek, much like a journey along the Oregon trail, although in reality it was only four blocks from my house. Time and distance are not concepts that I, as an 8-year-old, had yet to completely grasp.
I loved to hang out at Matt’s house. His mom was divorced and she always let us have foods that I didn’t get at my house. Stting around his dining room table, SpaghettiOs and Pringles potato chips in the can were my favorite meal. Sometimes we would mix things up a bit and have Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, but it was the SpaghettiOs that I will never forget. We would have sleepovers and stay up way past our bedtime to watch Saturday Night Live together. Matt’s mom volunteered as our cub scout den leader. She was the one who taught me how to tie a necktie, a skill which I used every day in my career as a police detective, and for that I will always be grateful to her.
Matt and I would do the kinds of things boys did growing up in west Anchorage. We rode bikes and played games. Games like Army men, Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers were our favorites. In the wintertime we sled and had snow ball fights, and in the summer we played football in the middle of the street. The Dallas Cowboys were his favorite team and Quarterback Roger Staubach was his hero.
In Junior High, when I moved to the other side of town, Matt and I saw less of each other, but we still managed to get together on weekends. Matt enjoyed skiing at Mount Alyeska and I would sometimes go with him, as he didn’t have a lot of friends. By high school Matt had become a very quiet person, and his weight had increased. He occasionally had seizures due to epilepsy, a condition which he felt embarrassed about, so much so he often chose to keep to himself. I tried to include him in my activities as often as I could. In spite the fact Matt didn’t know anything about computers, I would still have him come over to my house for my Friday night computer hacking sessions. Matt would play video games and watch the rest of the group program and code our Apple and IBM personal computers.
Matt was there for me too, when it counted. Matt was with me when I first learned of my sister’s murder and the news of our house burning down. He was there to be my friend, and to listen, even when I didn’t feel like talking. As I tried to cope with my sister’s death and the destruction of our house, having an old and close friend like Matt made things almost bearable.
I had little time to finish processing my sister’s death when, only a few months later, my dad knocked at my bedroom door and told me that Matt had died. He had a seizure during the night and had choked to death while he slept. Matt was only 17 years old and like my sister, he too was dead. I hurt all over again.
As I moved on with my life, I would find myself thinking of my old friend Matt. I would think about the simple pleasures of growing up, playing games, and being friends with someone. Matt taught me how to live and love someone, someone who was different from me, but who liked me for me. I learned to include Matt not for me, but for him, and he in turn taught me the importance of friendship. That was why, when I joined the police force, whenever I needed an undercover name, or if I had to leave a message with someone with whom I did not want to use my real name, I always gave the name, Matt Hatch. He was my alter-ego. I even affectionately named one of the cybercrime Internet computers at police headquarters, “Mattman”. Most recently, before I finished my latest book, I was sure to include amongst the pages a police officer named Sergeant Matt Hatch.
Until now, no one ever knew I did any of this. Just me and Matt. He and I, still playing cops and robbers and working together on solving some big mystery. These small moments, these tiny gifts, have been my way of honoring my old friend, and my best buddy, over these many years. They have helped me remember a guy who loved to play with me as a kid, and who would eat SpaghettiOs with me. I will always remember the SpaghettiOs, Matt. And I miss you. I will always miss you.