What Assane Dramé Meant to Me
The day I finally met Assane Dramé in person was Saturday, September 25th. We’d been talking about finally linking for what felt like ages, work schedules and globe halting pandemics kept everything at a standstill. We went to Pinky’s Hotbox, a chicken spot in Torrance on Crenshaw. After a ‘You outside?’ text, I let out a big ‘YOOO!” and a massive smile. A dap and a hug followed as he immediately noticed I had a Phoenix Suns hat on. He grinned, “Reppin’ my team, huh?”
People didn’t know they were his favorite basketball team since he worked for the Los Angeles Clippers at the time. But all we did was talk about ball, among countless other things. When his work team and his favs met in the Western Conference finals, he was anxious as hell. All he’d wanted at the time was for his work to be finished so he could enjoy the NBA Finals in peace. When the Suns beat the Clippers, he texted me, beaming with excitement. What warmed my heart the most was that even in his happiest moments, he still thought of others.
With that in mind, I had to grab his team’s favorite hat at some point before I got to see him. I decided to root for the Suns as much as I do my beloved Miami Heat because of how much it meant to him. The warmness radiating off of Assane showed how much even small gestures mattered to him. “Damn shame we couldn’t match, I just got this Raiders hat,” he said with a chuckle.
We spent lunch like we did every Discord call and every text conversation filled with voice notes and towering walls of words. We always spoke for way longer than we anticipated, jumping from topic to topic seamlessly. From mundane conversations about basketball, music, and wrestling to the poignant discussions on life, time flew by. I would’ve spent a lifetime going back and forth with him. We burned hours together until I realized he probably should try to beat the hectic Saturday LA traffic.
One thing I didn’t know that day was how Assane had Invisalign to slowly correct his teeth like standard braces would. He took them out before eating and I couldn’t help but notice his smile. It was something he told me he was kind of insecure about and I couldn’t understand why for the life of me. His smile was something I deeply cherished when I saw it in person. Watching him burst in laughter and dazzle his sparkling smile was contagious. It’s one of the only things that kept me calm when I found out Assane was missing.
I still can’t shake that day. The trembles in my hand. The hundreds of thoughts per minute racing through my head. I was cocooned in a blanket of worry and fear. Anxiety ruled over my entire morning and afternoon. I tried to distract myself on Twitter and YouTube as if time would bring him back. I went for a planned lunch with my step brother and ran a couple errands so that I could keep negative thoughts away from me. None of it worked. All I could think was, “please let my bro be okay man.”
I semi-frequently checked his sister’s Twitter for updates, in hopes Assane would be found. She posted her phone number to tell people the news. My voice was shaky, my composure hanging on by a thread. Assane’s sister used all her strength to break the news to me: Assane Dramé died in a car accident.
I could feel my heart shatter and the pieces fall to my stomach. I could barely muster words without feeling like I was about to fall to my knees. She asked me if I was going to be okay. The fact she was strong enough to ask how I was feeling broke my heart. I still feel guilty that I didn’t ask in return but at that moment, I was near a panic attack. Uttering words was like driving a sword deeper into my body. In hindsight, how Assane’s sister told me the news let me know how special he was and how great of a family he had. They always made sure to care for other people, even if they’re hurting just as much.
The days following Assane’s passing struck like Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky.” I cried so much. I had nervous breakdowns several times on the road. All I could do was run away. I tried to eat it away. I tried to cry it away. I binged TV shows in hopes that I’d recover. But death has no regard for your plans. It ravishes mental health. It preys upon your love. The grim reaper drags your carcass through the mud with its scythe after they take away everyone and everything you love. I never made a serious advance to take my life until that night. All I wanted was to hope I’d encounter my best friend in purgatory so I didn’t have to continue anymore. That urge lasted for several days, peeking its head when I drove or sunk into my bed.
I love Assane Dramé. ‘Loved’ isn’t accurate. It insinuates I stopped loving. ‘Loved’ is for ex-lovers. ‘Loved’ is for the movie you just saw, for the food you ate. Love is active. Love is present. Love is eternal. I love Assane. The picture frame by my bed, the times I speak to him at home or in the passenger seat of my car, it’s love. What I felt for my best friend will never decease. I would spend an eternity shooting the shit with my best friend. I’d walk into the grave if it meant I could sit forever discussing the mundane and the greater meanings of the universe with him. I love my best friend more than I love a majority of people in my life. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am to have had him in my life.
I go back to the text messages and voice notes we shared so frequently. The conversation that continues to sting is the one we had about redemption, people who passed before us who are forever canonized and adored, even if they were notably flawed, and we stumbled onto Mac. It was close to the anniversary of his death. We talked about where we were when we find out he passed and he said something that haunts me every night. “I just turned 26 and it’s nuts how that was just the end of the line for him. I still shake my head to this day about it. Not only did he seem like a genuine dude but he was a really good artist. That dude was one of the definitions of growth. From K.I.D.S. to Swimming he found ways to be different/get better and…yeah. It’s ass. I don’t think I’ll get over it either. I don’t understand it. Here’s the bright side, if you see yourself in Mac just take note on how much you’ve grown whether it ranges from a years to even like a month. You gotta live through that. Growth & genuine nature.”
Assane had just turned 26 and he passed the same age as Mac. It’s the cruelest thing to have two people that I admired so much pass away at the same time. I look up to them. But with Assane, he always helped me see the positive, even if it was difficult. The same way I’ve taken note of Mac and how great he was to people, I think of Assane. He was the greatest person I’ve ever met. He’s someone that I’m always going to emulate. I lead in this life the way Assane did with people.
The last moments in our conversation when we met in person, we agreed that the best thing we could ever do in this life is to be good as we can be to people. It’s hard to want to continue that life we spoke about without him but I know he wants me to keep going. He told me once, “Life is like a basketball game. It has it’s runs. Sometime you win big. Sometimes you lose big. You can be on a 15–2 run then all of the sudden you’re down 9.” I’m getting my ass whooped right now. I feel like I’m going to be down in this game for a long time. But he always told me to keep going. When I felt like no one would care if I died, he was the one to tell me he’d care. He always told me he was proud of me. He said I was “a star in the making.” He always supported my writing. He actively listened to my podcast when I felt like no one gave a fuck about it. He was the greatest fan you could have. Even more so, he was the greatest friend you could ever have.
Assane’s passing is never going to be fair to me. He was pulled over on the side of the road and someone hit him. I’m never not going to be angry. I’m never not going to be sad. But he always wanted me to keep going. He never knew it’d be this hard for me without him. But I feel like I owe it to him to see the vision he had for me. I want to quit so much everyday. But I continue for him. I’ll root for his beloved Suns everyday for him. I’ve worn the Suns hat I had when I met him everyday since he passed in his memory. I continue to write for him. I continue to be the best I could be for him. I follow in his footsteps everyday. When all of this is done for me, I’ll have so many stories to tell for him. We’ll spend an eternity talking and I hope I’ll make him proud. Long Live Assane Dramé. I will always love you friend.