I remember him calling me back in 2002, telling me that his younger brother, the kindhearted Joe Smerker, had overdosed on heroin. Steve told me that he was found by a tree- nothing else was said. Steve didn’t cry, as best I can recall. The last thing I would expect to receive was a call from Desiree in late January of 2010.
He was tall, gaunt, and had an obsession with Kurt Cobain and Brian May. He loved Carvin guitars. He never drank or smoked, as he didn’t have an interest in either, moreover, his asthma would not blend well with the latter. We met because we were placed together in the same jazz ensemble at Community College of Philadelphia. I walked over to him and introduced myself. His voice wasn’t meek, more akin to someone who just didn’t want to be there. I simply asked him if he wanted to hang out, to which he replied sure! The only problem was that he couldn’t remember where he parked his car!
He had a far better theoretical understanding of music than I did, which is probably why my perfect pitch bothered him. He would go on to consult professors, thus renaming it “relative pitch.” Steve would play any tone on the guitar, and then ask me to guess what tone it was. Nine times out of ten I answered correctly. He hated that I had this innate ability. Quarter note triplets were something he struggled with, which I remedied by showing him a quick trick that I had discovered on my own. He was my only friend in that cesspool of an institution.
Years ago, after receiving the worst news possible, I wrote a heartfelt entry on my website, which was discovered by his mother, Barbara. My webserver at the time crashed and kept no records, so all of my kind words, along with Mrs. Fitzgerald’s, had made their way into the digital purgatory. When his loving girlfriend Desiree, and mother to his only daughter, Alexa, called me that gloomy Winter morning, I should have planned for the worst. After all, the last conversation that ever took place was on AOL Instant Messenger in 2008- my Prededor1030. He’ll never know how much his music influenced me. The bands he turned me on to. Learning of his death would eclipse the passing of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston combined. I understood him, watched him go from a series of relationships, and had more in common with Steve than I did with my own brother. If I continue in this vein, I’m sure personal details that should be kept between he and I would be revealed, and in the sake of friendship, respect, and honor, I shall leave them out of this.
To all of you who miss him as much as I, please feel free to write on this website. Your comments will not be removed and these words will never die. He lives on through Alexa. He lives on through us, and our memories of him. I know now that I will never get the opportunity to compose another piece of music with him, and that is a tragedy I have to carry. Stephen Smerker, you were, and shall always be, my favorite person.
“What’s the matter? You don’t like donuts?”