Nathan James French. Born October 2, 1974; rumored to have died, 2000.

It's likely very few people knew what Nathan really thought and felt. It was his engaging personality, rather than his considerable intelligence, that drew both men and women to him, and what they saw in him was what he thought they wanted to see. He was variously boyfriend, "fiancé", colleague, drinking buddy, tennis pal, surrogate brother, uncle--whatever he sensed others wanted him to be. But he got bored fast, and moved on. It was like he never figured out how powerful his attraction was, and that the bewilderment and hurt feelings he left behind were genuine.

He was one of a score of half-siblings, the child of a philandering father and a much-married mother. After a childhood in Tasmania, part of which was spent in a Catholic boys' boarding-school from which he often broke bounds at night to go boozing in town, Nathan left for Sydney. No doubt by this time he'd realized what effective weapons his looks and charm were. He'd also acquired a huge capacity for drinking, smoking, other substance use, and sex, without apparent lasting ill-effects.

Nathan's need for constant social and intellectual stimulation was legendary. His swiftness in leaving behind the old to embrace the new meant that one could never truly trust him. There was the sense, though, that he also moved on to escape emotionally-stifling situations--that he was looking for a place where he could start afresh and be what he really was (rather than the construct of other people's dependence). At one time this took him to the other side of the world.

The report that Nathan died several weeks ago in Tasmania took a while to filter through to his vast array of acquaintances. It seems he killed himself. I remember him when he was 22, saying he wanted to stay the way he was for the rest of his life. For those with whom he shared his enjoyment of living and sense of humor, even those who lost contact with him over the years, or whose affection for him was mingled with exasperation, it's as if one of the lights of the world has gone out.

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