PORTLAND, Ore. ― The evening before he became a national hero, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche hung out with his girlfriend, Ellie Lawrence.
It was Thursday, and she went over to his new house, which 23-year-old Namkai-Meche had saved up to buy the month before. They did some light garden work, and she remembers he was looking especially handsome.
They had big plans for the garden. He just wanted it to look beautiful. She was going to have her own little corner, where maybe she’d grow some herbs. They both wanted to plant a bleeding heart bush, where pink, heart-shaped flowers would bloom one day.
They went inside and cooked dinner, something they were trying to do more often, and their friend George came over. Namkai-Meche and George went off to play futsal for their team, the Tardigrades. They lost that night, but Namkai-Meche just loved to play.
When he returned home, Lawrence was there watching TV. They liked real estate shows the best, like “House Hunters,” and nature shows, too.
In the morning, she’d never have guessed it would be the last time she’d see him.
“He kissed me goodbye and said thank you,” Lawrence remembers.
“And I said, ‘For what?’ and he said, ‘Thank you for coming over,’ and I said, ‘Well, thank you for having me,’” she recalled, her voice trailing off. “And yeah, that’s it.”
Lawrence, 22, talked exclusively to HuffPost this week at a rooftop bar in Portland, just down the road from Reed College, where Namkai-Meche had studied economics and where she’d studied French, and where an American flag now hangs at half-staff.
They had so many plans. She had just graduated from college. He had the new house and a job he loved. The world felt wide open.
They were looking forward to the coming Saturday, when they had tickets for a matchup between the professional women’s soccer teams the Portland Thorns and the Boston Breakers. He was from Oregon and she’s from Massachusetts, and it was fun to cheer against each other.
That Sunday, he’d planned his first BBQ at the new house, a place she said was his pride and joy, where he’d done the construction work himself to turn it into a five-bedroom so a bunch of his friends could live there together. It was a place where he wanted to build something special. A community.
And later this summer, they were supposed to go hiking at Punch Bowl Falls, where Eagle Creek spills down lush green cliffs into a deep pool on its way to the Columbia River.
But hours after he and Lawrence said goodbye, Namkai-Meche was riding the MAX train home when he and two other men stepped up to defend a black teenager and her Muslim friend from a white supremacist’s bigoted, anti-Muslim threats.
The man slashed the three men in the throats with a knife. Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best, 53, died. Micah Fletcher, 21, survived.
Lawrence said there were always little glimpses of Namkai-Meche’s capacity for heroics and selflessness.
“One night, we were walking in the park, and this man said he needed shelter, and Taliesin let this guy stay at his house,” she said.
“He was trusting and he was kind and he was going to step in if he saw something wrong.”
He was given to romantic gestures, too. Once he drove through a snowstorm to retrieve lipstick she’d left at a restaurant. He didn’t tell her he was going and she hadn’t asked him to go. He just went because it was an outrageously nice thing to do.
Another time, on Valentine’s Day, she returned to her dorm room to find a bouquet of flowers waiting outside her door.
“This might be borderline too cheesy,” Lawrence told HuffPost, “but one time he asked me why I loved him, and I said I loved him because he was kind and generous and ambitious and he had good morals and he was directed and excited about life.”
“And his response was that those were all the things he was trying to be in his life.”
On the train last Friday, a woman came to Namkei-Meche’s aid as he was dying. She later recalled the young man’s last goodbye.
“Tell everyone on this train I love them,” he had said.
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