Saturday, September 10, 2005

Funeral for a Friend

I've been sitting here, trying to figure out how to proceed with this thing, looking through old photographs & trying to re-capture some of the memories from back then that have fallen victim to time, and I realize there's probably a big part of the story that has nothing to do with any ex-girlfriend; something that happened about six months after Gloria & I started dating that probably affected my life more than anything else up to that point: the death of my friend Eric.

One Saturday morning, after Joe & I had been out doing something or another the night before & had passed out in my living room, the phone rang, waking me up. It was Joe's mom; she sounded upset and asked to speak to Joe. I woke him up and handed him the phone; he was only on the line for a few seconds before he hung up and began to gather his things to leave. He said his mom was upset & said to come home right away, but she wouldn't tell him why. I told him I hoped everything was ok & went back to sleep as he left.

A little while later, the phone rang again; I answer it to hear Joe on the other end. I could tell he was crying, and he said only for me to come right over, he wouldn't tell me why & truthfully I didn't press the question - we trusted each other back then in the way that only childhood friends can; if Joe said to come now & not ask questions, that's what I was going to do.

When I pulled up in Joe's driveway, he & our friend Jeff were outside already & ran up to me. I stepped out of the car and Joe grabbed onto me right away, hugged me and said simply "Eric's dead".

Eric & I had been friends since middle school. He & Joe had grown up on the same block, and the three of us were always close, but during the couple of years after Andi & I broke up and I left school, we were inseperable. Some combination of the three of us could always be found at the other's house, raiding each other's parents refrigerator, looking after each other when we got too wasted, terrorizing the preppie kids at the local pool hall...good times. When he was 16, Eric got sent away to military school after setting a classmate's hair on fire & locking him in a closet. We still talked all the time & hung out whenever he was home - some weekends & holidays, and after a year of military school, Eric's grades were up, his temper was even, and he was getting along great with his parents.

One weekend, he recieved a pass for good behavior, and hopped in his car to come home and spend time with us for the weekend. Before he got to the freeway, he was struck head-on by a sleepy truck driver & killed instantly. He wasn't drunk, he wasn't on any drugs, he was driving the speed limit with his seat-belt on. He died needlessly, just trying to drive home from school. He was listening to Rush's A Farewell to Kings...it was still in the tape deck. We didn't know what to do other than just stand there & cry.

After a few minutes, Joe told us what exactly had happened, and we went down to Eric's parents' house. They greeted us with tears and hugs, but the rest of their family was already there for support, and we felt that the best thing we could do was to go let the rest of our friends know what had happened; we felt like it was our duty somehow. I don't remember at all telling Gloria, or when I did, but she was not with me that day. That day, I remember that more than anything, I wanted to see Roxanne, and tell her what happened, and....just be near her. I knew it would make me feel better if anything could, and I knew that we had to tell her brother, Jerry, too. So, we headed out to their house across town as our first stop. When we arrived, Roxanne wasn't home - she had spent the night with a friend - but we told Jerry, who then joined us in going to spread the bad news. We went and told our friends Jase & his brother Chris, and I expected to see Kara, who was dating Chris, there, but Chris said that she had spent the night at our friend Alice's. Alice had also dated Eric briefly, so we made her place our next stop.

I remember standing on Alice's dad's porch and her opening the door and seeing Joe's face and knowing immidiately that something was wrong. Joe told her what happened, and she broke down right away. While Joe & Jeff comforted her, Kara and I took a walk around the yard to talk. She & I had gotten to be pretty close freinds, but hadn't been talking as much the past few weeks since I'd been dating Gloria. Kara was not the most affectionate of girls, even at the best of times, but that day, as we walked & she listened to me blubber on about E (that's what we called Eric), she reached out and held my hand...a gesture so unlike her that it almost sent an electric shock through me. I was in the middle of emotional turmoil, but I remember how that touch made me feel.

That evening, we all got together over at Joe's house, I brought Gloria, and we all got as drunk & stoned as humanly & financially possible. I remember that Gloria was concerned about me, but she never really liked or got along with my friends very well. Nevertheless, she was sweet and very respectful. We all cried & laughed and cried some more until we passed out or went home...mostly passed out.

The next morning, we went to see E's parents again, and they shocked us by saying they wanted us to organize the memorial service; decide what to say, what music to play...everything. These wonderful people who had just lost their only son were so grateful that he had friends like us that they let us unpresentable, unrespectable, unemployed punk loser kids be in charge of their son's funeral. So, just like a bunch of stupid kids, we decided that we would all wear our leather jackets & that Eric would be buried in his, with his school uniform underneath. We picked out Metallica's Fade to Black and some other music that Eric liked for the service...and I know when that started playing his relatives must have almost had a heart attack. Jerry & Roxanne sang & played guitar for a couple of songs, and then I got up to deliver the eulogy. I don't remember exactly what I said - I kept the paper for years but I've since lost it - but I guess I said something right, because afterwards almost his whole family thanked me - and all of us - for all we'd done. In hindsight, it was probably tacky at best & borderline disrespectful at worst, but we were just a bunch of punk kids, and it was what we honestly thought Eric would have wanted. His family respected that & indulged us, and I'll never forget them for that.

The next day, after the funeral, I remember the whole group of us...about 10 of us or so (but sans Gloria), all went to the local park where we had all (mis)spent so much time growing up together. We sat in the sun all day, we passed joints & played guitar, we laughed, we sang, we tossed a frisbee. We didn't talk about Eric that I remember, but we all felt him.

I remember something I saw that day; something that has stayed with me ever since...I see it like it was yesterday: Joe & I were sitting on top of a hill, with the rest of the group huddled around the picnic tables below us. The sun was just beginning to set, and the wind was just beginning to get chilly on the back of my neck. I looked over my shoulder, and I saw Kara & Alice running down the hill to my right. I saw Kara's long hair swept up in the breeze, the shape of her silhouetted against the sun setting behind her, running and laughing, full of life....burning that image into my mind forever. Then I looked down at all of us gathered there, and I don't know how, but somehow I knew that day that this would be the last time we would all be together like we used to...and it was.

After that day, things were always different. With me & Joe...with everybody. Joe withdrew from all of us for a while, spending a lot of time with a different crew of degenerates; Jeff started getting in trouble with the law & was eventually arrested for shoplifting. Jerry moved to Connecticut to live with a friend of his family - everybody began to splinter apart. Well, almost everybody...actually, Kara & I started to become more & more close during that time. She had broken up with Chris...but I was still with Gloria.....

7 Comments:

Blogger Slipperysnake recalled...

You are fucking hilarious! I love the color-coded girlfriends, the morose reflection of relationships-past, and especially the punk photo from bygone bad-boy days!! Unless you are still a bad-boy, in which case, I apologize! Everyone should be so introspective! Myself, I just take an anti-depressant: it makes the past more palatable for me. Great blog! I'm gonna add you as a link on mine. *kisses* - kat

Saturday, September 10, 2005 9:39:00 AM  
Blogger Manda recalled...

it's amazing how some things do get etched in our memories forever, while at the same time, we can hardly remember what we had for dinner the day before.

i'm interested to see what happened with you and Kara and/or Roxanne. take care! :-)

Saturday, September 10, 2005 1:05:00 PM  
Blogger Charlotte recalled...

i wouldn't have been able to plan a friend's funerl, you're so strong. wonderful writing, i felt like i was there!

Saturday, September 10, 2005 3:21:00 PM  
Blogger Audree recalled...

i'm surprised you continued dating gloria even though she wasn't with you that day.

the guy i was with when my brother died went to the wake, but not the funeral due to a business trip, but he wasn't at some of the other events, when he could have, so that warranted our breakup.

even though he was the first person i told, i remember really wanting to be in the safety of an ex ...

Saturday, September 10, 2005 6:54:00 PM  
Blogger ExBF recalled...

Thanks for the comments, guys ;)

...and honestly, I had told Gloria that day that I just wanted to spend it with the old gang, and since she wasn't all that friendly with them anyway (and since she knew Roxanne wasn't going to be there), she didn't mind not going. She was very sweet & understanding after E died; wish I could say the same for me.

Saturday, September 10, 2005 7:09:00 PM  
Blogger scratched recalled...

you're killing me

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 11:02:00 PM  
Blogger Tara recalled...

Wow. Stumbled onto your blog today (did you know it's highlighted on the Blogger log-in page?). When I finally get through reading/hearing it all I'm sure I'll have some useless observations to add, some crap that won't make a shit bit of difference to your journey. But who knows...

At the moment I just wanted to thank you for sharing your friend's death. Went to a couple of funerals like that at around the same age and era. One even featured Fade to Black... BTW, have you had the Free Bird funeral experience? It's something a Southern boy shouldn't miss.

That's not why I'm glad you wrote it down, though. It's because I sometimes need to be forced to remember, to really feel, that raw insanity that was ever-present between 13-20 but seems to have burned out around the time my drug-lovin', sex machine, asshole-that-I-adored boyfriend killed himself before I reached official drinking age. Can't see your face well in the picture on your site, but otherwise he looked just like you. We were part of the same kind of crowd during the same time period in the South, so your stuff brings back a lot of memories that maybe I should look at a little closer.

Keep writing, man. You'll find what you are looking for.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 7:59:00 AM  

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