Friday, June 20, 2008

Cast of Characters

Bob was from Buffalo. He and his brother Jeff had just moved to the area and I don't remember how I met either of them. One day they were just there, sitting around the porch with us, drinking bottle after bottle of Miller Genuine Draft and chain smoking. Bob was through with high school, and helped get me a job at Pizza Hutt. Jeff was still in school, and used to come to the porch at night with limply rolled joints he bought in the hallways.

Liz was a friend of Angie. High strung and fidgety, she always made a room hum with nervous energy. We clashed immediately. She had known Ang for a long time, but to call them close would have been an overstatement. After a few weeks, she started sleeping with Bob and I think they eventually wound up having a kid. She was always on the fringe of the crowd, and once she started dating Bob, he moved to the outer circle too.

Angie was a mess. She didn't just burn through brain cells like the rest of us, she tortured them like a budding serial killer tortures a kitten. You could hear them scream with every lungfull of smoke or shot of tequila. She had both nipples pierced, and it was the first time I had seen that particular piercing in person. Each night, she would make herself a frozen pizza (her only meal of the day) and would cover every square inch of the top of it with sliced green olives. From a distance, all you could see was the pickled green of the olives with the mechanically cut squares of pimento stuffing. She would eat the entire thing while smoking Camel after Camel. One day, I remember her complaining that she was out of weed. In frustration, she ran her fingers through her hair, and from it she pulled a rather large bud. She had passed out the night before and had rolled in her stash in her sleep. Excited, she ran to get her one-hitter.

Renee was a child. Pretty and innocent and wanting to be neither, she spent as much time around us as we'd allow. At fifteen, we felt guilty in her presence, so we'd try to send her away when we could. I got to know her again when we were both older and a bit wiser and it wasn't until then that I gained a bit of affection for her. Emotionally crippled in ways I was only vaguely familiar with, she was always falling apart or putting herself back together. It was something I found fascinating at the time. She had a brother, but I don't remember his name now even though he was around quite a bit at the time as well. I can see his face though.

Rick was a kid that lived upstairs with his very worried mother. She was a sweet woman who saw goodness in our crew, but knew we were generally not going to be a positive influence on her kid. Rick was kept to the outer circle by her involvement and concern. Good for her. Good for him.

Chris was my best friend and made the move to Texas with me. In life, there are very few real creative geniuses. A lot of people have moments of brilliance, but it is rare to burn bright all the time. Chris was always burning. His personality was so big it wore you down, and he was always testing you, pushing your buttons and limits to see where your boundaries were. People who didn't know him well just thought he was an asshole, and he was that, but for the few that really knew him we knew that was just part of the package and that there was more to it than that. Over a long enough time-line though, most of us came around to the same realization as everyone else. He was just too much to be around for any real length of time.

Sweetpea did things in her life that she could never forget or get past. She would bury these memories as deep as she could, but chemicals have a way of bringing everything to the surface, and there were lots of chemicals around. Desperate and sad, funny and endearing, you wanted to take care of her.

There were others. It was a revolving cast of people that would filter through the porch each night. It was rare to walk outside day or night, and not find someone stubbing out a cigarette butt, looking for something to do and waiting for other bored people to wander by. I haven't seen or heard from any of them in years. Even Chris. I know he's in the state and still playing music, but that's all.

I find myself still thinking about these people on occasion, and I wonder how it's possible that someone who has no close friends now could have had so many back then. Am I so much a different person now? Better? Worse? Obviously a lot has changed for me over time, but I automatically assume that nothing has changed for any of these people. When I wonder what they're doing, I can only picture them doing the same stupid shit as back then, but now heavier or with less hair or with kids hanging on them. In my mind, I'm the only one that is allowed to grow. They have to stay as I remember them.

That's the way I like it.

No comments: