Writing about things helps me to deal with pain. This is one of the most painful stories I have written about to date. A man taken way before his time was up. 27 years old. The same age as when Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin and Cobain were taken from us. And in my eyes just as accomplished and noteworthy………
He was my best friend. Gone way to soon. The world was robbed of one of the “Good ones.” I think about him often and I miss him…….Every f***ing day……… GODDAMMIT! Sometimes I hate you god for taking such a good man …….Why? I have to believe he had to have a damn good reason, and I think it was to draw the one’s of us that are still alive closer through his death. I have to believe that, so I can justify it in my own mind. It’s been 22 years now and he still visits me often in my thoughts.
I remember him well. First grade, this big barrel chested kid with red hair like mine. Always wearing a “sweater vest.” He rocked that sweater vest like no other ever has or ever will! Rust colored, just like his hair. The big kid with the big smile. The infectious laugh from deep within his lungs. Over the next 20 years or so he became my best friend. Fiercely loyal, honest to a fault and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and smile myself.
We grew up in a very special place. A small island. Way down south where people were still raised with morals and manners. Yes ma’am’s and holding the door for a lady still held true. A forgotten custom and time. “The Island” is not what it used to be now. The filthy rich have discovered it. Over developed and ruined in my eyes. The dirt roads and the southern charm are no more. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot…….Gone are the days of the sleepy little beach town that I called home. Man, I miss those days! Running around bare foot and shirtless. Golden tan without a care in the world!
I remember him in cub scouts. Third or fourth grade? The blue shirt with all the “patches of achievement” sewn on. Badges of honor…….. He had more than any of us. I was envious, but he earned them……We bonded through the years. Birthday parties, baseball teams and all the things that make you know someone better than you know your own self! A brother from another mother….
Fast forward to high school, he was one of our “crew” and what a motley crew it was! We were the rejects. Not the “popular” kids. The jocks and the “preppies” all looked down their noses at us. But we didn’t give a F***! We just thumbed our noses right back at them and their stuck up self righteous attitudes! Ever seen the movie “Dazed and Confused?” That was us! I swear to God they took all of us and made us characters! We banded together. Stoners, rednecks, surfers, metalheads and the various others who just didn’t “fit in”….. We all accepted each other for who we were. Not because we had a f***ing stupid horse or alligator on our shirt or penny’s in our loafers like the “privileged ones” did! A true “Band of Brothers.” NOBODY f***ed with us! And if you did you dealt with ALL of us! And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way because all those derelicts were the best friends you could ever have asked for…… They had my back as I did theirs! And “Big Russ” was that type of friend. By your side until the wheels fell off the car!
I have so many great stories of him, and here are a few that just scratch the surface.
Russ and I were in “business” together for many years. I trusted him like I’ve never trusted ANY other man. He was just that type of guy. I remember he had this dog Red. A pitbull. The damn thing would kill anything that went into his back yard. We hid the “product” under Red’s dog house. We KNEW it would be safe there, and there were VERY few people Red would let in that yard! But I was one of them. Even Fluffy the cat didn’t survive it’s encounter with that dog and all they found were some pieces of hair and that was the end of old Red! Miss Anita ( Russ’ mother) wasn’t having ANY of that! I have a lot of great memories of that house, sipping sweet tea and trying to make sense of all those strings on that goddamn guitar while Miss Anita would sing along clapping her hands…….I could never forget the time Russ and I were cutting up a pound of weed at the dining room table. Miss Anita unexpectedly came home. We hurriedly stashed it in a brown paper bag in the pantry. And then she walked in with BAGS OF GROCERIES! Needless to say she found the stash but let me walk out the door with it, Along with a sincere apology and a promise never to bring that “devil weed” back in her house ever again ( but we did the minute she left.) She always had a special place in her heart for all us heathens, and in her eyes we were saints! I have so many fond memories of him, her and all those boys. And, I remember the day she called all the boys home, cause heaven’s angels had carried him away……
The day I got that phone call was one of the worst days of my life. I remember the HUGE empty hole it left in my heart, one that’s still there to this day. Fare the well my brother, I know that some day we will see each other again……You’ll have a Busch beer in one hand and a Marlboro light in the other…….