Sunday, February 10, 2008

Shot by Both Sides


In 1988, I wrote a silly story about a memory I had about watching my parent's lives before I was born, and my excitement about my future adventures with them. I also wrote a story about what would happen if I fainted while turning up the volume on the TV, and how my neighbors would react. B read them, and liked them, and thought I should write more.
Even though my life was crumbling around my ears, I heeded my creative muses, and painted, drew, designed and made clothes, and wrote. (Being able to do this drawing of Boy, in early 89, gave me a reason to keep fighting the good fight.) Sometimes it's good to spend some time on the right side of the brain, and forget, for a while, logic, and the pain and illogic of drug and alcohol abuse.
Some of us get lucky, or blessed, or helped, or whatever the hell it is, at the right time, and find a way to make it to the other side of our addiction; to make a life with some moments of serenity and self production, versus self destruction. I am happy to say I am one of those people.
Some of us make it. Some of us...

"Brian! Bad Brad's here to see you! Hi Bad Brad!" My boss's nickname for B was Bad Brad. He came by the salon to pick me up, the night before I left to visit my family
"Brian, I'm worried about Bob. He's taken 8 of those green pills. Eight. Those things stay in your system for days. If I had taken that many, I'd be dead now. I don't know what to do." He said.
"If you can't make him stop, who can? Besides, Bob knows what he's doing. He knows what he can take. He's a big guy, too. I'm sure everything will be fine." I said, and believed.

Bob was a big guy, about 75 pounds over weight, and a junkie, so I didn't think he would be affected by some pills, no matter how strong. Bob had bought a bunch for income while I was home for the holidays, because by this time B had lost his job, and I (barely) paid all the bills. They would need some money while I was gone. He didn't sell them, though. He took them all.

For a month, B worked tending bar, and quickly developed a little fan base of patrons, of which I was one. We were a close group, letting the tanned, be-quiffed, sparkly thin queens (it was the 80's, after all) rule the dance floor, while we and huddled in our rumpled, unwashed all black, in our dark corner, every weekend. Watching videos, while B gave me shots, the irony of The Way that You Love Me, was not lost to me. (The video bar in front, where B worked, had a very limited selection of songs us music snobs could stomach. We each had one, and that was mine.)
I had a crush on one of our group, Jim, and would I pray to someday to have what it took to be with him. He had dark brown hair, big brown eyes, perfect white skin, and a beautiful shadow of pathos. I can still see him there, in the run down bar, in his thrifted black mole hair sweater, and Doc Martins:
"Why are you throwing your life away here?" I thought as I looked at Jim that night. "You could be anywhere with anyone you wanted..."
B had been with Jim for a while, but Jim still wanted to be with B, so he was around a lot.
(Jim made it to the other side; I ran into him one night in the late nineties, looking older and wiser, but still good.)
Oh god, the things we did in the Windy City bathroom. It was endless. Steve, one of the group who had a crush on me, started kidnapping me to the suburbs, to Hunters, and I happily complied, to escape the black hole that was Windy City. The first night this happened was after seeing a revival of Hair, down the street at the Vic, where my salon went for an early Christmas outing.
I had seen quite a lot of theater during this time, and experienced the odd phenomenon of the fourth wall being broken down in my face, most every show. To the point of teasing by the friends I went with. Just when I thought could relax, and an actor wouldn't talk to me, they did. Maybe they knew something I didn't: if you would have told me back then I would one day in the future have more than 10 years of stage acting experience in Chicago, I never could've believed it. Yet I do.
Steve always had way too much to drink before we drove back to the city, and by some miracle, I'm still here.

Bob, I was to find out later, was hitting bottom. He hadn't a real job, but sold himself at Man's Country, where he lived. If you call a room with a bed, rented by the night, living.
Whenever B and I talked about Bob, which always ended in a shouting match and me begging him to cut him out of his life, he would tell me Bob had a rough life growing up, a life I could never imagine, and he was the only one he had left. I felt for Bob, but I only saw his destructive influence on B.
I flew to Arkansas for Thanksgiving, letting Bob stay at my place while I was gone, making them promise not to do H, or burn the place down.
My mom woke me early my first morning home, saying B was on the phone:
"Bob's gone, Brian. Bob's dead." He said, crying.
"What! What happened?" I said.
"We got some, and after he shot up, blood came gushing from his nose. I called an ambulance, but I was too late; the hospital just told me he died."

B.L.O.: july 10, 1958. november 30, 1988.

p.s. I uploaded a picture of that Doug I was pining over, complete with Steve Diet's hand written nickname.

Links: Magazine, Paula Abdul


Aaron said...

I've had a few friends-of-friends who've committed suicide, but I've never lived with them when it happened. What an awful thing, to be at your family's for a holiday and hear such news!

I first realized that holidays were no innoculation against tragedy 4 years ago when my grandmother died the day I got home for Christmas. Christmas Eve at the funeral parlor, picking out an urn is a surreal experience (and you should have SEEN some of the ones that my family almost picked! Thank God I was there).

We're glad you're on "the other side" now. It seems safer here, after reading all these things! :-)

Anonymous said...

You know, I think you were lucky to have been out of town. You were a kid and you already had enough shit to deal with at that point. Being there for that experience wouldn't have done you any good.

In 1987, when my coke addicted friend killed himself, I'd already distanced myself from him. At his memorial, those of us who knew him in high school stayed in the back and left without seeing his family. We had been there when he started his addiction, participated in it and hadn't stuck around to watch him fall apart. It was hard to imagine his family would have wanted to see any of us. Could his parents have understood why were we still standing while their boy was in a box? Yeah, I don't think so.

I'm glad you got away from all that. Sad my friend, Brian, couldn't do the same.