You ask why I keep still
Why I don’t pour it out into the night
You know if it rises and floats
It effaces every piece of light
- Soap & Skin (Cradlesong)
When we were kids and had just graduated, all three of us had serious questions about what we would do next. Part of the theme of the "Dead End Kids" was that none of us would make it out, and I guess we all assumed none of us would. Then Joe decided to leave. I showed up to his house one night after a really bad night during a series of very bad nights. I was living in my car at the time. I had just been caught sleeping in my car in the park by police and treated really badly. I was upset. I was hopeless.
I showed up to Joe and Will's house in a pretty bad place. I sat down in the living room and Joe sat on the couch. He was really quiet. This was really unusual for him as it is for me. After a lot of yes and no answers to my queries, he asked me to go have a cigarrette with him outside. The answer to this question was always yes. While we were smoking, he started shaking his hands and breaking up in his speech. I couldn't get what he was saying, so I asked him, "What's wrong man?" He told me, "I enlisted in the Navy." It was final. There was no getting it back, Joe was leaving the Dead End. To me, he was leaving me...a moment I had feared more than anything.
A few months past and the day came when Joe had to go. He didn't want us to go to the airport with him. He didn't want an ordeal. We all stood outside and watched him hug us and tell us he loved us and then walk away and get into a car and fade away into the darkness as the lights dimmed, and disappeared. Once I lost the lights, I lost my guts. Joe's mom was there to grab my head and pull it to hers. I cried like I had never cried before. I had definately never let anyone see me as an adult cry like that. She just stayed silent and rubbed my head.
I was sad because my friend was leaving. But more than that I was sad because I think I got the reality check that I couldn't hold on to them forever. Someday they would go. Everyone moves on. Some to other states. Some to other countries. And some to Heaven. Joe came back after a couple of years, angry that I had moved on and made a home for myself. I think he got the same reality check that day. He was so much of part of my life, but he wasn't any longer the center.
I've spent a lot of time this last 6 years in this basement...in front of this computer...writing about the "Dead End Kids." Sadly, much of that time has been spent as Christmas lights twinkle on the tree right behind me, going unnoticed. I always find myself going back. I think it's because feeling sad about them is all that is left of them. Joe came home from the Navy and we had the greatest and most terrible times together. Then he went away after his brother went away. And here I am...totally unwilling to follow them out of the Dead End. I love my life. I wish they had loved theirs. God, I wish I could have put the love of living in them. I couldn't do anything.
Two years today Joe. Happy birthday kid brother. A conversation with you comes to my mind right now. We were in high school. We were sitting on my bed and you had said something outragious. I laughed, and you said, "Sorry buddy." I said, "No problem man." You said, "No seriously, I'm sorry buddy" and pointed to my bed, which was completely soaked with the root beer you had spilled from the two liter bottle you had been carrying around.
When I think of times like this, it doesn't feel so dark. It just makes me miss you. I miss your raspy smokers cough laugh. I miss the embelleshments of your stories. I miss being able to sit in a room and be able to say nothing without any awkwardness at all. I miss fishing with you in the middle of the night. I miss every incredibly stupid thing we did together as kids. I miss the way we could look at each other and speak without words. Goodnight little brother. Be happy and be perfect. I'll see you again sometime.
Thanks for reading...Z