My oldest friend isn’t picking up the phone. He isn’t responding. The battery is now flat, and it’s just clicking through to his voicemail. He isn’t in any of the hospitals. He has simply disappeared. I suppose I should have expected it. I did. I tried to prepare myself for the inevitable. The worst thing is I might never know. No one might call me, no one might inform me, there will be no funeral, no flowers, no goodbyes at gravesides. I don’t get to be angry at him for his failures, or grateful for his friendship over the years. He is just gone.
He wouldn’t go to sober up, there was to be no detox, no rehab, no more bites at the apple at being sober. There was going to be no sober living facility in a place I could visit, as an old friend, if not a lover any longer. He was so much older than me, but in some ways just a child. A big, badly behaved child, with an electric guitar and a dented cheekbone. A child who drank everclear like it was water but lived to be old, who ate the entire bands’ shrooms, but remained loved and playful. He was a child who taught my son to throw a baseball and build a campfire. He was my lost boy. I couldn’t do it any longer, the hurts were too numerous and he was too far gone with booze and tumor and strokes and had become someone else. I had to protect me and the boy and go, but I never meant to not see Billy again.
He got his party, his living wake. The idiot. He didn’t much care if it hurt me, selfish as always. Still, I loved him. I remember sitting next to him in the cabin of the camper, his directionless co-pilot, and looking over as he coaxed the beast down lanes and highways, through good times and bad. He would hold out his hand, let it dangle from the wheel, and I’d reach over and grasp it, and squeeze. Just two ancient kids, lost in the moment and the music, letting life and the road pass them by. We held hands over mountain passes while snow fell making us slide dangerously hydroplaning, we held hands as we drove into Little Bighorn, and as we pulled into Cass Lake for the summer of our lives. But I had to let go. Now I fear the old bastard has gone forever. If he hasn’t and is just laying dead-drunk on someone’s floor, I’ll be grateful and carry on as usual, in my daily grind of trying to get him to rehab and sober so I can hold his hand once more. I’ve a bad feeling. He was slipping out of control, this drunk has been brutal. He never said sorry, he never said goodbye, he never gave me peace. So why am I crying?
I don’t get to mourn. I don’t get to cry. I just have to sit here not knowing. I’ve never quite forgiven anyone who has ever put me through this.
I guess I’ll put on Blood on the Tracks and remember barreling down the 101 screaming along to the words half hurt, half mad because he was trying to leave me again, or drink again, or desert me again. He looked at me and smiled, and told me it was the performance of a lifetime. My throat hurt. My head throbbed. I was under too much pressure from all sides. From Billy’s total inability to be responsible even for himself, his code of no obligato reigning supreme, from my ex husband chasing me and the children, from the legal crap and the day to day mundanity of survival. I had to let rip.
I suppose that is that. This is all I get. A feeling of malaise and sadness, and my old friend, with my martin he pilfered from me lost to me and to time.
I haven’t been this sad since I lost the last person I loved. I hope never to have to get used to this empty feeling. Everything changes. People go. My Girl, Japanese Grandpa. A line of friends and lovers stretching back right to when I was a young woman. I both love them, and hate them for going.
I think I’m drowning in sadness.