I don’t handle grief well, so I’m just gonna tell a story.
At 14 years old, I met my best friend. He was a scrawny little kid named Nick. We were both at this dirty, smoky little bar to see a band called Biohazard. Unbeknownst to us, the opening act was “banned” from playing in our town at the time, so there was a last-minute replacement, Sheer Terror. We shared a pint of cheap whiskey I’d managed to sneak into the club, and when a couple of fights got everyone’s attention we both had the same bright idea; let’s jack the merch table! There we were, two stupid little kids, drunk as fuck, hauling ass up the street with stacks of t-shirts and cd’s. Nick took me to one of his friend’s houses, where we were greeted as heroes; heroes with free swag.
For years we’d hang out on the weekends, anytime there was a show. I was dirt poor, so there was no way for us to get in touch with each other, but it got to be a habit for us to find each other in the clubs; this went on for about 3 years. Eventually, we fell out of touch; he was busy with his girlfriend and trying to please his very upstanding parents, and I was working constantly trying to help out my family.
When I was 22, after yet another failed relationship, I was living in a house with my “friend” Jon(yup, the guy from the bar that one time); we both rented rooms from an old disabled electrician. One day when I came home from work, there was Nick, sitting on the front porch having a beer with Jon. Jon started to go into his usual “punker-than-thou” spiel, “Oh, this is a really cool cat I met at…”, but Nick and I were hugging and laughing before he got more than a few words out.
From that point on, we were inseparable. Whenever and wherever one of us was, you’d find the other; sometimes drunk, usually high, but always together. He was the small mouthy guy, I was the guy who watched out for the small mouthy guy; both of us staggering through life, leaving a trail of destruction in our wake. We were like two peas in a fucked up pod. Neither one of us could keep a job very long, or a girl. We both loved comic books and fantasy, and we both loved to get trashed. When I got arrested for dumb shit, Nick was the guy waiting outside of bookings at 4 am to walk home with me; when he fell down and injured himself while he was hammered(which happened more often than you’d think), I was the guy who’d patch him up and, if necessary, take him to the hospital. This is the life we lived for years. He had an older brother who’d never been around, I had a dysfunctional family I didn’t really get along with, but we had each other. We were family.
No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t keep his life together, which is how he wound up moving in with me when we were both 34, right around the time we were each at our absolute worst. I had a job, but I was ALWAYS high. Nick’s dad was paying his share of the rent and giving him pocket-money, which always went towards booze and dope. We didn’t care. We understood how each other was messed up. Even though the causes were different, we were both broken the same way. The very first time I checked myself into a mental hospital, Nick was there to visit me everyday; whenever Nick was having a breakdown, which was often, I’d sit in his room with him and listen to Sheer Terror, just like when we were kids.
Nick started going to AA, trying to get his act together. I know he tried his hardest, but it just wouldn’t stick. One night, while we were trashed of course, we had a pretty serious argument. After about an hour of back and forth, we kind of made peace and Nick stumbled to his room.
The next day, my girlfriend called me at work. Nick’s phone had been ringing in his room all day, and she was worried. I told her I was sure everything was okay, but if she was that concerned, she should go ahead and go in his room and check on him. She called me back in less than five minutes and just said, “Come home now.”
I won’t go into details, you can guess what I found. That was really the beginning of the end. Soon after, my girlfriend left town; soon after that, I tried to kill myself and ended up back in the hospital, where I finally got clean.
I think about this a lot. As much as it upsets me, I’m glad that the last thing we ever said to each other was “I love you.”