One time I’m in this rehabilitation centre, coz back then I suffered with ‘addiction issues’, and this old boy sidled up to me, “Don’t be getting involved with people’s business in here, son”, imparting knowledge like an ancient Greek sage. And he was right. But did I listen? I didn’t last a week in that rehab.
One mid-winter night we were drinking at The Last Refuge, a local bar we all frequent – I say we all as though I’m inundated, fit to burst with friends. Anyway…
“You’re a ponce.” Said Albee.
“Excuse me?” Dez retorted.
“Fact is, Dez,” continued Albee, “you’ve become a caricature…”
“A damn caricature of your damn self!”
Incidentally, Albee and Dez are my, well, best friends. We go back; like back, back we go to times and places we’ve long forgotten between us.
So, Dez stormed off, glass in hand, barely holding on to his tears of indignation. I remember making a move to follow him.
“Leave it, Sam.” Albee said.
“He’ll be back.” I shrugged in return. Sipped my diet cola.
“Am I right?”
“Say something if you think I’m wrong here, Sam.”
“You… could have.”
“Could have my ass! How much does he owe you this month, Sam, that he didn’t get round to paying off last month?”
Albee was right. In a way. Went on to tell me I was too trusting and tolerant.
Early the following morning someone found Dez frozen to a lamppost. His mouth open in the shape of a perfect O. His left arm stuck out as though he might have been hoping to hitch a ride home. Right at the end he was after a favour.
Heavier than usual snowfall that night. Temperatures below zero.
Dez’s Dad showed up at the funeral. Hadn’t seen Vernon in years. Bald, stooped with a hacking cough, it looked as though he didn’t know who he was let alone where he was. Poor soul.
Me and Albee could barely look at each other. Don’t see him much these days.
I thought to say a few words at the service. A reading from Timothy 2:7 “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” Only I couldn’t summon the confidence.
I relapse now and again. Stumble drunk into unconsciousness, wake up in doorways. Don’t ask me. When people say, “Sam, you gotta pull yourself together” I try to smile, knowing most mean well.