The Bummer Blog.

When I was growing up, there were only a few kids of similar age on the block that I played with. Two of which I consider family since I spent as much time with them as I did at home. But they were the only constant playmates of my young life. The rest either fell out of favor with my parents, we grew apart, or they moved. However, I’ve been thinking about the old block quite a bit lately, and one particular childhood friend keeps punctuating my thoughts. His name was…well…we’ll call him John.

Now, John floated in and out of my life for about five years–lets say, from the ages of 6 to 11. He was a couple of years older and as such, was always just a little bigger and smarter. So, any games that we would play, he dominated. At some point, he outgrew my company, and I only saw him in passing. John didn’t have a large effect on my life. In fact, I wouldn’t think of him much at all except that, at the age of 16, John committed suicide.

The story goes that John had just gotten over a bad case of mono, which had kept him bedridden for months. Feeling the taste of freedom again, he stayed out all night with his girlfriend, presumably without telling his parents. When he got home–I suppose he must have had some excuse, staying over at a friend’s place maybe?–his parents promptly confronted him. They had somehow found out his whereabouts and had grounded him. He went upstairs and…that was it.

I remember watching the ambulance from my pantry window. It stayed in front of his house for a long while. A list of scenarios went through my mind at first–someone had a heart attack, an accident, etc. But the longer it stayed there, the clearer it was that this was far more serious. I turned to my mother, and, I don’t know why this particular scenario had stuck in my head, maybe I had fed off subliminal clues, but I mused aloud, “I wonder if John committed suicide.” Later that day, of course, we found out that he had.

I was really disappointed in myself because I didn’t feel a whole lot. I supposed that I should feel something–that it was appropriate in these situations to feel deeply and darkly. I thought something must be wrong with me. I know now that, that isn’t the case. John and I weren’t close. Still, I think, there must have been good times right? But to be completely honest, I can’t remember any. Maybe that says something about the way memory is formed. Maybe we remember the terrible better than the good? Or maybe he was just a dick. I don’t know. But here are a list of my distinct memories.

1 – He stole my Micromachines. I remember, when I was a child, I didn’t quite grasp the concept of the word “trade.” I thought it was something comparable to “borrow.” So, one time, John came over with his beat up Micromachines and offered to trade me some of his. I made clear that this was for a limited time, but he kept using the word trade. I’m sure that, to him, that word was binding somehow . So, even if he knew that I wasn’t intentionally giving him my toys, he was going to take them anyways. Trying to impress him, I offered up my finest Micromachines for his worst. Several months later, when I tried to get my Micromachines back, he pretended not to remember “trading” anything at all. So, I was left in my driveway, my Micromachines in a McDonald’s Halloween pumpkin bucket, crying–my mother standing in disbelief. But, to her credit, she didn’t interfere, and I learned quite a bit from that encounter.

2 – I ruined his magic trick. On a bus ride to school, John was trying to impress some of the lower grade kids with a card trick. He put a card in a box, shook it up, and voila, it was gone. I figured that if the back of the card was white, it could still be in the box, unnoticed. I asked him to show us the back of the card. He blew up and told me I ruined his trick.

3 – He never let me borrow Nintendo games. I don’t know if you grew up in the ’80s or not, but Nintendo games were something that you passed around. You put your name on that bitch and swapped Zelda for Megaman, then you eventually returned it. Hell, my Nintendo collection is STILL mixed with my friends games and theirs with mine. John had one game that I coveted-Karnov. Karnov was about a fucking genie or some shit who looked like he shot fireballs from his armpits. It was a poor mans Mario. But it was still pretty fun. I kept asking him what in my collection he would like, so that I could borrow his game. He kept telling me to bring stuff over and he would decide. After weeks of this, I decided that my only chance was to bring over my three best games to swap. He still refused. It was at that point that I realized that he had no intention of lending my game. Was it out of spite, or a genuine fear that I would steal his game?

All of my memories of John are like this. He forced me to watch a scary movie. He wouldn’t tell me what happened on a television show until I could ask in proper English. I just think, that can’t be all, can it? There HAS to be something more. We were just kids. I’m sure that my memories don’t paint a proper picture of John. I didn’t think of him as a bully then, or now for that matter. There has to be something else… I wish I knew more about him. Now I can only look back, ten years older than he was when he died.

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One Response to “The Bummer Blog.”

  1. Jake Says:

    People are dicks. Usually some dickhead dies and everyone rushes to memorialize him with glowing praise (see Tony Snow or Lee Atwater for examples). When I was in high school, a guy who’d beaten me up in junior high died in a single car drunk driving accident. He got blitzed and flipped his car into a tree. Suddenly, everyone was his best friend. I was shunned for suggesting he was an asshole who was lucky he had only killed himself instead of a family of five.

    So don’t sweat trying to find some good in someone who treated you like crap–probably because you were the annoying kid from across the street who was five years younger than him. Focus on your friends.

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