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Living, in the past

I got an email today from Arnie, a guy I used to room with in college. The subject line was “Sad News.”

Our college alumni quarterly magazine arrived in the mail last week. Arnie obviously looked at it more closely than I did, because in the deaths column, he spotted the names of two of the guys we roomed with when we all moved off campus.

There were six of us. We moved into a big house painted in a headache-inducing shade of pink. The first guy Arnie mentioned in his email was named Gary, but we all called him “Dills.” My favorite story about him involved another guy who lived with us, “Hawk,” and truth be told, I’m not sure of his real name. Hawk had a girlfriend who was seriously good looking and, of course, would spend weekend nights sleeping with him. Hawk was bragging about her one afternoon and said, "We had simultaneous orgasms last night," to which Dills immediately responded, "She must have hurried."

The second guy was named Darryl. Like Dills and Hawk, Darryl was a year or two older than I was. He was the center of gravity in the house. He had a great sense of humor and got as crazy as the rest of us, but he also was better at putting things in perspective than we were. I felt bad when Arnie told me about Dills, but hearing about Darryl made me still sadder.

Those were wild and weird times—but they were fun. Perhaps my most glorious memory is from early in the semester, when I was sitting on the front porch in the sun, my feet propped on top of the rail, smoking a cigar. Life was very, very good at that moment.

It didn’t last. My fun ran out more quickly than it did for the others, as I burned through my disposable income and at one point was reduced to taking cigarette butts from the ashtray, picking the tobacco out of them and rolling it into a Zig-Zag to smoke it. Our house also was about three miles from campus, and it’s still beyond me why I moved out there without a car to live in a room that probably had been a closet at one time. It was directly under the roof joists, which meant I had to ease under the sloping ceiling to get in and out of bed. I could stand up straight in less than half of the floor space.

I lasted in the house one semester before dropping out of school. The others stayed behind, adding a roommate. The fall after I dropped out, I went back to the house for a party. Things had gotten weird, gotten crazier. It probably was better that I hadn’t stayed.

The memories that remain, though, are the best ones. I still can see Dills sprawled out on his chair in one corner of the living room, near a window. He always wore gym shorts in the house, and he was lanky. His legs looked like they were a hundred yards long. He had a ready smile and was quick with a wisecrack. He was a great guy to have for a housemate.

I remember Darryl in his living room chair just outside his bedroom. He had a genuine glow of goodness in his eyes and an infectious laugh, but he was aiming for a career in marine biology, so his studies were more difficult for him than they were for the rest of us. When he wasn’t wrestling with the books, though, he was ready for fun.

I never saw either of them after that fall party at the house. Back in the mid-‘70s, there were no social media, and once we scattered, we lost touch.

I’m sad because two friends from 40 years ago have died, but I might be sadder still that when I look back on those times, I’ll know that two of us six have gone ahead. I hope they’re waiting for us, standing beside a freshly tapped keg and telling off-color jokes. Things will be very, very good again at that instance.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 1st, 2015 10:29 pm (UTC)
Ah, sorry to hear. It's unsettling to be "of the age" where news of friends' passings isn't so out of the ordinary. I hope they're waiting for us, too.
Feb. 2nd, 2015 08:25 pm (UTC)
The first of my six closest friends was buried last week. In my words for him I closed with the words from an old song by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, TV icons of our 1960’s Saturday morning cartoon viewing. The song was Happy Trails, and the last line of the song is, Happy Trails ‘til we meet again. One of my five remaining friends asked why I picked that to close with. I replied that in my 61 years of life, almost everything I see on this earth is made to recycle and return in a different state and I hope to see him again. I see my six friends as six leaves on a tree, we have watched the first of those leaves, wither, die, and fall to the ground. What we know is that over the next years ahead, we will watch each other do the same until the tree of our friendship is bare. What I am hoping for is that right now in another plane of existence a new tree is awaiting and has just gotten its’ first leaf…Holiday
Feb. 2nd, 2015 10:26 pm (UTC)
Nice stuff, Holiday. Nice stuff.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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