Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Maybe I knew...

I found a poem that I wrote in pieces about the death of Robbie. It seems to me, reading it now, that I felt even then the deathmarch wasnt over yet. During this time I wrote this were those many long nights Steve and I sat in his car in front of my house. The words are a bit more then haunting now that I look back. I had no one at this time who was closer to me then Steve....


Into the dead of night I seek,
The lost soul I am destined to greet.
And if all thoughts were ever known,
Heart so hard it hardly shone.


Words may come and thoughts may go,
And in your heart you'll never know,
Who may stay and who may go,
Why do I feel that I may know?

It will be he who never knows,
The love my heart will someday show.
My faith in him will never roam,
From his warm soul, Ill call my own.

Just under 2 months before Steve died that I wrote that last part. Maybe Ive figured out a small part of why his death was so hard on me. It seems like to me, that in my heart Steve would have been a friend forever. I never really thought it would be more, but my own words seem to indicate that I did. Maybe it was my soul speaking. Perhaps again, this was my "great love", and my heart knew it even when my head didnt. Maybe this explains some of the confusion in my own heart over the loss. I dont even know... sighz.

Monday, August 23, 2004

May 16th 1994

I called up Cathy to say hey!

Cathy says to me, "Well as long as you dont have that baby today I think we will all be alright."
"Haha, you think so? Well I guess thats too bad then, he was born just a few hours ago, now get your ass up here and look at him!"

He was born on May 16th. An odd Blessing on a day none of us wanted to remember. And strangely, it was also Susans birthday. We had all been thinking about it long before the thought of my son being born on that day. Susan had already made it clear she didnt want to celebrate it. We all agreed. Then here was this child, named for my friend, born a year to the day he died. It was too much to absorb. The mood in the hospital was definately surreal for all that knew me, knew where the little boy got his name, and the reflections on where we had come from just a year before.

And after that night, that my son was born, with a name and a birthday to honor my beloved friend. I never felt his presence again in my room. I never once slept with the lights on after that. I felt bad at the loss of him, but strangely, that he was still with me. Looking at me with the eyes of my own child.

I know this sounds wacky or loony, but thats exactly how it felt. And Steven, he is all the things I need. He is loving, and forgiving, and very affectionate. Nothing like me as a child, and nothing like his older brother Michael, who is a mirror of me as a child. He is quite, angelic. Its very very odd, but very very true. Indeed.

From that day on, I stopped believing that the End is the End to all and everything. I just dont know that I can trust that after the things I have seen. Im still very wary, but what a gift. To be given a child, and some kind of new inner peace about mortality, was an incredible thing to me at that time, and still is today.

I dont know how others feel, but I will feel to the day I die that Steve was there in those months and the full year following his death. Daring me as usual to believe or not believe. And leaving me all the clues and signs of why I should learn to stop thinking he was so... gone.

I try to remember that on the lonely or days of musings. Its not always easy, but the thought is ALWAYS there.

Angels. A feather pillow in a world full of brick walls.

Where do people go?

For years and years with my mothers strict Christian beliefs I was taught to believe in a heaven and hell, the good or the bad, once its over its done. To be honest that thought always truly scared the hell out of me. When my friends began passing away it scared me even more. How can you think that people just cease to be? That the one short period of time spent on this earth was all the time you get with them? Souls go to heaven or hell, never elsewhere.

The same year Steve died, about the same time I was spending nights sleeping with the light on, I found out I was pregnant with my second son. It took me over 5 years to think it through, to realize the timeline and order of events. By September of that year I knew I was pregnant. And I decided from the second I knew that were the child a boy, he would be named Steven. In honor of my old friend and new angel.

I remember one of the saddest moments of the entire year following Steves death was around March just two months before the anniversary of his death. I ran into his mom at the library. I had been meaning to call her, you know how time slips away...... And here she was, so sweet as always. I spotted her and walked up to her immediately. I asked her then if I could honor my child, whom I knew to be a boy by then, by having her permission to name him after Steve. She looked at me so hopefully, and asked me if it was Steves child. I think what pieces of my heart were being held together by thin strings broke a little bit more at that moment. God I wished it had been. I was big and pregnant by then and had she thought it over a second she would have realized that any child of Steves would have been born before then. But she was a mother still in pain, grasping at things like the rest of us were. She of course said she would be very happy if I named my little one after her son, her baby.

My friends were all watching, its like they knew, oh man, I seriously think we ALL knew something weird, miraculous, out of the ordinary was happening. By this time I had told Cathy and Susan about the image/spirit I was seeing in my room. Neither of them doubted that it was quite possible, and that if anyone had the willpower to be there for a friend, alive or in death, it was Steve. I went into pre term labor on April 22nd. I stayed dialated 3 centimeters... forever it seemed. This is like labor that is good and under way. And I knew, well before I even went into Pre term, that the babys due date was, according to the last 3 sonograms, May 16th. April 22nd to May 16th? At 3 centimeters? That didnt only seem impossible, it seemed way beyond fathomable to be in that kind of pain, mentally and physically over the whole ordeal.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Cover me

I finally got my apartment around the end of July, early August of 1993. And even though I lived so close to Claudia now, I dont even recall ever having spoke to her after the funeral. I gave her the same consideration I would give to any other fake on earth. None.

I surrounded myself with an overload of friends. There were nights when there were 10 people sleeping all over my house. It wasnt long after I moved in that the dreams.. or whatever you would call them began. I wondered then why it didnt start until I was there. I had this antique chest of drawers. I guess you would call it a vanity dresser. With a big mirror and tiny little drawers. I had it forever. It was the one piece of furniture in my new apartment that I had around when I was a kid growing up.

I remember waking up one night, feeling like I was being watched. And I remember laying there in the dark looking around my room. And I remember knowing in my mind that someone was there. As I glanced into the corner that the vanity sat in, I seen a figure, a shadow, just sitting there watching me. I was so scared I froze up that first night. I wanted to jump up and turn the light on, but I couldnt move. After fear came relief. Relief? I had no idea why I was so calm when I could clearly see a shadowy figure in my room. This shadow was small, around my height, and had what appeared to be long hair. And I felt no bad intentions from it, I felt concern coming from that direction, and suddenly I felt not so alone. I remember turning my head away from that direction and refusing to look back. Denial, big time. Even though I was never one to be unbelieving in spirits or ghost, I wrote it off as just a bad dream when I got up the next day. I told no one about it. They already knew I was crushed and missing Steve desperately. Had he been alive at that time I knew he would have been living with me then, protecting me from a crappy neighborhood, and Im sure my face still reflected that on most days.

I laugh when I think about it now, smiling really big. Steve wasnt the type to be wrote off. Neither am I for that matter. But all those nights we sat in his car in my front yard, if I had a secret I wasnt supposed to share with him, he always knew it, and harrassed me until I confessed. He didnt take to being ignored or put off. Not in life, and apparently not even in death.

Night after night, I woke up with that same feeling, seeing that same shadow, feeling that same presence in my room, so close, but so damn far away. I believe it was about a year after his death that it continued. I even began to sleep with my lights on. Me? I wasnt even scared of the dark as a child. Blind mans bluff with flashlights or flashlight tag was a common game for the kids in the neighborhood. The older kids that is. But I always joined in and they always tried to scare me because I was so young. It never worked. But here I was a grown woman, and I couldnt go to bed without blaring lights on in my bedroom. No one ever asked me why.
The light didnt help, it didnt make him go away. I didnt want him to go away, but I felt like Id heard so often, that my grief was keeping him bound to earth, when he had a much better place to be. My angel, he was there for me. He didnt leave me until I was ready for him to go. Every night, he was there. And every morning I woke up telling myself I was going crazy. My eyes had to be playing tricks on me. This kind of thing only happened on T.V. But it was him. I know it. It was him the same way it was the night he died, standing there smoking his cigarette the way only he did. I dont think I ever spoke to him those nights. I guess I was afraid he might answer. He was covering me. He was there, even though he wasnt.

Some people have looked at me like I am insane when I tell them I dont fear death. Of course I fear the moment of death. Of course I dont want to die in pain or alone, but fear it? No, my angel was waiting just on the other side for me. He still is. I would never commit suicide, but when I do go, I will go in peace. Who wouldnt? Who could live through these horrible moments and not look forward to opening their arms and souls to those who did so, so often, for me, when I needed it the most.

"Cover me
When I walk alone
Cover me
When my stance it stumbles home
Cover me
We'll trip on through the sands of time
And cover me
'Cause I've been branded
I've lost my mind
Lost my mind
But you'll cover me yeah
Won't you give me shelter from the storm"

He did. He covered me until I had the strength to cover myself again. In his life, he had such serious impact on me, and he wasnt going to let that stop in death.

Rest in Peace my angel
Steven Gregory Kinzie
November 28th 1972 - May 16th 1993

Sad eyes follow me..

The day of Steves funeral was full of a lot of emotions for me. While some of the people who were standing around me were seeing a grown up Steve. The fun loving guy they loved to party with... I was still seeing the little boy I grew up with. I was still remembering the night he walked me home in the snow, with his arm around me, letting me cry like a baby. While they were remembering the man he was, I was pondering the man he had not gotten to be yet. While they were standing around calling themselves his friend, I was remembering the night in the car when they wouldnt let me out to protect him. I was hurt, but I couldnt feel. I was angry, but I couldnt get mad.

My house was very close to the funeral home and a few of my friends came to my house to gather before heading down the hill to the funeral. I remember my mother coming in from work and asking what all those people were doing in the house. I remember telling her "today is Steves funeral, we are just waiting until it starts." And I remember hearing the words I will likely remember the rest of my life. "People die everyday", she said. I couldnt even cry at that. I just remember feeling so cold with anger that I left immediately. I dont know why she said something so heartless. I guess at her age, people she knew did die everyday. Not for me, I wasnt even 20 yet. But it hurt deeply. No hug, no comfort. I guess thats another one of those things that looking back on I cant bring myself to wish different. Because of the lack of comfort in my life, at that time, before that time, and since then... I just dont require it. When something horrible happens to me, even now, I can step back, take a deep breath, and move on. Sometimes slowly and painfully, but always on my own.

I've been called "coldhearted" because I dont 'appear' to "feel" as much as some people do. Thats why I dont. Breaking down and being a sobbing little girl, or a sobbing grown woman was never an option for me. Ive never had anyone in my life that I could run to and just cry on their shoulder until it was all out. I dont 'need'. I rarely 'want', and I never 'have to have'. Its not that I dont feel. Its that expressing it never got me anywhere. Crying never got me a warm shoulder to lean on, and I grew up just not needing it.Then funeral inside Oakeys is a bit of a blur. I remember seeing Steve laying there and thinking that once and for all, it was over. Done. He was gone and again I was alone. I know in my soul that Steve heard my heart that day, and later proved to me that I wasnt alone as I thought I was. After the ceremony at the funeral home we rode to the gravesite. I will never ever forget that the second we turned into the graveyard, the song, Tuesdays Gone, by Lynard Skynard began playing on the radio. I remember Susan turning to look at me and saying "Oh god Joy Im sooo sorry" and reaching to turn the channel. I told her no and to leave it. Never will I hear that song without seeing that exact moment. Pulling up to the parking spot, and just sitting there listening to it and not moving, not getting out of the car, trying not to think about what we were about to do. After all, little boys dont belong in the ground. They belong with their parents and friends. Still the little boy in my mind. I couldnt get rid of that thought. That crazy smile, those pictures of my slumber party when I was turning 12 where him and his brother were the only boys invited to it.

As the ceremony was wrapping up I remember looking up to see Steves mom standing there looking at me. As she stopped comforting my other friends and spotted me, it seemed motion around me stopped completely. Others began looking at me too. I think it was that time that a few people realized how deeply hurt I was, that others stopped their selfish mourning long enough to look at me with my own sadness and pain reflected in their eyes. I remember her rushing over to me and saying 'I love you Joy, he loved you too, dont you ever forget it'. I couldnt. Ever. I knew he loved me. And I knew I loved him. But there I stood thinking that this mother, who lost her baby, her first born, was comforting me. I have no idea how I would react were one of my sons to pass away. The thought is unbearable and I have no idea where she got the strength to comfort me. But at that moment I felt extremely selfish. I tried to straighten myself up and be strong for her. A wasted effort but I tried. Suddenly all those hugs I missed were on me. All of the times I spent alone were gone, if just for a moment. I even seen Chris standing over next to the graveside, and felt comfort that he had listened to me when I asked, begged, him to come to the funeral. He hugged me too. Sounds silly I guess but this is a guy who I spent 10 years of my life beating up and fighting with. And his arms were around me comforting me. He lost Steve too. But I knew that he knew, that my loss was having a horrible impact on me. And that Steve and I were always 'two peas in a pod', aside from the friendships we shared as a group of kids growing up in 24019. I remember hating Claudia at that moment. She was the 'girlfriend' and was soaking up all the pity and comfort that came along with it. But I knew how he had really felt about her. I wanted to scream it at her, but of course I didnt. Her brother had died in that accident too, but it seemed to me she was enjoying the attention she got from Steves death more.

For some reason my group of friends had suffered a lot of death. Robbie had died not long before Steve did. And it was sad to see, and to think, that a group of 20 - 25 year olds were becoming used to attending funerals. It was like clockwork for us by then. After every funeral was a party to celebrate the life we shared with the deceased person. And as I sit here thinking back to 12 years ago, I cant for the life of me remember where the hell we partied after that funeral. I guess thats a good sign of how hard we partied, or just another sign of things I make myself forget. There is no silent mourning in this group following a funeral. And I hope when I pass that they do the same for me. But there was still the emptiness. Always that. Always there.

I suspect there isnt one kid who grew up around that area that doesnt know how to behave at a funeral. I suspect there isnt one adult wandering around now that grew up with me that doesnt reflect on their own mortality when they consider all the friends we lost. And I know that all of them hurt a little bit for the loss of innocence they suffered so early in life, so soon. When we were still supposed to be learning about life, death was following us around on a regular basis.I remember thinking even then... Robbie. Robbie was a great guy. He rode his bicycle to work about 5 miles one way, every day. Steve, busted his ass at that pizza delivery job just to be able to keep his car. They had aims, and they had dreams. And they were gone. And left behind was the ones who had no hopes or dreams, only those who bumbled around on a daily basis just trying to figure out where they belonged. Only the good die young? I really believe that. I think a lot of my fears come from that time. They were both such happy people. Robbie wasnt "happy" on the outside but he was satisfied. He knew who he was and what he had to do. Steve was just a carefree spirit, who rubbed that off on everyone who was near him. And they were gone. So whats going to happen to me if I find happiness? Whats going to happen to me if I finally become satisfied with my life? How long would I get to enjoy it? Those are incredibly senseless fears, but fears to be sure.

"Sad eyes follow me
But I still believe there’s something left for me
So please come stay with me
‘Cause I still believe there’s something left for you and me"

Some would say you are left with what you had...

So I havent gotten to the last part yet. Steves funeral and the months that followed. To be honest there is a lot of that time I cant even remember. Ive always been great about intentionally blocking out bad memories. Some of them I purposefully hold onto, while others I stash away the second I gain them. I know one thing Ive learned in this lifetime. Either the word coincidence is grossly mis-defined..... or the scientist that refuse to believe in the supernatural are just opinionated morons.I guess that song Left Behind that I keep quoting from defines a lot of my life. I started with nothing, no parents even. And I gained some intensely great friendships along the way. Friendships that came as close to making up for the lack of family as is possible. Then they were taken from me too. So there I was again, left with what I started with. So Ive learned the whole "Dont know what you have until its gone" lesson pretty well. If thats what I was supposed to learn then the forces that be can stop now. I dont think Ill ever have a moment in my life where I dont have full realization of that saying.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Calling all you angels

Last week I was driving to Roanoke to the store. It was raining very hard. The water was running down Route 24 in sheets. Going around 60 to 65 miles per hour, I hit a wall of water and began to hydroplane. At 60 mph my truck spun 360 degrees 3 full turns. With my truck spinning so fast I had to hold onto the steering wheel to stay in my seat, I had a few thoughts. I am not wearing my seatbelt, was first. Thank god there are no cars near enough for me to hit, was second. Is this it? Was my last thought as the truck spun to a halt. Well, the truck stopped spinning and left me facing the other way. I swung it around and went on my way. I missed hitting the curb that would have flipped my truck. There was no one else on my side of the road at that time even though it was nearing rush hour traffic. Not one bit of damage to my truck.

Ok so someone was watching out for me. Id like to think it was coincidence, but I felt so calm afterwards, crying and shaking but oddly calm. My body was reacting to something my mind wasnt stressing.

"You stumbled in and bumped your head, if not for me then you'd be dead"

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Blow up the outside world - Sugar Ray - Roanoke, Va 1993

"Someone tried to tell me something,
Dont let the world bring you down.
Nothing can do me in before I do myself,
so save it for your own, and the ones you can help....oh well"

I remember the party pretty well too. It was in the "warehouse". Well the warehouse was basically just that. A huge building rented by some local punks, er, I mean punks with Mohawks and chains, tattoo's and piercings, not bratty kids. Well, that too Im sure. It was a common place to party for pretty much every friend I had and then a load I hadnt met yet. A normal keg or everclear party probably had around 100 kids or so partying, a live band playing, moshing, breaking shit.... ya whatever kids are doing that they arent supposed to be doing. Thats what we did there. From poverty level to upper class kids there always. Punk kids though. I dont know if you have had the occasion to party with any punks. No, we didnt really live during Sid and Nancy days, but they were serious about their lifestyle and music. I still know a lot of them, they might have kids and wives now, but you can bet they still listen to that old hardcore punk shit we loved so much then, blackflag types.

I remember an Everclear party pretty well one night because it pretty much turned into a riot with me and some guy rolling down the loading ramp of the warehouse trying to kill each other. Haha, Ill never forget the look on that guys face when we got to the bottom of that ramp and he looked at my face and realized I was a girl. He was so embarrassed and apologetic, I wasnt. I had jumped onto his back because him and half of those white supremacist type punks were banking this guy. When I seen the bullshit start I had looked over and seen two guys fighting, and as quick as I could get over there, about 20 other people had piled up and was beating this guy down. One of the only two black guys there of course, Sugar Ray.

I didnt know Sugar Ray at all before that night. And I didnt spend much time talking to him before this shit erupted. But I did notice that him and Juan, another one of the gang and the only person not in our little clique that wasnt white in some form or another, were the only guys there not white or asian. I even remember specifically telling myself if any shit got started I was in it and on my own side. The side of what was right. If those two guys had the balls to trust 98 white fucking supremacist little bastards, then no one was fucking with either of them in front of me. Period. One of those point blank moments. Yep, Id die for that cause. My own friends would have to kill me to make me sit and watch someone be treated unfairly just BECAUSE _____. Who gives a fuck. Your opinion of a persons race, religion, life style, color or beliefs does not fucking matter in the big picture. After all, just who are you again? Exactly. So as Sugar Ray went down to the battering of the one guy, and then the other guys piled on, Juan took off, and so did I.

I specifically remember running up to the pile of fighting bodies right next to Juan and pulling a body off the pile and flinging it. The second body I grabbed out of the pile was heavy as hell lol. He was probably about 5 foot 6 to my 5 foot 3. And around 220 lbs to my then about 130. In flinging him he grabbed me and just as I turned to punch him in his fat supreme face we hit the concrete. We landed on the ramp and rolled down the whole thing all the way to the bottom. As soon as we got to the bottom we both jumped up with fist up and ready. He looked at me for the first time. (Its hard to get a good look at someone rolling at 45 degrees down an embankment with your fist planted in their face) And like... burst into some kind of fit, tears, guilt, sooo sorry he didnt know I was a chick when I grabbed him, and besides, I was so little how did I even manage that?? "Anger" And then sorry for that, he didnt know what came over him but such and such guy was his friend and he seen him in the pile so he jumped in etc etc blah BLAH. By this time the fight had been broke up and people were actually standing around me, my friends were showing up and scaring the literal fuck out of this guy. I guess he thought all those guys with green hair and mohawks raking the rafters were going to do something. All they were doing was the same thing I was doing, feeling disgust and annoyance at the situation.

I remember looking around while he was still babbling at me, no idea what his name ever was that big guy I rolled down the ramp with, but I was looking for someone. Sugar Ray. He was still here, standing back up near where they rolled him. I walked away from babbleguy and straight up to Sugar Ray. It was ultra rare for me in my life then to be the first to speak, the be the one to take the time, but I took it then. I told him I was sorry for what they did to him. I told him what I had thought about a minute or two before that shit got started. That if he had the balls to be here, then no one here had the right to try and change that. I believe I asked him not to leave, or at least that minute, while people were watching him and wanting him to. I remember him grabbing me and giving me a hug and us laughing about something while all my friends, all those strangers just watched. I guess most people dont see other people like I do. Perhaps I do have some sense or extra gift but in all honesty and before the loss of any friends or much tragedy had touched my life I always knew. I always recognized "special" people. Those who were different. Thought outside of the box. And I always knew that those who didnt fall to or follow organization or order were the ones to pay attention to. The brainwashed are on their own.

Knowing all of this, knowing how special Steve was too. Knowing that even Billy was special to those who loved him, I learned a lot of hardcore lessons within Steves death that ugly May. Im sure things still touch me because I learned to remove the faceless clutter from pain. That night in May 3 guys died, my friend Steve was one of them. But they all had faces. I know I should have learned a bit about Geoffrey too. I believe thats how his name was spelled. Geoff Pelton. Georges son. George does commercials on local T.V. here now about the accident. How "his son" died because of a drunk driver. True enough. But so did my friend. And Sugar Ray lived. What about him? That commercial. I still see it often. He does new ones etc. Makes Steve faceless and I hate that. I loath it. Maybe Ill get the chance to let Mr. Pelton know one day. I understand his pain no doubt. But I never stole the faces and identities of those boys in the other car.

"Nothing seems to break me,
No matter how hard I fall. Nothing can break me at all.
Not one for giving up though not invincible I know"

Some would say your life was sad, but you lived it anyway

Why was Billy driving Steves car? All I ever learned about the accident that night was that they were leaving Franklin County Speedway or around that area of Virginia. I knew Steve. I know exactly how he was when we all went out and partied and then got in the car to go home. I know, I am 100% sure Steve was asleep long before they got to that piece of Interstate 581. He was normally asleep before I finished backing out of someones driveway. Something that was a running joke in between us, him passing out the second we got in the car, ended up leaving me with the most comfort. So he was sleeping. Billy wasnt though. Claudias brother. Right after the wreck it came to light all kinds of shit about how Billy was a habitual wreckless driver. It was all over the newspapers. George Peltons son had died in that accident too. The owner of First Team Hyundai's son. Another guy, in Peltons car had lived. Sugar Ray is what he was known by to his friends. He was in terrible condition but was alive at the moment. Wait, I think I know that guy.

So Billy was driving Steves car. And I knew above anything had I not gone to Genes, had I not left him there that night just because I had to get away from Claudia and her kids, he would be alive. No sense in telling me how I didnt cause his death. I know I didnt cause his death. But I didnt prevent it either. I should have stuck by my friend. He trusted me. Steve was a very amiable person most of the time. I can just hear Billy going "Lets just run somewhere real quick Ill drive and we will come right back". And I can hear Steve asking to see his license. I have no idea what Billy may have shown him but I wish I did. Because I knew he had shown him something for Steve to think it was ok for him to drive. My sister at the time was also the assistant to the Coroner in Roanoke. Well theres more information I didnt need to torture myself with. But of course I asked. The picture given to me was more then grim, it was horrific. Nothing I want to consider long enough to type.

Of all the people I felt for. I honestly do remember feeling a lot for Sugar Ray. Christ, if this was hard on me, to imagine. How was this possible to live with? I wished I knew more about Sugar Ray. I wished there was some way I could talk to him and apologize for his losses and pain, and let him know that at least one person on the other end of that Mustang that night didnt wish him harm. Steve wasnt careless with his life, I dont know how Billy changed the situation that night so easily but Id never seen Steve drive drunk, because I always drove. And I always seen Steve, making light of it of course, but checking me out, looking in my eyes, shining flashlights and shit in my face when he was asking me if I was ok to drive us all home.

But I had met Sugar Ray before. There was that one party.....

I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind~

To this very moment as clearly as I remember parts of that night I still cant remember exactly how I got to Genes house. He was an old friend, one of the original gang of kids who grew up together around 24019. He was also Susans x-boyfriend. So still, I have no idea why I went there, or any real memory of why I was there... well besides that one thing...

I do remember the hard knock at the door, at around midnight. Gene jumped up and told me to get myself together and I remember Cathy coming into the room and her eyes looking for me around the room. It was kind of dark in there. When she spotted me I could see the pain in her eyes. I remember her saying "Its Steve, come with me"

I dont remember running out of there, or even the trip from Genes to Claudias. I knew before I got there that Steve was dead. Pulling into the parking lot at Tinker Creek it became screamingly obvious something was horrible. Several cop cars were parked outside of Claudias. I ran in so fast that I startled the officer who was standing and talking to Claudia and Claude. He became an immediate asshole and asked Claudia who I was. "Steves best friend" she said. They pinned me down staring at me. Something was so wrong. They were very harsh. Very rude to us all. Billy and Steve were both dead. And the cops were mad as hell.

"Are you going to go tell his grandparents Ms. Basham?" What? They were asking me to go tell his gramma and aunt? No, they werent asking. They were taunting, hurting us because Billy had been driving Steves car, very drunk, at 130 miles per hour, and jumped the interstate median, flew across the concrete barrier there, and slammed head on into another young mans car. They never did expect me to tell them. They were letting me know they didnt want to have to either, but somehow we should feel worse that our friends killed someone elses. We did. I did anyway. I can only hope that one day when Im old and dying that I can forgive Billy. But I have an idea that I wont. Wow, so hard to believe I held much innocence after having a child at age 15. But I did, right up until that moment.

I remember running out of the apartment with Cathy and a handful of quarters, headed to the payphone. I was driven to call a few others that we had grown up with, Brian, Chris, and a couple of others to let them know he was gone. Someone had to besides these asshole cops.

I have no idea how long I was awake that night. Or when I went home, or when I slept. Nothing. The moments right before Cathy and I left Genes, the moments after I arrived there, right up until I went to the phone. The rest is pretty black and empty.

I wont ever forget the dream I had when I finally slept either. I dreamed of a hazy area of the street, weird that it was on Wonju Street or near the exit there at Colonial Avenue. Because at that time I had very little idea where he had actually wrecked besides Interstate 581. But in my dream I was walking up Wonju in the haze. And I approached Steve who was standing there in one of his old black t-shirts. Smoking a cigarette in the way that I only seen him do. Hand cupped under, kinda weird I guess you would have to see it. But he was smiling at me. That same wiley grin he gave me that night I read those cards. I can still grab that picture from my brain. If I was a good artist I could paint it and Im betting it would look exactly how that street down there below I-581 looks like. Wonju. He didnt speak and neither did I. And then I was lurched out of the dream.

"And Im lost, behind. The words Ill never find. And Im left. Behind. As the seasons roll on by"

What was in the cards?

A brief note on those cards that I used to read to Steve that night. The next morning when I got home I put them immediately into a "treasure chest" that I had since I was a kid. It actually is shaped and looks like a generic old pirate chest and its where I kept mementos of things. Life and death, good and bad. I tucked those cards in there and never touched them. About 2 years after Steve died I bought a new box with an ancient Egyptian type lock on it. I dumped the contents of that pirate chest into the new Egyptian lock box. I quickly locked the little latch key, twisted my key into it to drive it shut, and didnt once open it again.... until last week.

"And Id give up forever to touch you,
Cuz I know that you feel me somehow."

Last week I took a pair of wirecutters and cut the lock off. I immediately regretted damaging the lock and felt more then a bit of guilt about removing the cards just to stare at them. My hands had not touched those cards since that night. This self enforced therapy is a real bitch you know. But something had to be done. There are a couple of things I would like to do with my life but I cant do anything for or with myself until I can let these guys go. It sounds heartless to my own ears...

"You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be,
And I dont want to go home right now."

The mourning has to go. Theres nothing to feel sorry for here. I am not trying to feel sorry. I am trying to do what I promised to so many that I would do. Remember. How could I not? Taking advantage of what you have is a tragic to me now. Its something I will always be careful not to do now. Any friend of mine is going to have to be willing to hear the good, and the bad about themselves if they are around me for long.

"All I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
And sooner or later its over..
I just dont want to miss you tonight"

Ive missed them as much as it is possible to. The best lessons I've learned in life, I learned in their deaths. I dont get where this is a good lesson. What am I supposed to do with it? Who do I teach?

"And I don’t want the world to see me
’cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am"

How easily we forget the lessons we are taught. I will never forget. My lesson goes on everyday. When I drag myself out of bed knowing what I know. Seeing what I have seen. Doing what I have done. So in Steves death I learned to appreciate friends. Then I made a good one. Ben. So I tried those lessons out. I did what I could to let him know how I felt. How things were, how I would be. And I succeeded. I succeeded as someone trying out something new would. But I did it. So then take him too?

"And you can’t fight the tears that ain’t coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like the movies
Yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive"

I dont think there is anything left to learn from this anymore. I know what pain is. I know what loneliness is. Not the imagined kind. Not the kind where you sit alone. The kind where the whole world is churning and spinning in your face and you cant see a thing. I learned to appreciate. I learned to unlock my tongue and teach it to others.

"And I don’t want the world to see me
’cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am"

Maybe I was scared when I read those cards, because it wasnt Steves cards I was reading. What had he to fear? He was going to be gone. Dying is truly the easy part. I know its hard to hear, even harder to deal with when you lose someone you love. But always remember that its those left behind who suffer. The dead suffer not the living. It was my life in those cards, it was my worst fears. When I think back to that moment, and remember that crazy smile on his face, its almost as if he was leaving me a message to be heard at a later date.

I listened to that message last week when I opened that box.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Far Behind

Now maybe I didn't mean to treat you bad
But I did it anyway
And now maybe
Some would say your life was sad
But you lived it anyway
And so maybe
Your friends they stand around they watch you crumble
As you falter to the ground
And then someday
Your friends they stand beside as you were flying
Oh you were flying oh so high
But them someday people look at you for what they call their own
They watch you suffer
Yeah they hear you calling home
But then some day we could take our time
To brush the leaves aside so you can reach us
But you left me far behind
Now maybe I didn't mean to treat you oh so bad
But I did it anyway
Now maybe some would say you're left with what you had
But you couldn't share the pain No, no, no
Couldn't share the pain, they watch you suffer
Now maybe I could have made my own mistakes
But I live with what I've known
And then maybe we might share in something great
But won't you look at where we've grown
Won't you look at where we've gone
But then someday comes tomorrow holds a sense of what I feel for you in my mind
As you trip the final line
And that cold day when you lost control
Shame you left my life so soon you should have told me
But you left me far behind
Now maybe I didn't mean to treat you oh so bad
But I did it anyway
Now maybe some would say you're left with what you had
But you couldn't share the pain No, no, no
Now maybe I didn't mean to treat you oh so bad
But I did it anyway Now maybe some would say you're left with what you had
But you couldn't share the pain
I said times have changed your friends
They come and watch you crumble to the ground
They watch you suffer
Yeah, they hold you down Hold you down
Now maybe brother, maybe love I didn't mean to treat you bad
But you left me far behind
Left me far behind
Left me far behind

Monday May 16th 1993

I remember that night pretty well because of long term memory. I remember it because Steve got me to do something that I would ask another friend to do for me at a later date, strange to me now that I just realized this. But its true.

That night on Friday, Steve privately told me that he didnt want Claudia mauling him through another night lol. He told me he was going to tell her that I would be sleeping in her huge bed with them two. The three of us put together were not even big enough to fill a full sized bed so it was no problem in a king sized bed. As the night wore on he drug me with him when he went upstairs so that we could secretly... sneak to sleep, before Claudia came upstairs. Good god, it all sounds so complicated now in the days when I would have just tell the silly wench to leave him alone myself... but then you didnt do that.... I have no idea why. Less then 6 months after Steves death I was using this exact same trick to keep my youngest sons father out of my new single life in Tinker Creek apartments.

I sat there with Steve that whole weekend. I was there in case he wanted to go anywhere, that was pretty much my purpose together in the eyes of all of our friends, and even us to a degree. By this point he wouldnt even let Susan drive his car anymore... remember when I said I stayed the most sober?..... yeah. So only Joy drives my car. Wow, and I enjoyed it. It was nice to drive a Mustang to my GED classes instead of my huge ass Dodge Dart birth year model car. That Monday night, the 16th of May 1993 I spoke to Cathy whom I hadnt seen in a bit and she wanted to come pick me up and we would go out and chill somewhere. I said it was fine with me and she could pick me up at Claudias. I checked and rechecked with Steve asking if he wanted to go with us. I so hard wished he had but Im sure he didnt go because he would have had to hear a world of shit from Claudia about taking off with 2 girls, even if one was me. @ haha at that even. I remember even now, something that I paid no attention to at all then. The view, the look, the motion of that moment wasnt right. Perhaps its just my fried out brain crackling electricity where it doesnt belong but Im sure now, that when I look back on that moment I told him good bye, it felt distant... and near at the same time. I have no way to explain it except that when my memory sees it now, it sees it as it does a fight or a severely traumatic incident. Slow motion, things off in time or order a bit, and clouded over almost physically with something that makes the entire scene just hazy enough to be eerie. So many days, weeks, years even to have gone by to still be able to gain that picture from a moments notice to my brain. Thats how thick and important the memory was I guess, and I didnt know that yet either.

"Are you sure you arent going anywhere?" I remember specifically asking.
"Nope, just gonna hang out here" I also remember.

That and the nod and wave of my right hand towards him leaning out of the upstairs window of the apartments, watching his hair blow in the wind as Cathy started and drove the car away and I was gone.

And so was he.

The beauty and irony of trust.

He trusted me so much. After that night where I offered to help him keep his job, he not only trusted me, but he went far out of his way to let others know I was the only one he trusted. Only Joy is allowed to drive my car. Only Joy can come inside when I go by my house. Only Joy and I are going to go there together, we will meet you guys later.

He had confided in me that Claudia was getting on his nerves really bad. Claudia lived in Tinker Creek, the same apartment complex I was waiting on a slot in. We stayed there, him and I, and even Susan sometimes, for most of that years winter. It was 1993. Thats hard to type. That was over 10 years ago, and here I am, no closer to learning what my friend died for, or why things played out like they did, or why I felt so weak and responsible for his death.

I guess I still remember it like the 19 year old girl in me did. We were talking about relationships, very candidly, as always. And he told me he wanted Claudia to step back a little bit, but that he never had the balls to tell girls stuff like that. He didnt, he never wanted to hurt anyone really, not even just a little bit. So in our screwed up heads we decided that if he had a big hickey on his neck next time he seen her she might get the point. Laughing like the 9 and 10 year old on the couch who wanted to try out kissing, I remember giving him those hickeys, big ass obnoxious ones of course. As if he had been locked up with a mechanized hickey machine instead of a human being... the next day him and I had to go pick her up from somewhere.....
I remember sitting in the back seat, feeling awful but trying hard not to laugh at the same time... the girl was a nagging bitch. Lol. But it was still hard to listen to her rage about some "whore" who he was messing with when I sat there knowing he was only trying to escape one. It was one of those hilariously funny moments that you could only share with one other human being. The rest of the world would call you cruel or sick for it but we were very normal in our need to free him from her.

We spent a lot of those nights at Claudias with her kids, her dad Claude, her brother Billy.. who dated Susan briefly, and sometimes Bobby. (wow these names sound redneck lol) Played drinking games, sat outside relaxing... pretty much the only things you can do when you live in housing projects. It seems like I remember going home for one night around in there. I know I was away from Claudias for one night. The night I was gone Steve and Bobby had apparently went near Joe somewhere. Joe was Bobbys cousin and somewhat of an unwanted person in our crowd. He was referred to as a narc and oddly had some rat like features, I think he was called Weasel, how appropriate, so much that he ended up having a weasel tattoo'd on his arm. Well apparently Steve had said something to Joe that he didnt like. So Joe and him fought quite a bit from what I hear. And Steve ended up with about 3 or 4 stitches in his eyebrow, and one in his lower lip halfway to his chin. Joe was a dirty bastard and Steve was like 5 foot 3, maybe 120 lbs, so there was pretty much no other end available for that. Odd how things like that dont happen around me usually or something prevents me from being involved. Which I would be. Maybe something somewhere is trying desperately to save my tired ass. I cant stand the injustice remember? Well I truly cant. If I see it, I must do what I can to stop it. I'm pretty sure as I sit here that my chances of dying over something exactly like that are high.

After a bit of Joe verbal bashing the night following the fight. Steve, Claudia, Susan and I were sitting around in the living room. Susan asked me to read Steves cards. I cant remember if it was something playful about when Steve was going to get to kick Joes ass or something but I agreed to get them out. I dont know if I will ever say that the Tarot was anything but a medium to me. I will likely never believe the cards have some innate power of their own and arent totally subject to the user who wields them. But they did show me things, they always had. When things are shown so clearly to a person, clear, cut and dried and factual to a tee, they get uncomfortable. They also blame you kill the messenger style. It was fair to say that most of my friends took the cards seriously. Some even refused readings after an initial one where some of their private thoughts became public through my view of them through the cards. But no one took them as a joke. The readings at the time were celtic cross style and a query to the reader. Meaning, the person who was getting the reading asked a question, silently or even shared with anyone in the room but the reader of the cards. Whereas the reader would then interpret the cards through phases of the persons life, past, present or future.
I remember that smile. The sly one that you get when you have very distinct native american features like high cheekbones, narrow eyes, white teeth and long thick brown hair. I remember the laugh inside of his smile as I laid out those cards. Each card worse then the last. Each one indicating an end to things as we knew it. Steve was outright laughing at our seriousness in regarding the cards. As I finished up the reading, skipping over a lot of things and being a lot annoyed with his laughter at such an ugly read, I did my usual ritual with those cards, put them together, put them in their tiny box, put the box away in my other belongings and looked right at him "What did you ask?". I always got to ask afterwards, it was a good way in which to judge my accuracy. At one time I figured that I was around 86% accurate in overall aspect of the reading. That is not a low number.
"I asked if I was going to hell when I died". He said. Susan and I just stared at him. She had been with me at parties where I read those cards for friends of hers, she had known forever, I had known 5 minutes and was telling them things about their lives only the closest to them knew. I used to read them regularly.... before that day.
"What the hell?? Why would you ask that???" I dont remember if it was Susan or I first who asked. He just told us we were silly women and to get over it. Laughed at us a lot probably. Probably had us laughing at ourselves. Somehow, we both really just accepted it as that. I dont think either of us was totally comfortable with it, but not so uncomfortable we mentioned it again.

We had no idea he would die 3 nights later.

How high? So high that we could touch the sky...

That night renewed an old but much cherished friendship. He was without Ann, I was without a father for my son, but we were back to where we started, nothing in the world to depend on but each other. Without checking in my handwritten journal for dates it seems like about the next 6 months we spent before his death were some of the best times in my life. Somehow, somewhere during this time I met Susan. And then I met Claudia. I cant even remember how Steve met Claudia but she was older then us, at around 28 or so to our 17's and 18's. She already had 2 kids and was a redhead like me.

There were many many nights and many incidents that showed me just how much our friendship was desired and respected. Nights where Steve secretly told me he didnt want us to hang out with the rest of the crowd, to just do our own thing and let them do theirs. I always agreed. There were nights when he ditched others just to pick me up or come by and keep me company. Steve was dating around and all the girls he dated knew him and I were just very old friends but I'm sure it didnt help them to see him and I leaning onto each other back to back, sitting so near while our friends were jumping around being wild teenagers. And Im sure it was just a tad more then intimidating for them to know that I would have torn in two any chick who dared to hurt or disrespect him. I would have. Steve was tiny like me at that time but just wasnt a fighter. I didnt want to be a fighter, but for my friends, for the people who meant so much to me, I did anything. He always knew that. I remember one time specifically that Susan, Bobby and I went to Ann's house with Steve. He was up to no good when he went there and we knew it, he was hurt that Ann was with another guy we all knew. I was in the back behind the drivers seat only because Bobby was in the front passenger with Susan sitting right next to me. Once we got to Ann's house and Steve got out I looked out the back window to face the crowd that had drawn there only to see Steve being tossed around and physically pushed around by two or more guys there. I immediately began scrambling to get out of the car. I looked at Bobby and then looked at Susan and realized that neither planned on doing anything to protect him. I remember screaming at them to let me out and following it with a string of insults about how they could let him stand there alone like that. They said nothing, but they wouldnt let me out of the car. Maybe they thought they were protecting me but in my eyes there was no excuse for leaving a friend out to dry like that, there never will be. Bobby even leaned on the drivers seat so I couldnt tilt it up to open the drivers side door in front. It wasnt long that Steve got back in the car just minorly scuffed up but I was disgusted to the core. The energy that it took to keep from screaming out what they had done was enormous... but once I looked at how hurt he was by Ann's betrayal, I decided it would be a long time before I told him of any more betrayals done to him. As usual, our nights ended one way. Susan and Bobby were dropped off and because Steve and I lived so close together we were the last to head home. Steve almost never made it home before sunrise. We would pull up to my parents house. Park half in the street, half in the yard, the car tilted to one side because of the rise of the street..... kick the seats all the way back to the backseat, stare at the ceiling and just talk. About everything, like gossiping little old women. Sometimes raging, sometimes giggling, always laughter of some sort and from time to time a bit of secret sharing and burden unloading. There were nights that it was so hot we just laid there and bitched about it, and there were nights it was soooo cold we had to sleep in the same bucket seat just to keep warm. I dont think either one of us had any idea why we were sitting in the yard in a car in 30 degree weather instead of just going into our warm homes and gossiping later.

So long before this time, when I was around 12 or 13 I had went to the mall with Steve, Jay and Chris... I remember we had walked, and as I came home my mother was furious with me. She slapped me down in the floor and we actually fought a bit. My dad called from out of town and while she had him on the phone, I grabbed some fresh clothes (all of mine had been ripped and torn from me because they had "satanic origins") and lept out of my bedroom window. I ran to the street to find Jay and Steve still standing there. My mom had come out and scuffled with Jay a bit but when Steve seen how angry she was he told me I was going home with him. He had moved from his grandma's trailer very near my house to a house.... right close to the mall where we had just came from. We walked and talked. At age 12, a 2 or 3 mile walk in the dark of a city is a pretty serious event. I remember him putting his arm around my shoulder and saying nothing while we walked, letting me cry, letting me be the scared girl that I never could be when around the gang. I also remembered that for some reason we were all wearing moccasin boots. Those ugly orange things... and that there was about 1 and a half foot of snow on the ground. God we were stupid lol. We prepared for telling Steves parents what we had to tell them to get them to let me stay the night in safety and comfort. The moment Steve opened the door to his house, to poke his head in and tell his story, his brother Jason pipes up "Wheres Joy?." I guess my mom even knew who I found the most safety with and had called them long before I got there. But I felt loved that night, the night his parents welcomed me smiling, made sure we had something to eat, and got those god awful orange boots and now orange socks off our frozen feet so we could sleep.

I will never know what god, creation, fate or what the hell ever had a hand in strapping us together for that last year of Steves life had in mind. The only thing I keep telling myself is there is supposed to be a lesson in this for me somewhere, and for the life of me I am still not sure I have found it.

We partied a lot those nights and days. There were times that we were out and didnt go "home" for weeks. Of course I checked on my son, and even had a job off and on during this time, but these were the days.... literally. And I had no idea. After all the drunken driving, after all the dangerous things we did to ourselves with little or no fear.... one night Steves car stalled out.. he had went to pick up Susan and was then on the way to get me, when a cop pulled up. The cop found old opened alcohol containers in Steves car, and quickly cited him with that ticket. Of course that ticket cost him his license.

His car! All he could think about was that. How could he keep working at the pizza place delivering pizzas with no license? He couldnt. The nights we went out I always drove it seemed, because I stayed sober the most... and thats saying a bit. But then he lost his right to drive, and people seemed to disappear. Knowing the impending court date and that Steve would fly straight when he had to save his car or fun, they just stopped.. being there I guess. He was really raging the night before he had to go to work without a license about them just disappearing like that. Helping him get the ticket but not helping after, he was bitching hardcore. I had drove him to court over that fine. I remember the night and the words so distinctly it is still as if yesterday. He kept asking me what he was supposed to do. Making a joke out of the day I spent sitting in court with him, to find out he had to take Vasap, but couldnt work to pay the Vasap fine... the follow up meeting in the Vasap building where I heard him yelling and laughing in their faces when they told him the contradictory manner in which his options lay. I remember looking at him totally serious and never considering what I was offering when I told him "Dont worry about it, if we have to Ill drive you to work and to deliver your damn pizzas" I remember seeing that toothy white grin in the dark of the car as he looked at my face to see if I was joking.

"You would do that for me?" he had asked. His voice full of humor because he was positive I was joking around.
"Why wouldnt I?" I had replied, matter of factly and never thinking twice about it.
I dont remember him ever replying to that. I think it shocked him to know he had such a friend. Im sure he expected me to abandoned him like most in his short life already had, but I had no intentions of ever doing so. He was only slightly different towards me after that. But not noticable to anyone but me. Perhaps thats why in the end I felt so horribly wrong, so terribly guilty and so awfully responsible.

Real Friendship

Steve was an entirely different kind of friend. Growing up together from around age 7 we really had a quiet bond between each other. Shortly after first meeting him I fell into a hopeless crush with him. I was a little girl growing up with nothing but boys and in that situation, you usually have to become one of the boys, or be alone. It was easy for me to be one of the boys. I was as rough and crude as they were, likely sometimes a bit more. But then there came Steve into our little clique. There was already Chris, a good guy but a bit more on the fake or egotistical side for our taste. Then there was Jay, the outcast one or village idiot in a way. Kevin came around later when I was 11 or so but at that time it was just Chris, Steve, Jay and I. Without having ever said so Steve and I both knew that when it came down to things, if stuff went wrong, if the friendships fell apart that we were the different ones and would stick together because of that if nothing else. Him with his native indian high cheekbones and dark skin was so cute to me when I was 8 years old. It was also an agreement that those nights that we hung out too long, and it got dark and scary outside, the other would have to walk whoever wasnt at home, half way home. I remember very clearly it was always Steve and I at the end of the night. In one place or the other but we were still there when others had long gone. That never changed.

One day when I was 9, so I guess he was 10 or even 11 by then I cant remember specifically. We decided we were going to find out what this kissing thing our older friends were all ranting about. So calmly on his grandma's couch we discussed it and decided we were going to go for it. The second we did his grandma and aunt both came into the living room of his house and we were busted. They just laughed it off at our excuse for attempting it but I doubt either of us ever forgot that moment for long. He was the first boy I ever kissed. I became somewhat infatuated with him for a time after that, but even after that minor fantasy subsided I knew he would be my friend forever.

Around age 15 or so when I got pregnant with Michael, he had finally found a girl he liked. I say finally because there were always girls after Steve. But he never gave any of them a chance, until Ann. I went my way, moved into Michaels fathers house, he went his. He moved in with Ann and her parents. I didnt see him for 2 years at all. I knew he was out there, heard about how him and Ann were very in love, thinking about getting married etc. But I never seen him. I did always stay in touch with his grandma and aunt who had a soft spot for me as Steves first little girlfriend, even though we never were. It was honestly a horrible time in my life, those 2 years. Alone, pregnant... then with a child, and being abused by the worst kind of abuser. A sober one. No friends, no Steve's or Jays or even a Chris to talk to about things. I did find a good friend in a family member of my sons fathers. But nothing of home, nothing of my old life came with me. After 2 years of pretty solid torture I moved back in with my parents for about 6 months. I was waiting for an apartment in a housing project to come through. One night I was out again, of course, hanging with the same old boys, Jay, Kevin... others, and we ran into Steve. I was actually driving and I gave him a ride home after everyone had went home... Again, it was him and I alone at the end of the night.

"Its been good seeing you again Joy" He told me as he sat there, not getting out, not really planning on it anytime soon.
"Its been good seeing you too Steve" And we talked, for hours, until the sun started coming up.
About nothing, about where life had taken us the past 2 years, about where we wanted to be.

Why I let Steve die

This will be a very hard part to write. I know deep inside that I could have done one very simple thing the night Steve died that would have saved his life. But I didnt. I walked away from him, waved at him while he sat in the window of the second floor of a chicks place we were staying at, and got in Cathys car.

"Are you sure you arent going anywhere?" I remember specifically asking.
"Nope, just gonna hang out here" I also remember.

But thats the end of the story, the beginning is a far better picture.