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.