For All Our Friends Who Died Way Too Young
Fletch was the first person my age I knew who died. I was 19 and in college and Sato had called and left a message on our answering machine weeping “Fletch is dead. He died in a car crash” over the telephone lines that stretched from San Diego to Santa Cruz. Fletch was Filipino, or maybe Mexican – to be honest it was so long ago I don’t remember. He had a mediocre mustache and brown skin. He had a blue bong. We called it Smurfette because of the Smurfette sticker on it and we’d say things like “Where’s Smurfette. I want to kiss her.”
Weed was the thing that held many of us together, that and boyhood kinship, and there were up to 20 of us some nights sitting in parking lots in strip malls in San Diego’s endless suburbia. Fletch had just shown up one day with a guy named Drummer John, and we were all 15 or 16, and Drummer John was married to a girl named Gabby from some place like the Ukraine or Poland or the Czech Republic. They were married and they kinda hated each other and I guess it was the only way she could’ve stayed in the country.
“Fletch is dead. He died in a car crash” we played the message a couple times. Fletch was dead. He couldn’t have been more than 20 years old. The dumb motherfucker was racing his car, doing things you do when you’re not more than 20 years old, and crashed it. He burned to death in the Rice Rocket he was so proud of – he was the first person I heard use that term which makes me think he was Filipino after all.
That was a wonderful year. I was 19 years old and living in my first ever apartment. It was a one bedroom. Jeremy and I shared the room and we had a living room where we had parties every Tuesday night and if one of us was getting laid they had to do so on the earth tone paisley futon in the living room. I had that thing for years afterwards and it got fucked on so many times. Thinking back, I don’t know if it ever got washed. The goddamn thing probably had more DNA on it than a season of CSI.
That was a magical year. I know magic was involved because it was one of those times in my life where I knew what was happening to me was important even at the time it was occurring and I felt like a grownup and acted like a teenager. It wasn’t like now where you just go through life and look at the date and say “How the hell did it become November already.” No, the things that happened were important and I knew so even though to this day, I can’t explain how they were, considering that most of them were so banal. That little apartment in Cypress Point in Santa Cruz was a novella in itself but maybe those are other stories for other times.
That was a terrible year. It was the year my grandpa died, and Danny shot that kid in the face, and George Canada died. And when George died that was the one I really felt because I’d known George since junior high and we were friends and I really liked the guy even if he was kinda a fuck up. And he was probably kinda fucked up when that bus hit him while he was riding his motorcycle.
George told stories like “This morning I woke up in a bush” and he looked like a friendly stoned lion with his long blond hair that went far past his shoulders and the blonde scruff that covered parts of his face that almost qualified as a beard. And in high school there’d be keg parties in the dark corners of public parks or on high school baseball diamonds and George would bellow “Community Bowl!!!” which meant that everyone with weed would convene and each of us would toss a little bit into a pipe and all of us would smoke it. Back then we competed to see who had the coolest pipe and the coolest reusable keg cup. George’s cup was the best. It looked like a tit and you could drink beer out of the nipple and you’d be there talking to someone and George would walk up and shove the nipple in your mouth and make you drink beer from it. That sweet sweet dead young boy.
I don’t know if I ever cried when George died. I didn’t go to his funeral. It was Spring Break but I didn’t want to go back to San Diego. Danny shooting that kid and George dying were too much for me so I went and hung out in San Francisco instead. I remember the last time I’d seen him was New Year’s Eve a few months before. But like I said, I don’t remember if I cried for him when he died, but years later when I was sharing a different one bedroom apartment, this time with a girlfriend in San Francisco, I had a dream I was partying with George and I woke up weeping. George was 20 years old when he died and I was so sad because it wasn’t until that dream that I really fully realized how young that was. I thought about all the stuff he never got to do like legally drink in a bar, or bitch about things on Facebook, or even see the 21st Century. He’s dead. Forever 20 years old, forever looking like a beatific lion bellowing “community bowl” to a group of people who now, 15 years later, can’t even remember the last time they went to a keg party, let alone one filled with underage explorers trying so damn hard to figure out what the hell growing up means.