Green Room II
I next wrote G on a Saturday morning. The howling wind was gale force, and I'd just arrived home. Melanie and I connected the previous night for pizza and a few drinks, but she wanted an early night. That left me high and dry--well, kinda. Graham was out with Joe and their girlfriends for the night, so ol' dumbass here went for drinks on his own. Got myself totally shitfaced. Bob hardly understood a word I said (or endeavored to). His girlfriend was pissed off with me for ruining their evening, and asked Bob to take her home. Bob then drove me to his place where I passed out. I figured he was also pissed off with me because I woke with all my clothes on. Hahahaha!
So, yeah, with all the wind blowing and no company my only option is to get stuck into the books. I need to sleep first, though, because I'm suffering the hangover from hell. There's an axe buried deep in my forehead.
Your memories of Kyle will fade with time. That's the way it is, and the reason why widows and widowers remarry. That's the reason Melanie is falling in love with you. To spend the rest of your life living in the past is to stop the clock. Your memories of Kyle will diminish but not disappear. They will settle and assume their rightful place in your personal scheme of things. Kyle left his mark on you as he did with all of us, which means that, every day, people like us are walking, talking, and living monuments to Kyle's legacy of love and friendship. More importantly, we can pass on his legacy to others.
You miss the drugs? Because they helped you cope? You wanna run that by me again? Helped you to cope? Stuart, it's exactly the opposite. They helped you turn your back on coping. What did you do before the fight with Craig? Watch TV and eat chocolate? No, you trained; you improved your level of fitness to match Craig's. That fight is what life is all about. You cope by training. You cope by facing problems and dealing with them.
Wishing you were the person taken on November 3 instead of Kyle is a load of old codswallop. You're wallowing in self pity. Face the facts and deal with them. Kyle does speak to you. He gives you signs but you fail to recognize them. Look at Graham, look at Melanie, look at Brett, look at the Ts, look at yourself, look at me; that's where Kyle lives. None of us can expect a tap on the shoulder. Whatever lies on the `other side' is no longer physical. Despite claims by various religions, none of us really comprehends it.
Being pissed off at Kyle's death is cool, missing him is cool. No, you don't want Kyle to kiss you one last time because one last time is never enough. Be thankful for what he gave you. Kyle loved a handful of people in real life and you were one of them.
Yes, I've done the self pity trick and gone out by myself to get blotto. Many a morning I woke and wondered what the hell I'd done the previous night. I even found a stranger or two in my bed. EEEEEEK! And here I am, the wise old fossil who spent most of his life wandering in circles. Can you imagine breezing through life without making mistakes? What knowledge would you accumulate? No point in splitting the atom if you can't boil an egg.
Despite Graham's insistence that I was welcome at Joe's barbecue, I remained unconvinced--but Melanie had other ideas. "If Graham invited us it's because he wants us there."
"It's a school thing, Melanie. We'll be like Sid Vicious in a church choir. Besides, Craig will be there."
"You and Craig have sorted your differences, so it shouldn't be a problem. Anyway, I'm going."
"You heard me--I'm going--whether you go or not. I want to ogle all the hunks in the swim team."
"You're impossible--you know that?"
"I'm a woman."
"Okay," I relented with a sigh, "we'll go. But if there's any shit with Craig be ready for an `I told you so', okay?"
Melanie was so pleased with her Oscar-winning performance; she almost sang "see you later".
"Likewise, you sex machine."
In the absence of parents, Joe and Craig were left to their own devices. Their folks went out for the night. There were about 20 guys from the swim team, and their girlfriends, when Melanie and I arrived. Graham rocked over. "Cool that you guys could make it," he beamed. Melanie handed him steaks and crisps, but I figured the Smirnoff was safer with me. Then Graham turned to Joe: "Hey, Joe, I told you they'd come--you owe me 10 bucks!"
Joe gave Melanie the testosterone eyeball and a big hug. His hair was spiked and he wore Levi hipsters and a T that was two sizes too small. But I guess he had all the right in the world to show off his muscles. That contrasted with Graham who wore everything fifty sizes too big. No one realized what a stunning build Graham had until his T came off or when he wore his wetsuit. By the same token, interested observers could guess his build by the way his loose T hung off his chest and away from his flat stomach.
I spotted Craig heading toward us and expected the obligatory chirp. But, no, he was all smiles. "Hey, guys, I heard you were coming." Then he hugged Melanie and gave her a peck on the cheek before he offered his raised hand in a teen-type hi-five.
I wasn't sure how to respond but felt compelled to make some kind of friendly convo. "Cool place you got here."
"Thanks--follow me around back. Everyone's hanging around the fire."
The rear yard was professionally landscaped and featured a large pool. Very impressive. The barbecue, complete with an adjoining bar, was protected from the weather by a thatched roof that covered half the total area. I recognized a few of the guys there, including Dillon, who quickly resumed talking to his friends the moment he spotted me. A couple of them eyeballed Melanie and me, so I guessed Dillon was chirping about the fight between Craig and me. Provided he gave them the whole story and not just the ending, it was cool with me.
Graham and Jacky approached us, and the girls did the usual hug and `howzit' routine. But I was still a long way from being relaxed. Apart from Graham and Jacky, and maybe Joe, I wasn't amongst friends. And to make matters worse, Graham and Jacky disappeared from time to time to leave me alone with the girls to make small talk. Each time the grommet and his girl did return, they were more plastered than the previous visit. "Where the hell are you guys disappearing to?" I asked when Graham and I were alone. "You're getting hammered."
"Joe's got some killer weed. Join us for a smoke."
"Yeah, right, and get Melanie pissed off?"
"Just one smoke. It'll mellow you out. You're looking totally strung."
However, as the evening progressed, we got to know more of the guys there. Melanie knew quite a few of the girls so she busied herself chatting to them. Craig spent his time with the swim team--the Dillon clique. After a while, the notion of smoking a joint with Graham appealed to me. In any case, a lot of the guys smoked as they gathered around the fire, not bothering to hide the fact. Melanie was aware of proceedings. She saw me and didn't freak, so I figured it was cool.
Later, as I mellowed further, one of the guys invited me to share some powder with the group. For a long time, I declined. Eventually, however, the weed and the booze weakened my resolve and I finally accepted. We went to Craig's ensuite bathroom where other guys were snorting.
A chilly wind at 1am failed to deter a lot of the guys from hitting the pool. Most of us swam in boxers or briefs. The swim team guys wore Speedos, which they brought with them in anticipation of the night's inevitable depravity. The night, however, turned out to be a pretty good blast. We guys cajoled, coaxed and even pushed a load of girls into the water. But not Melanie, no way, she was way too smart and fast and knew exactly how and where to escape the madness.
My only hassle, thus far, was with one of the guys whose girlfriend's tits I fondled. He took exception to my adventurous spirit. Why, I didn't understand, because she had a great pair. But before the bloke could cause much trouble, Craig pulled him off of me. Just as well. I could easily have hammered that guy. Hahahaha!
I managed a few more lines of coke to keep me happy as the night continued (to degenerate, if you like). I suspected that Craig and his swim team mates stayed away from the stuff, and I guessed they also gave the weed a wide berth. It was when Melanie and I decided to leave that the shit started. I felt totally straight, apart from the effects of a little too much vodka, when Melanie climbed into me. "How could you share a joint with Graham?" she demanded. "You're supposed to be his friend, Stuart. How can you give him the impression that smoking is cool?"
I wanted to disappear into the nearest hole. Okay, so I was a tad drunk, but Melanie's reprimand made me feel like a stupid little kid. "Uh, in case you didn't notice," I whispered in her ear, "it was Graham who made the offer. Also, he was the one smoking it up with his best mate Joe before we arrived. So before we get involved in a barney, let's drop it. Okay?"
"You can smoke yourself stupid, Stuart, but I worry about Graham and what he might experiment with next. He thinks it's cool because his big mate does it. Do you know what was used at that party tonight?"
"I'm not blind, babes, I know about the coke."
"I know you know because you disappeared with some of the guys and we all knew what they were up to. Is the drug scene gonna start all over again with you?"
"Don't start a lecture, okay? I'm not hooked, and it was just a few lines. I'm fine now. Well, kinda ... hahahaha!"
"Just take me home."
"Don't cry. Stop this shit! You're carrying on like it's the end of the world. So I did a few lines. Fuck it, Melanie, stop walking away from me!"
She spun on her heels and faced me. "Do you realize how different you are when you're high?"
"No, I don't. I'm not high, but tell me anyway."
"You and the guys in the pool behaved like lunatics, fondling the girls. And they were also so damn high they encouraged it!"
"I didn't fondle anyone."
"You don't even remember what you did. That's what I'm talking about; you get totally arrogant, and no one can speak to you without sending you off the deep end."
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry. Okay? I didn't mean to piss you off."
"Kyle would never behave like that when we were out together."
I held her arm and stared her in the eye. "Look at me," I snapped, "I am not Kyle. Kyle is dead. I will never be Kyle, and nobody else will be either. I'm sorry I can't be a Kyle for you, Melanie, but Kyle's not here any more, and I'm me, Stuart. Not Kyle, not Graham, not Craig, not Brett or who-fucking-ever. I'm Stuart, and the sooner you and everyone else get that through their thick skulls the better. I do not want to be a Kyle. I love you but if it's Kyle you're after then I'm gone."
My anger quickly subsided as Melanie dissolved into tears. I felt like an idiot after my outburst. The only reaction that came immediately to mind was to place my arm around her and apologize. "I'm sorry, babes. I didn't mean to upset you."