Bologna and Mountain Dew

When Dad handed me the newspaper on Sunday to let me read the obit for one of my high school classmates, I don’t think even I could have predicted the way in which I would react. Though I knew of at least one other guy who’d passed on in the years since graduation, I hadn’t been particularly close to him. But as I read John Langworthy’s obituary, recalling the kid I spent so much time with back in middle school, and the brilliant guy I lost touch with but still knew from afar at CHS, I was saddened immensely. Someone I grew up with, someone whose house I slept over, someone I called friend, if only for a short while, was dead.

We’d come over for football and dinner. Soon, the Pats were losing. Soon after that, so were the Sox. Still trying to comprehend my one-time friend’s passing, I was left with this overwhelming feeling of wastefulness. What was I doing, sitting there watching a football game (that my team was losing) when I had a novel to finish writing, when I had other things to do? Did I think I had all the time in the world to do these things? Obviously, I didn’t. John didn’t, and that made me sadder and angrier than I can explain.

When the Pats had finally pissed away the game, I wandered out into my parents’ yard. I walked up the driveway, thinking about why I was so angry, why I’d been yelling at the TV for them to fire Belichick when he didn’t challenge a play I thought was questionable, and why I screamed for Brady’s head when he threw a pick. It was more than the usual disgust I display when my teams are doing poorly, which is what Stephanie told my parents it was when they asked, “Is he like this at home?” Nobody could have known that it was something deeper bothering me, because, for a good long while, I didn’t even realize it myself.

A flood of images hit me… bologna sandwiches and Mountain Dew for lunch at his house… begging him for the chance to play on his computer, because I didn’t have one at home, because I was addicted to Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?... going to see Turner & Hooch with him and Shawn… hanging out his basement with his brother and others, playing video games or role playing games, and, I’m not even sure if this last one is a real memory, but I remembering them having a lot of Legos, like a whole Lego city or something…

After a little while, Mom came out to see if I was ready for dinner. I think a mother will always be the first to know that it’s more than football that’s bothering her child. And I was glad that I was there, at home, with my Mom to comfort me, when I heard this news. We talked for a couple of minutes, and she cheered me up, pointing out at the vast green expanse of the backyard, conjuring for me images of chasing my own child around back there, images that, until recently were purely theoretical but were now more like premonitions.

I hadn’t spoken to John at all in the ten years since graduation, so I suppose it’s a bit irrational that I got so upset about his death. But people my age just shouldn’t be dying. They just shouldn’t.