To say that some mornings are rough is a gross understatement. There was not enough acetaminophen or ibuprofen in the world to combat my headache. Most days I don’t even get hung over but on the days that I did it was treacherous. I could drink a distillery and head to work without any problems but once in a while the drink gets you. I finished preparing Carlton’s final resting place and made it back in time to assist in kicking the last keg and then we closed out the bar. The team was good at that. My mind reeled through the previous night as my brain throbbed and I couldn’t help but think I could use a bloody mary.
It was still a shock, I would continually have to remind myself that Ozzy was gone. How long would that go on for? How long would it take for that notion to be normal? The realization that someone you love will no longer be a part of your life is an uppercut from Mike Tyson to the solar plexus. Death is much different than falling out with a friend or a family member or breaking up with a girl, there is always a possibility for reconciliation, there is a chance for patching things up if both parties are flexible, there was nothing more we could do or say to bring Ozzy back no matter how badly we wanted to.
Maeve floated through my pulsating, tortured brain. I had a fair share of guilt retained for her. She would be my first love, a great naive love, and possibly my only one, but that was probably more naïveté. My feelings and my perception were always fluctuating off the charts and as of late I was feeling even more unworthy, more unstable than usual. Some kind of ostracized animal, much less than an actual person. Maeve was the only woman who had ever loved me and cared about my well being, and I was too immature to compute those emotions and far too fucked up to function in a loving capacity, I was self destructive on every level imaginable. I supposed we were all fucked up, some more than others, even as a society we harbor some form of collective depression, it’s encoded in our dna. Some people are better armed to suppress all those debilitating thoughts, and other people like myself, well not so much, it winds up possessing our minds and crippling us. I didn’t want to hurt Maeve or myself, or anyone that I loved but it seemed that my inner workings were rigged to do so.
It was amusing that for all the kids who disliked me in my borough, they could never hate me as much as I often hated myself.
The house bellowed under the footsteps of my father, as he walked from the couch to the bathroom to piss out the liquor, and back to the couch. I didn’t want to be like my father, or my mother but regrettably I was equal parts both. Part of me wanted to run away from everything I knew and part of me wanted to catch a slow death on the furniture. I genuinely felt bad about the way I felt about my parents. I loved them deeply, I just didn’t like the way they lived or the things they had done. I didn’t envy them. I never lied to myself about my impressions of them as I may have lied to myself about how closely I embodied the traits I disliked about them. I knew I needed to leave Whitestone, that was my mother talking on my shoulder, I needed to get out of that house. It didn’t matter where I went, or did it? It could have been the Navy, or prison. I could pack my shit and go back to the beginning, pull up my roots from the earth, and see how the air of Ireland felt in my lungs. Maybe that was where I was supposed to be. I spent an entire lifetime in Queens, and I no longer felt welcome, only resentful and indifferent.
I took a long scalding shower like the ones you took after spending a dirty night in Central Bookings. I placed the needle of my record player to Gorgoroth’s Destroyer Or About How To Philosophize With The Hammer. I drank some lukewarm dark coffee from a chipped Mets mug. I put on the same old black Levi’s that I wore the night before which were dirty from preparing the burial. The knee on the right leg was torn. I wore a faded Emperor t-shirt. Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk. My Nikes were a gift from Ozzy, and they were dogged with dirt caked into the treads of the soles. My denim jacket was becoming too small, it was tight at the elbows, and it had some stains from spray paint, and the slayer patch was coming off. It was time to start a new one.
As my jacket was bursting at the seams and the stitching was coming undone, it mirrored how my life felt, tearing apart and unraveling. I wanted to shave my head, I wanted something drastic to counter the extreme changes that were already in effect. I reckoned I could use a much needed shot of whiskey. I looked around at the basement in which I dwelled and felt I could easily part with it. I didn’t need the couch I slept on more than my bed. I could abandon all the records, cassette tapes, books and VHS cassettes that I collected and obsessed over. I thought about how I had been so attached to them. When you don’t have much you tend to cling to whatever little you do have. you hold it tightly in your grasp. I felt that I could set a fire to everything. I wanted to burn it all down. Start over. Start fresh. The end is a beginning.
I walked down the street as if I was a tornado. I walked down to the Craven’s house a million times only this time I left a path of destruction. I envisioned all the pre war houses exploding behind me as I passed, with the debris swirling in my wake. Trees fell. Cars crushed. Streetlights were flung into the heavens. If any little pussy ever thought I was an angry person before they hadn’t the faintest clue about real unadulterated anger. Vengeance surged through me.
I turned the corner and saw Mr. Craven sitting on the front steps drinking a beer by himself. The sight of him broke my heart a little more. How was that even possible? If I felt the way I did about the loss of Ozzy well then how must this man feel? How badly did his heart hurt? This loss was irreparable, without consolation, without respite.
“Good morning, Colm.”
“Morning, Mr. Craven.”
“I could never sleep in on a hangover either.”
“Not so much.”
“You need the hair of the dog. How’s some beers for breakfast suit you?”
“Perfectly. Thank you.” I opened the can of Budweiser he gave me and took a big swig. “No work today?”
“They gave me a few weeks off to mourn. So instead of working and drinking, I’m just drinking. I’m thinking I might just put my papers in. Just fucking retire. I have the time. I’m not going to go into the numbers like a lot of other people. I don’t want to be the asshole spouting off about what I’m getting and my pension and what not. I spent almost double your lifetime working with guys who only talked about their retirement. Wanting to speed through the best years of their lives so they can finally live. And for what. I’m fucking old now. What does it matter? I never got that. I’m able to survive financially, if this is surviving.”
“That’s a good thing though. Not wanting for money.”
“Yeah. money is necessary but work doesn’t really make sense to me anymore. A lot of things don’t seem to add up.”
I understood what he meant.
“Losing a child is cruel…” Mr. Craven’s voice wavered a little and he paused and drank his beer.
I wanted to tell him how I sorry I was. I wanted to tell him that it should have been me instead but I didn’t say that to him. It was difficult to speak. I told him that I loved Ozzy like a brother and everyone, not just me, everyone loved and missed him.
“Ozzy was my son. I knew he was a little crazy but he had a brain and a good nature about him. I had nothing to do with that. That was just his way. It would have been nice to see him grow into the man he would’ve become. You guys are men, but not really, you’re just kids. I don’t mean that in a negative way because you’ll always be kids to me no matter how old you get. I don’t think I matured until I was forty and even then. The rest of you all have so much life left ahead of you, so much time to go and to learn what life really is. We all have to figure things out for ourselves. And let me tell you most of it is not great. Not for people like us but we tough it out. Ozzy had, well, a good life. You live your life and you try to have principles and do what you think is right, you try to maintain a positive view of the world even though it’s hard to do. When you face hardships or things happen that you couldn’t imagine happening, it’s life, life betrays you and you’re supposed to stand up and keep moving. It’s not always so easy to do that. Then things like this happen and you sit and drink too much, and you reflect on all sorts of moments during your lifetime, and it stings so much and just confuses you. You don’t remember things the same and it’s like you never had an understanding of anything. You never really understood the world around you. Colm, I know life betrayed you early. I mean no offense by that. That came out harder than I intended.”
“It’s fine. None taken.”
“Life happens and then the perception shifts because you’ve changed and sometimes it seems nothing was the way you thought it was.”
“I get that.”
“It’s fucked. What are you going to do?”
“I was going to enlist. but I don’t know anything now. ”
“Yeah. Marine Corps?”
“The Navy, like my grandfather.”
“I figured you for the Marines but it’s noble to serve your country in any capacity. I wish I had.” Mr. Craven saluted. “So you’re not going to.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I’ve been fucking off at work and I never got back to the recruiter. I feel a little disoriented. A little lost. I’m leaving. I’m just not sure where I’m going. Navy. Ireland. Sing Sing. Ozzy was very opposed to me leaving.”
“Ozzy was being selfish.”
“I know he meant well. He didn’t understand how I felt, even though I love everyone here and I would really miss them, a big part of me doesn’t want to be in this place anymore. He didn’t realize how much I thought about leaving, how strongly I wanted to go away from here.”
“I can’t say that I blame you.”
“I certainly have some things to sort out. I might do all of the above. First I think I’ll go to Tipperary. Kenny is back there doing some things. I’ll go there and see how it is, see how it goes. If it doesn’t work out I’ll come home, back to Queens and follow up with the recruiter and enlist. Sail around the globe. Try to find my footing.”
“We all have to find our own way. I’m not going to try and talk you out of anything. And that is selfish on my part. Based on my life experiences, and what I feel I need to attain closure, I’m not intervening. Whatever it is you boys are whispering about, don’t speak a word of it to me or anyone, no one needs to be aware of it if they do not play a role in it. You are bright boys. You’re all fully aware of the consequences of your actions. I’m sure. As a rule you should never do anything in life that you haven’t thought out and are unable to handle the consequences. You have to be able to live with it. I’m saying this with a great deal of love because right now you’re hurting. We are all hurting badly. Whatever you decide to do is fine with me, but know that this doesn’t have to be your wrong to right.”
“I know.” It was tough sitting there. I had to tell myself to be a man and hold back the tears. This man who sat next to me was more of a father to me than my own father and I had let him down. He had welcomed me into his home and to his table since I was a child. I coughed, clearing my throat, “I know.”
“All you guys are so close. It’s remarkable. You and Ozzy had a great bond but do you think Ozzy would want you to potentially ruin your life on his behalf? I said I wouldn’t interfere. Martin and you were his brothers and nothing will ever correct what has happened. You don’t need to do anything but that is your decision to make. Youth is tricky thing. You guys are so young but the reality for most of you boys will change. Your values will change. Some of you boys may drift apart as you get older. It happens. Maybe it’s an argument over something minor. Maybe it’s because the wives don’t get along. Maybe nothing happens at all but you still don’t bother with anyone. People move out of the neighborhood and lose touch. You think you’ll be friends forever and maybe you will but maybe you won’t.”
“Shit happens, Colm. In my experience some people who I thought would always be in my corner, were not, and over bullshit. Life is strange. You should never have to think about why you’re friends with someone, or why they are in your life. Once you have to question someone it’s already done. There shouldn’t be any justifications. It should just be. I think it goes for all relationships. The truth is that is not always the case. So whatever you decide, think of the larger picture and not just this minute world you’re living in now.”
“I don’t see how Ozzy and myself, or Martin, or Viggo, or even Philip could not be friends anymore.”
“At this stage in your life you wouldn’t be able to see it.”
“I guess anything could happen but for any of us not to talk anymore some crazy, truly unforgivable shit would have to happen.”
“Most times it’s quite the opposite. Most times friendships end and families split over nonsense. At least in my experience, one can only speak from his experiences. Try to do what you think is right and live your life for you, my boy, not for what other people think your life should be. I always had three sons. Three sons who have made me very proud. Now drink your beer in silence.”