I eagerly boarded my flight with heavy eyelids. In a few hours I’d be in Dublin, on Irish soil for the first time, then shortly after, an hour and fifteen minutes to be precise, I’d be in Thurles. The very place my ancestors started all of their bad habits. I was anxious, but then again I was always anxious. There was a small helping of happiness about being on this island despite everything else that was going on. I hoped there would be a real tangible difference in how I felt about life in Thurles. I hoped I wasn’t trading one shite town for another, but it was never really about the town, now was it.
Whitestone was established in 1645 and had a population of roughly 14,000 people whereas Thurles was half the population and had been in existence much longer. I was worried about a lot of things, my head was clouded with many concerns and probably the smallest one was how I might feel in Ireland. Would I experience any weird deja vu, would it feel as if I had been there before? Would I really miss Whitestone, Queens? Would I yearn to be back in New York City? Would Carlton haunt me? If I never went back to America, I’d keep all of the people and all of the things I loved there firmly inside the fragmented shards of my broken heart.
Man, I missed Ozzy. Imagine the trouble we would have caused if everything played out differently and he was here to take this trip with me. Raising hell in the emerald with him would’ve been grand. No doubt about that. Next time I’ll see my brother will be in hell. If there is an afterlife we’ll link there but I’m not counting on that as a viable option. I thought about the idea of an afterlife a lot lately. I imagined things but there were no white haired, long bearded men unlocking any gates, or illuminated staircases, nor were there any Dore illustrations. Are people given any choice when they die? When I thought about the afterlife I mostly wondered about Beetlejuice and how the afterlife was depicted in that film. I hoped it was like that. I heard ghosts walking around my house. Ozzy might have been into haunting his house just to fuck with Martin.
One night in my house the existence of an apparition was hard to deny. Someone or something walked around the entire house. I heard it, and it weirded me out. I armed myself with a golf club, an iron, I walked upstairs ready to swing as I had on other people and cars, it still had the paint of some poor kid’s car on the head. I searched the house. The windows were secured, the doors were locked but there was no one inside the house but myself and my father, drunk and asleep on the couch. The Legend Of Hell House on the television. I turned off the television and I blew out the candles he had lit. The house always felt haunted. There was no logical explanation to what I had heard and the sceptic in me searched for a reasonable answer to the question of what made those noises. The house made noises, certainly, all houses did, but to creak in successive steps throughout the first floor of our ranch. From here on out I’ll conclude any ghosts I hear rattling chains or skulking about will just be Ozzy checking in.
Survivor’s guilt rattled me to my unstable core. If only we could have traded places just to preserve the truth, that was the person he was, an embodiment of truth. Ozzy would never tell you what you wanted to hear. He spoke impartially, with genuine verity and frankness. A man of principle. He would have gone on to do wonderful things with his life. No doubt about that.
As time and tide waited for no man, time would go on without Ozzy even if the acknowledgement or realization of that felt cataclysmic to our group of friends. Time always went on but it seemed impossible to move on. You’re supposed to go back to normal, get back to work, into the swing of things regardless of the fact that you feel broken and can’t find the meaning in all the mundane aspects of life that you’re supposed to carry out with regularity. We would grow old and he would never age. We would get married, some of us maybe, and Ozzy never would. He didn’t have any children. If Maeve and I settled down, and we had kids, they would never know their Uncle Ozzy and that was heartbreaking and mind-blowing at the same time. How is this reality? Ozzy would never get to play catch with a son or watch his daughter dance in a recital. He would never take his kids for rides on the Harley Davidson he always wanted. He would miss out on all those life fulfilling moments that we never even knew could be a thing or mattered because we were caught up in our raucous youth. It was unsettling.
The celebration of impending birthdays and other milestones, and finding happiness in a trivial everyday ordinary thing felt like a slight to Ozzy. Nothing in this world is ever fair. Although, Ozzy’s character would not allow for any condemnation or bitterness, he would want us to be happy even if happiness felt wrong and caused shame to linger in our conscience.
On the other hand, Ozzy would not have to sit through any insufferable moments ever again, and in life there are many. He would never feel shitty again, he would never be sad or make a bad decision. He would no longer have to deal with the imperfections of this world and for that, I was secretly jealous. He would never again have to do something he didn’t really want to do. He would not have to eat crow, shit or any other unappetizing thing people try to shove into your mouth on a daily basis. He was free from all the bullshit and I envied him for that.
A photograph of Ozzy and me hung tilted in his bedroom, in a cheap frame he got from a drug store. The photo was taken of us on my birthday a few years back. We drank everything we had and then some. We had a tendency to get wild, not just Ozzy and myself, all of us could get out of control. We were rowdy overgrown boys, admittedly. We usually broke things. Windows. Furniture. Christmas trees and decorations. That particular night we emulated our favorite wrestlers from our childhood, Rowdy Roddy Piper and the Ultimate Warrior, wrestling all over the Craven’s living room. The top rope was the couch and the dinner table.
I dove at Ozzy’s legs, attempting to tackle him at the knees, only he moved out of the way. I crashed head first into the Craven’s television stand, a large piece of solid wooden furniture, which was older than dirt. Shirtless and drunk, I knocked myself unconscious. Sweaty and asleep, with a trickle of blood from a small gash above my temple that the corner of the stand dug out. Ozzy used a disposable camera to snap a picture of himself giving a thumbs up beside my lifeless body. They woke me up, though it was the only time in my life I had ever been knocked out, and more than a handful of assholes have tried. I was conscious but not there, the lights were on but nobody was home, I didn’t know who my friends were, I didn’t know who Maeve was, I hadn’t been able to recognize anyone, I barely knew my own name. Apparently I was unsure of my surroundings but still down to do shots at Ozzy’s suggestion. They continued to party downstairs as I was put to bed on the couch.
I had no recollection of that event. The only proof was when I woke up I had a cut on my head and dried blood on the couch pillows. The pictures were developed months later when I had almost forgotten about the idiotic debacle. That morning I had no headache or pain despite the knot and wound. I most likely had sustained a minor concussion. I felt deeply depressed. I was embarrassed by my behavior. What was wrong with me? Why did I have to always go that far? Was I an alcoholic? Did I inherit psychological issues? Was it both? Ozzy was the one who cheered me up. He said to shrug it off. He said that I was being stupid worrying about such nonsense. Who gives a fuck? No one was dead. He said it was one of the best nights he ever had. Ozzy knew that I was prone to feeling badly about myself and that I got hung up on things, letting my mind get the better of me and he would shoot it down for me. He wanted everyone to be happy, and if it wasn’t fun then what was the fucking point.
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