The One Where I Remember Something Touching

April 1, 2008 at 12:44 am (Uncategorized)

Friends:

My friend Gary, war-veteran-turned-law-student, posted this on MySpace as a sort of reply to one of those dumb memes I did. One of the questions was about a strong memory, and I wrote about Our Alex (the one my daughter is named for). Our Alex died at age 23, just before graduating from Eastern Carolina University. The man who was driving the car (I know from my internet-stalkiness that he is alive and has children, lucky him) did something awful and she died instantly.

Gary is writing below about his last year in high school. At that point I was already in college (waiting for Gary–we had our times in college too) but have similar memories of those same poorly-supervised school trips out of town (thanks to our participation in Carver Creative and Performing Arts Center, now BTW Magnet HS).

My strongest memory of my last trip to Tuscaloosa–okay, besides drinking Thunderbird out of the trunk of Ken’s Pontiac LeMans!–is the morning I drove to Alex’s house on Woodley Road. We had to be at Carver at some ungodly hour that morning so we could all caravan to UA for some Alabama Scholastic Press Assn thing.

It was February. Alex’s house was, if you’re familiar with Montgomery at all, diagonal from Westminster Presbyterian Church on Woodley Road. There was a stoplight at her driveway and it was a bitch to get in and out of.

February and October are my favorite months for the cold and the sunshine–a giddy combination for me.

That morning this patch of ice would just not let go of my windshield. I had a 1988 Jepp Comanche pick up truck. So I drove from my house in old Woodmere to Alex’s house with this little prism catching my eye. I was listening to Tori Amos’s Under the Pink album, which was kind of new. I had just turned 18. It was 1994.

When I see a patch of ice like that, even 14 years later, I can’t get her voice out of my head. We were singing “Icicle,” which if I remember correctly is one of those cleverly written songs about masturbation. Even artsier than Jackson Browne’s “Rosie.”

My little section on the ice patch reminding me of Alex–and of times when I would do just stupid things, like drive 80 miles an hour down old county roads in Elmore and down that freaky section of Woodley Road (Gary was on at least one of those rides I know)–prompted Gary’s passage below.

Gary and I have of course grown apart because we were apart for many years. But the connection that is Our Alex keeps us and others bound with a depth of sadness I can never express.

Here you go:

“…so let me know, if you’re gonna let me in. I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin.

I remember my last year in High School. I attended three different ones in three different places, but right now I remember the last one and the last year.

I remember driving through the Alabama countryside, I would sometimes roll the window down in my old hand-me-down Ford and breathe in the smell of autumn and woodsmoke.

There’s something so desperately sexy about the fall.

I always seem to fall in love when the leaves change color.

I remember school sponsored convoys up to Tuscaloosa.

The official line was that we were going for an “awards ceremony” for our work, but we knew better. It was really just an excuse for us to get away for a weekend with little supervision. Jerry with his ponytail and laid back attitude was no authority figure.

We were just kids, full of big dreams and sexual tension.

What’s that saying about teen-agers? “Young, dumb and full of cum.


I laugh about it now when I look back at how we were back then.

Just kids playing an awkward game trying their best to score.

I remember a water gun fight that got a little crazy and a wet t-shirt contest.

And beer. Way too much beer.

What was that girl’s name again? God, its been so long but I can still see her like it was yesterday in my mind’s eye.

I can still feel her blonde hair on my face.

There was something so tender and sweet about our touching in the dark.

I remember other things. I remember playing my Fender Stratocaster hard. Straddling the stage and hitting that chord with all the enthusiasm and drive of unbridled youthful fury.

A 17-year-old rock God.

It didn’t matter the gig was at some dive, playing for 20 bucks apiece to a bunch of apathetic drunks.

For that moment in time, we were kings of our universe and thats all that matters. That is still all that matters.

Then it ended one night in screech of tires and a pile of twisted metal and blood on the pavement. The survivors just picked up the pieces and moved on, knowing it was over and maybe that was for the best.

It was never going to be bigger than it was.

I remember good-byes. Everyone going their seperate ways, traveling down their own roads. Striking out to make it on their own, sailing to some foreign shore looking for a harbor to call home.

It was bittersweet. And now when I look back, I have to smile.

I wish I could feel immortal again, like I did back then.

There’s an old Bruce Springsteen song that is playing in my head now, something about…glory days…pass you by…

Now that you’ve gotten to the end of this…what old memories bring back that feeling of vulnerable invincibility for you?

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4 Comments

  1. Leigh said,

    girrrlll…I thought of so many of my friends that dies during my years in highschool, or just after.
    The first being one of my best friend’s Heather. She dies in a car accident with two other classmates. They were the first young people I knew to pass. It was horrible. It still feels like a dream.
    Sadly after Heather in just three years other friends of mine passed away all due to untimely deaths: Brad, DJ, Chad. I realized how life can be so final. Funny how life as you know it can change in the blink of an eye.

  2. Leigh said,

    BTW-I failked to mention because I got caught up in the memory, I am sorry for your loss. So very sorry.

  3. MissBossyPants said,

    Sadly, Alex was not the only one. Several others died in car wrecks or from drug overdoses. The first funeral I went to, I was actually 15 and it was a boy from my English class who’d drowned.

    To put this all on a timeline, I met Alex in August 1993, graduated from high school in June 1994, and she died in August 2000. Several of us have daughters named Alex, and it wasn’t planned that way–just something we all discovered when we started using Facebook, MySpace, etc. and reconnecting. My little bitchy six year old daughter Alex is a really good living tribute to my friend LOL They are very much alike!

  4. HEWY said,

    I know exactly where you are talking about on Woodley Road. I can’t think of any vulnerable invincibility because the wonderful made me heart sick a little thinking about old friends

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