Monday, January 17, 2011
There was no real leader of the group, we were a bunch of strong willed individuals, and trying to lead this group would have only led to disaster, or to the hospital for the one of us stupid enough to try. There were no real reason for some of us to even be friends, except for the love of drink, and the ability to tell (and listen to) a ripping good yarn. It was a happy time for all of us, even if some of us were going through some rough times in the 'real' world. That world that existed outside of whichever bar we were gracing with our presence, that world that each of had to totter off to at the end of our wild drinking sessions, that world that contained the day jobs that we each had to hold down in order to pay for our alcohol fueled 'lively times.' And the times were quite lively, we weren't anything special to look at, and I am quite sure that at times we were quite insufferable to the other denizens of our local, but we didn't really care. We didn't start any bar brawl (but did finish a few), and we paid our tab, and even tipped fairly well. In short, we were rowdy, but not rude, and I am pretty sure at least one of our bartenders bought a new jet ski thanks to our patronage of his establishment.
However, like all good things (and I guess bad things) it couldn't, and didn't last. We were each living on borrowed time, and somewhere down deep inside we all knew it. We knew that whatever fate had banded us together against it, would prove to a fickle bitch, and would eventually pull us apart. We only hoped that it wouldn't be too painful, and that it would take just a bit longer before the wheels started to come off. That is the nature of these types of relationships, all is right with the world for the briefest of moments, and you take the occasional pause to look around you at the six other boon companions you are having such a good time with, and realize one day it is all going to have to end. You only hope that everyone one survived the ending, and that it is quick, and painless. However, with seven wildly diverse personalities, and seven different gene pools, there is always 'one at every party' that makes things just ever so difficult. This post is (eventually) going to be about that one.
Before we get to that 'one' we have to at least begin to see the, ever so subtle, disintegration of the group as a whole. None of us really noticed the loosening of the bonds that once held us so tightly together, but it was pretty plain to see. Perhaps the booze made us blind to the obvious decay, or perhaps we just didn't want to come to terms with the obvious. Either way, it was happening whether we cared to acknowledge it or not. It felt sudden, but in fact it was just merely inevitable, and when it came it came with the force of a Mongol Horde. One day we were seven in clover, the next day we were buzzing about the news of one of us 'tying the knot.' It can happen just that quickly. We all knew, the one tying the knot most of all, that we were now going to be six. He wasn't dying, but we knew that things just wouldn't or couldn't be the same. After all, if you have six, and a vote is necessary, a 3-3 tie is quite likely to be the outcome, and we had just lost the tie breaking vote. We were, quite rightly, devastated.
He tried to pretend that things weren't going to change, but we all knew by the shake in his voice, and the look on his face that he was lying. He knew it too, he just didn't want to be the one to say it aloud. We had a fellow for that kind of stuff (not him), and eventually he did get just drunk to say exactly what we were all thinking. "Well, that's him then isn't it?" was the general gist of his summation, and we all knew he was right. But, being stalwarts of the art of comradeship, and drinking, we soldiered on, we even went to the wedding, and afterward placed bets on how long the marriage would last. Then we were six.
Most things that begin to fall apart do so rather quickly, and once we lost our first man, the others started dropping like flies. One moved away to another state, cleaned up his act, and seems to have found some sort of religion. It is a disturbing image for those of us who knew him back in the day, but he seems to be happy. And I guess happiness takes on many forms, even if we don't understand it, or even approve of it. It was quick, brutal, and necessary, but his leaving was still a blow, and it left it mark on us all. Then we were five.
I supposed after that fate sensed the weakness in the remainder of our happy band, and she begin to lob life changing hand grenades at us like kids in a Halloween water balloon fight. The next to go decided to try his hand at his own business ( a bar of all fucking things), and while it wasn't too far from us, the remainder just was too deeply in their 'drinking rut' to be bothered going those miles out to the place. It was not a happy chapter in the history of the group that several of us never even went to the joint to at least have one beer, and catch up on old times. It is a solid black mark against the survivors that we did not do this simple task, and some of us still feel the shame all these years later. It was a roaring success, this new business, until recently when mother nature (the bitch) decided to drop six feet of water onto the place. It was not pretty, and it proved to be a watery grave for the business. But, that is getting ahead in the story, after he left, we all missed him, and talked about 'going to see him' as if he was in Federal prison, but like I said, we never did. Then we were four.
These 'defections' begin to take their toll, like an infection that just keep getting worse, weakening the host before finally finishing it off. We tried our own brand of 'anti-biotics' by trying to bring other people into the group to replace the ones that had left. That was not a success, we made the mistake of trying to go 'co-ed', and, as expected that was a raging failure. We became really good at failures after a while, and anyone with any brains could see that the death knell had been sounded, it was just the remainder of us that were deaf to the bell's toll.
The love bug struck down another one of us pretty quickly after we when co-ed, and the blushing bride (really a lovely girl) was one of the females that had crossed our gender line. It was a bitter lesson, and we learned it the hard way. Women have a tendency (without really meaning to sometimes) to complicate things. It was another wedding that the rest of us were required to attend, and happily enough it is still going strong today. We all are glad about that, and we do not begrudge the couple their perfect life (it is disgustingly perfect in many ways) but there is always that little bit of 'he was ours first you know' feeling that lingers even today. It isn't a pleasant feeling, and it isn't really held with any malice, but it is there none the less. Then we were three.
Marriage had claimed two of us and two of us had relocate, so now relocation decided to take the lead. One of us got a job halfway across the country that he just couldn't turn down, and he had to pack his trash and move. He was in many ways one of the stalwarts of the group, he could always be depended on to just be there, and in this kind of company, just being there counted for a lot. He became incomprehensible to understand when he was deep into his cups, and on more than one occasion I was the only one able to understand a word he was saying. Eventually, he became impossible even for me to translate, and I would have to tell him that "I haven't understand a word you've said in 30 minutes, it's time for you to go home." And, he usually did, muttering something unintelligible, but probably vaguely threatening in our direction, he would stride out of the place like he actually had somewhere to be. He eventually did have somewhere to be, and that was a place about 2500 miles away from the rest of us. He is deeply missed to this day. Then we were two.
The surviving two of us took at look around at the carnage, and came up with radically different solutions to what they thought was the problem. One of us quit altogether, he put down his booze filled glass one day, declared he was 'off the sauce' and has been seen very rarely since. He is trim, and slim, and all healthy now that he doesn't try to poison himself with alcohol four times a week, but he can be quite a bore. He was a loquacious drunk, which is acceptable, but now he is just a sober guy that talks a bit too much, which isn't nearly as much fun. I can not fault him for taking his chosen path, and he seems to be actually enjoying the sober life, which does boggle my imagination, but I guess there is no counting for taste. He seems to be happy, and I suppose happiness is hard to find drunk, maybe if you're sober happiness grows on trees. I don't know, nor do I intend to find out, but I wish him all the best. Then we were one.
As you might have guessed this post is about that one. The one that was left behind. Unlike our sober fellow above this one chose the darker path. I think he chose to attempt to make up for the other six leaving by drinking their share of hooch as well. He did a valiant job of trying, but eventually it became more than he could bear. We didn't fall off of the planet, and the ones of us that stayed around would try to stop his descent down the path of destruction, but we just were not able to. Maybe if we had been around a bit more, or paid just a bit more attention, or just punched him in the mouth a couple of times as a wake up call, things would have been different. But, we didn't or couldn't and things went about as badly as they could have gone.
We couldn't help but feel that, at some fundamental level, we failed him, failed to see what the 'break up' of the group had done to him, failed to realize, that while he may have been the brightest of the lot, he was also the one who had the most demons. And demons are horrible, horrible things. They get inside of your head, and say the most cruel things, things that aren't close to being true, but you don't know, or want to know that. The sauce has clouded your judgment, and your ability to determine which are true, and which are false. None of us realized that was the battle taking place with our buddy on a daily basis, we were either too wrapped up in our own lives, or just too fucking stupid to pay the required amount of attention. And it was attention that was necessary, attention to the war being waged within his mind on a daily basis Attention to the war he was losing step by bloody step. By the time any of us sorted out what was going on it was too late, and we (the ones that could make it) were attending another, much more solemn, ceremony with him. Now there are six of us.