It’s about that time again when my old, old, old school friends and I get together to celebrate the life of one of our best buddies, Joseph Jeremy Williams who passed away a lifetime ago.
Around this time I get this trippy feeling like I’m walking through the field at Jackson Jr. High, sneaking off into the woods to share a cigarette or some beaners someone picked out of the bottom of a bag of weed. (We tried smoking the seeds. Lame, I know)
Or hanging in Joe’s bedroom in the basement listening to The Violent Femmes, talking about summer vacation or graduation or the next party coming up. I think we made out on that bed once. Or did we? I can’t remember. I wanted to. I wish I could ask him today what he remembers. Did we kiss?
It’s around this time that I get ripped up and torn around like a tornado, remembering the love we all shared for each other because we were all we had.
There were more of us then. Justin Hammer. That sweet little guy. He really was little. And oh so very sweet. When I was a senior, he was a freshman. I sat in his bedroom in his basement one day after school, too. Only there was absolutely no making out. I was just there to make sure he knew how super cool I thought he was. He was the cutest little hippie kid in his grade. Fluffy light brown afro. And he wore those polyester bell bottoms that the Fresh Prince said were totally no cool which made Justin sooo much cooler. And that smile. Full of light.
I remember at one of the “Joe Benefit Gatherings” probably two years after Joe had died we were all dancing at Kieran’s Irish Pub, covered in sweat and beer and sorrow and love and joy. I was dancing with Justin. Rokcin’ out. Probably head banging or Axl Rose swaying or gypsy twirling.
When the song was over he looked at me.
His eyes smiling.
The kind of smile that says all the things you can never find the right words to say. All the moments we’d ever shared were inside those irises beaming right into my heart.
And I squeezed him. I wrapped my arms around his body that had become, surprisingly, a little more muscular and a little less virginal, and I hung onto him until he knew I missed him and loved him like he was my little brother.
Part of me thought he might try to kiss me right then and there. Like he’d been wanting to all those years but was afraid I’d laugh at him or treat him like a freshman all over again even though he’d grown up and was more dangerous and brave.
I wanted to kiss someone like that once. A magical guy that I hesitate to even write about because, who am I to say anything about Matt Johnson? I really only ever watched him from afar. I was totally intimidated and enamored with his inner strength that permeated around him like a golden halo. He was intuitive and sultry like River Phoenix. He was cool like Christian Slater in Gleaming the Cube.
One night when I was fourteen, I stood alone with him outside a friend’s house. I was balancing on Matt’s skateboard, rocking back and forth on the wheels, toward him, away from him, toward him, away from him. We looked at the stars in the sky. I’d sneak a peak at him, taking in his strong jaw bone and unwashed blonde hair and kept imagining myself asking him if I could kiss him. The question taunted my jittery, tied-up-tongue. I held my breath so I wouldn’t speak. I knew he would say no. But the idea of him saying yes actually scared me even more. I was pretty bold back then. But not that night. I just stood there, immobile when he smiled at me. And that not-so-near-kiss remains perfect in my mind.
It might seem shallow that I remember these guys who passed away so young, with so much more life to live
so much more fucking life to live
with a kiss.
But, in the absence of those kisses remains a perfect story. A secret story about youth and longing and secret loves. I miss those guys.
I miss you Joe, Justin, and Matt. I really fucking do.