My original column for this week was going to be about my time performing poetry with comedian John Murdock at a drag bar in New York City, but a good friend passed and I decided to write something to cement a beautiful memory we shared.
When I heard you passed I buried my face in my pillows and sobbed. You were a beautiful soul that passed far too soon. There are so many stories I can tell and maybe one day I will write more on them, but today I want to write about your birthday. It was March and you had just turned 21, we didn’t know what we were going to do but we figured we’d do it big. It had been a year since I had seen you or since you had been in Keyport. You wanted to party it up in Seaside like we had done across the shore in the summer time when the sun was real high in the sky and the women barely dressed. It was March but you didn’t think it was going to be a problem.
We tore down the parkway five thirty packs in Jason’s trunk, a half ounce of weed stinking in my pocket, I sucked on the plastic tip of a black n’ mild as I watched the white lines blur into mirages of warmer days in front of the green signed exits. We found the hotel in barren off-season shore town, I lied to my girlfriend that I was working overnights, turned off my phone, and helped carry the beers up the stairs flicking the burned out mild into their lonely pool. The room was already bumping twenty or so deep, weed on the table, the gremlins inside sitting across the beds, sipping on beers, rolling up blunts with Dutch-masters.
We filled the fridge with our cheap beer and the games began. The sweet smoke filled the room, we laughed and drank and cheered and spilled beer. Two Seaside goons fell into a shoving match, knocking the coffee table onto its side— the blunt rollers let out a scream and swear before falling to their knees to pick up the fallen green. It was a typical night of barbarism that we had lived a thousand times across the Bayshore streets. The fights, the sex, the drugs, the booze— it was all part of the magic. The two of us made our way through the crowded room to the balcony which hung over the pool and clapped hands and hugged.
“I like that we haven’t talked in a minute but we’re still brothers,” You said, smoking your Newport, sipping a corona.
“We’re family man, I always got you,” I said but it was probably something not sincere enough. We finished our drinks and tossed them over the balcony into the pool, they hit the water with a splash.
Back in the room, the fighting had cooled, only a lamp had been tossed over. A knock had broken the laughs and the screams of the crowd, with just two knuckle taps on the wood door the entire room full of derelicts had quieted to silence. I hid behind the door, chugging the rest of the beer, and praying to whatever patron saint of partying I could think of that it wasn’t the cops. The door opened as much as it could until it hit my big gut and rebounded, I spit some beer out onto my flannel.
The Indian owners of the hotel barged in. “You leave now! Drugs and alcohol! We’re calling police!”
I pushed the door shut and locked it. The entire room sprang up and collected the drugs into their pockets and the beer into the bags and purses of the group or into their pockets whichever they had. I had two cans stuffed in my pocket when we tore out of their, past the balcony, down the stairs and passed the old Indian man who cradled a wired phone to his ear. There we were almost two dozen young fools with bags and pockets full of beer, so we knew we couldn’t be beat.
We hit the next hotel but before we even got to the room they kicked us out.
The one down the road let us in for an hour before they canned us.
The third spot owned by two Koreans didn’t say shit, instead they called the police and had us forcibly removed.
We all split out into the Seaside streets, half of the group beat feet home and I awkwardly ran my fat ass down the boardwalk where I saw you pacing up and down. The majority of us had priors and the last thing we needed was to get popped from some bored cop on the boardwalk. We made our way to the beach and waited it out smoking the rest of your cigarettes until Jason, Lou, Jeff, and your brother found us. He said he had a trailer down in Manahawkin we could party in.
It was worth it we thought.
We took off out of Seaside like we were escaping a foreign country and bounded down the highway thirty minutes to Manahawkin, where Todd directed us off the main roads down to the fucking boonies where this old trailer park was. It had been closed up on by the landlord, padlocked, and abandoned for the better part of a year.
“It should be fine though” Todd said as he wiggled the lock from the door.
It was dark as all hell and kind of smelled like rotten chicken in there but that is where we spent the rest of your birthday. The six or so of us, we drank the rest of the beer and laughed and told stories. Your brother chased one of the drug dealers down the road and we practically keeled over in hysterics, the group of us would make our way to the Wawa down the road, drunk and suspect. We tried pissing our names into the asphalt but could barely hold ourselves up. We stumbled back to the old trailer that smelled like rotten chicken and marveled at how great it was to be alive.
One by one we each passed out across the darkness of Todd’s old trailer and in the morning we would leave Manahawkin behind in the rearview mirror, never to step foot there again.
Deep down inside man, I would trade it all to just be back on that tattered couch in that trailer telling old stories with you and hearing you laugh one last time.
Love you brother,