Friends who die
I have heard that your childhood and high school friends start dying off when you reach your forties. It starts with about one friend or acquaintance every five years and slowly accelerates until, in your eighties, almost everyone you knew growing up is gone. During my high school years three same-age acquaintances died. I’m in my fifties now and since high school I know for a fact the deaths of a number of people. I can count the number on the fingers of both my hand. I don’t know how my figures compare to others’. In September 2015 I learned of one more, which is particularly troubling to me. First, because I don’t like surprises. Being surprised is one of the worst things for me. Secondly, because it is a female, and I always find it difficult to wrap my mind around the idea of females dying. Third, because it was an important friend, a person who was one of the closest people to me, and certainly the closest female to me during my most desperate days.
It was a Facebook friend told me that he thought LB had passed away a number of years ago. I will try to confirm it during my next hometown visit. I plan to start by visiting the local public cemetery office to inquire after location, the same way I found the father of an old girlfriend this year, who passed away in April 2014 just after I visited the city. But already the idea that LB’s death might be true upsets me. She was beautiful. She was unique. She was real, with a real body, a real voice, real ovaries. (That’s a feature of the death of young women - the squandering of ovaries.) When people die we forget that they were real, as real as you and I are now. I do not believe that people become less real in death. She’s included in my song about a dozen women that I loved. LB and I used to hang around together. We drank tea in coffee shops in downtown Guelph and downtown Toronto - because tea was cheap and we could stay there talking for ages. We cruised thrift stores. We went to the Elora Gorge Cinema, a local rep house cinema, a lot. She introduced me to Harold Pinter and absurdist theatre. She never loved me - only liked me. I don’t understand why. So I remember one of the songs I loved in high school, “People who died” by the Jim Carrol Band (1980).
People Who Died
Teddy sniffing glue, he was 12 years old
Fell from the roof on East Two-nine
Cathy was 11 when she pulled the plug
On 26 reds and a bottle of wine
Bobby got leukemia, 14 years old
He looked like 65 when he died
He was a friend of mine.
G-berg and Georgie let their gimmicks go rotten
So they died of hepatitis in upper Manhattan
Sly in Vietnam took a bullet in the head
Bobby OD’d on Drano on the night that he was wed
They were two more friends of mine
Two more friends that died.
Mary took a dry dive from a hotel room
Bobby hung himself form a cell in the tombs
Judy jumped in front of a subway train
Eddie got slit in the jugular vein
And Eddie, I miss you more than all the others
And I salute you brother.
Herbie pushed Tony form the Boys’ Club roof
Tony thought that his rage was just some goof
But Herbie sure gave Tony some bitchin proof
“Hey,” Herbie said, “Tony, can you fly?”
But Tony couldn’t fly, Tony died.
Brian got busted on a narco rap
He beat the rap by rattin’ on some bikers
He said, “Hey, I know it’s dangerous, but it sure beats Riker’s”
But the next day he got offed by the very same bikers.