Remembering the party guy
It’s probably still the same way now as it was then, but I don’t notice anymore. The morning took off slowly, small groups of young people gathering along the downtown sidewalks while others cruised by on bikes or in cars, all waiting to see who was gonna be the first to emerge from the night before with a really good tale.Eventually, he’d show up, a shock of uncombed red hair going in different directions with a matching, thin mustache, sufficiently long on the sides to detract from the unevenness of his teeth. Between the ‘stache and his unruly hair sat a pair of deep blue eyes, framed by an expression of partial disbelief in anything they saw. Darting in all directions, with a ferocious intensity, these eyes acted as a sort of barrier to keep others from prying too deep – it was almost impossible to look him in the eye. Add to that a big belly, totally out of place on his otherwise trim frame, shadowing a pair of slightly pigeon-toed feet decked out in lace-up work shoes, and this guy came across as a little bit odd, even in a group of directionless, unkempt and conforming new-agers trying their best to be individualistic.He didn’t have any apparent close friends, although a couple of the ladies appeared to take an interest in his well-being. People joked that they weren’t sure if his mother had dropped him on his head when he was a baby, or if it was the chemical combinations he was always using that made him seem strange. It was as if his brain synapses would go from direct to alternating to disconnect. He’d start in on a thought and then lose it, or head for someone’s house and not quite be sure which way to go. If he seemed a little short on brain power, he could also come across as a genius of sorts. If something was late arriving via the mail, he’d rant and rave and then postulate on the best way to put together a package tracing system, long before the Internet could perform this function. He also had an exasperating way of interjecting archaic and seldom-used words into conversations at propitious times, just to temper the train of thought. These moments made good entertainment for those who witnessed them, but no one knew about or was ever there in the long nights when the crashes came. He took rides on drugs not many could survive, got so high his head should have vaporized. On the way down, he’d suck up alcohol to kill the pain and numb his brain and then careen off the walls of his rented pad in a weird stupor that was impenetrable. He’d try to climb through the floor to escape his mind, and generally came to reality under the kitchen table, his face flat against the linoleum.He left town to get his act together and found that the sobriety he thought he could claim at any time was beyond his reach. Rattled nerves and those darting eyes kept him in low-paying jobs, even though he married a good woman who saw something we missed. He seems familiar to most of us, this brief fixture of Aspen’s party scene – a kid everyone recognized, who partied a little too hard and seemed a little strange. Gone from here and no longer able to keep up with the raging battle within, he might have laid down along a slow-moving river in Iowa and blown his brains out, or as he crossed a busy street in Detroit, felt his heart finally explode from too many ups and downs. Maybe his wife holds him through the long nights when the nightmares won’t go away and he’s scared to death. We really never noticed when he left, but one day, someone asked, “What happened to so-and-so?” and we all wondered. It might have been in the ’70s or ’80s, or even last month, but we all knew this guy and briefly missed him when he was no longer here. Today I thought I glimpsed him trying to cross 82 out by the airport, and a tear filled my eye. Tony Vagneur welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read him here every Saturday.
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“If I was moving through the herd, the others would begin walking away, some of them at a jog, taking their calves with them, but the big brown ungulate would face me sideways, reluctant to move, not wanting to give any ground,” writes Tony Vagneur.