Elegy for a Dirty-Faced Angel

He will never again disarm us with his smile. Never will wrap a burrito or put another pie in the oven. Nor have me smoke pot with a gas mask, then walk me to my apartment because I forgot where I lived. He won’t again dress as a nun on Halloween and be

May 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Exiled from Main Street XXXIV: for Bones (1970-2011)

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

— Henry David Thoreau

He will never again disarm us with his smile. Never will wrap a burrito or put another pie in the oven. Nor have me smoke pot with a gas mask, then walk me to my apartment because I forgot where I lived.

He won’t again dress as a nun on Halloween and be photographed smoking a cigarette and holding a can of MGD with a life-sized cutout of James Dean in the background. Nor will he ever not leave behind a good-looking corpse.

He will never perpetuate myths about himself, such as the Altoids can in which he carried his “Rohypnol.” Never again will he jump out of a moving van to descend upon members of 98 Degrees simply because boy bands were not cool. Never will he raise any similar ruckus, with no malice and a kind heart, if only on the pretense that it might make a funny story some day. Like today.

He won’t ever again attempt to charm a woman at the bar by sticking his penis in her boyfriend’s drink while the latter was in the bathroom, nor for his efforts take a beating upon said boyfriend’s return. He will no longer need to look on with wired jaw as his friends eat pizza, then resign himself to putting a slice in the blender so that he might sip it through a straw, netting only the ounces of grease at the top.

He will never have a heartbeat or keep the backbeat except through the playing of dusty tapes through tired boom boxes. He will never again weigh the all-important decision of whether to have a High Life or PBR to go along with his whiskey. Nor will he decide not to do heroin or cocaine, as he did all his life.

Never again will he, while feeling nervous or uneasy, pull out strands of yarn and stroke them as if it was his woobie. Never will he show off his porn magazine collection again, or ejaculate into a beer koozie while sitting in his van.

He won’t ever complete the canvass that was his body, his interstate of tattoos. Nor will he ever again ride with his merry band of bicyclers, The Crazy Clowns, across the Ohio River and into Covington or Newport, or anywhere else for that matter.

Never will he attempt to quit drinking again, and sit for weeks on end at the Tavern sipping coffee. Never will he be surrounded by so many friends again, and yet remain somewhat homeless.

No more will he berate me for being unable to roll my own cigarette. Never again will he don the jean jacket that Cheetah Chrome recently signed and that caused him to grin beatifically. No, he won’t ever pull me aside, as he did only weeks ago, and congratulate my performance, saying, “I just wanted to tell you how good it is to see you’re still doing your thing.” Nor will I have an opportunity to reply to him again, “I’m glad you are, too.”

He will never be trusted company of his friend’s children again; never will attempt, however clumsily, to stand guard on his female friend’s honor. Never will he again bring a knife to a gunfight, if in fact he ever did.

Never again will he divide some of our allegiances while simultaneously galvanizing a resourceful, anti-authoritative community hell-bent on finding out the truth. Never again will suburbanites write him off for being tatted-up and not blowing a .33 as they watch their evening news. Never again will he mark the 10-year anniversary of our riots in such a way as to cast any progress into question, the corollary being our collective checkbooks, or lack thereof.

He will never be the same age as me again.

Yet he will remain. As a reminder, perhaps, that every so often a little Hell need be raised, if only because those that sit in Heaven do so while bored; and that the most interesting characters in, say, Dante or Blake are never the merely good. As it is in classic literature, so too perhaps it is in life.

Thus, sitting here I feel as if a color has been taken away from our palette, a primary color even, and we are less more than one. As a reminder, then, that life and our individual personalities are more gray than black and white.

Indeed, a friend of mine related a story about you that illustrates perfectly this dichotomy. She was your roommate years ago and longed for some time to be part of your bike club, to no avail. More urgently, she was struggling with severe depression and suicidal thoughts when one day she found herself hustling towards home while trying to keep it together. She knew once there she was bound for bed, where she would commence to cry.

She opened the apartment door to find a banana-seated chopper bike with confetti on the handlebars, and soon found herself shedding tears of an entirely unexpected sort. You, of course, had walked that bike out of a thrift store.

Now you will never do any such thing again. You will never even put on a pair of socks, strangely. Why that is we might never know, though die trying, while instinctively understanding the sadness of it, without being able to fully articulate it, missing something all the while.

Au revoir mon ami.

CONTACT MARK FLANIGAN: [email protected]