Thursday, July 28, 2005


Every now and again, a funk will settle upon me and I’ll begin to think about some of the parts of my life that I try to avoid dwelling on, as don’t really have the strength to deal with them for more than a few brief moments. Some of these times have been very painful for me, not to mention what the other people involved went through, and while I think that I’ve learned something from each of them, sometimes your mind just gets stuck and just can’t let go of what could have been done differently.

I won’t mention the names of the people involved in any of these stories, other than myself, because of the fact that I haven’t spoken to them in quite some time and I wouldn’t want someone to do a random search on their name and stumble across a story that would involve a part of their lives that they may not want to think about again. Also, these stories are meant to describe my side of what happened, not to pass judgment on any other persons involved. For the purposes of simplifying this story though, I’ll call the primary person Art.

Shortly after I dropped out of college, I began hanging out with a few people that I knew in high school. We weren’t close friends in high school, as we ran with different crowds. Just before I left college, I started to get more interested in the consumption of alcohol. I had avoided drinking until I was 20 years old, as I was always worried about following in my footsteps of my father and becoming an alcoholic.

I didn’t really see it at the time, but most of the relationship that I had with Art was based on alcohol. We would get together and we would drink, a lot. Each time that we spent together usually revolved around, at the very least, a 12 pack of beer for each person and sometimes more than that. For the better part of the first year that we were friends again, it was a very casual friendship. It was easy to see that we were friends, but it was obvious to both of us that it wasn’t anything more than a social relationship.

One Friday night after work, we went out of town together and went to visit one of Art’s old college buddies. Art’s friend lived about 2 hours from us, and seeing as how both Art and I were still living in our parents’ homes, it seemed like a great place to go and spend a long night drinking together. Neither Art nor I had ever been to this town before, but seeing as how we were going to be staying at his friends place, it hardly mattered that we didn’t know the lay of the land.

Art’s friend was a large and gregarious person who seemed to really enjoy making sure that other people got sick when they went out drinking with him. It’s not like he was forceful about it, he just seemed to be able to plant the suggestion in your mind that no matter how much you have drank to that point, you needed to drink more.

When Art and I arrived it was around 7:00 at night and the temperature was dropping rapidly. As soon as we walked in the door, we were told that we were late and we had to begin drinking to catch up with him. He had already had a few drinks so I knew it was going to be a long night already, but this was what I had signed up for when I decided to come along on this trip so I dove in.

Thankfully, the evening began at a restaurant and we were able to eat a great deal of food along with our first drinks and were able to stuff ourselves with breads and pasta in the hope that the food would allow us to sustain our uninterrupted drinking for quite some time. After our first 4 or 5 drinks with dinner, we proceeded to go to the back of the restaurant and drink more. As you would expect, my memory begins to get a bit foggier at this point, but I’ll try to cover as much as I can.

We moved from beer at the restaurant to whiskey (Kessler’s) and Coke’s after that, each drink becoming stronger than the next. As our sense of taste and the ability to distinguish how much alcohol was being consumed in each glass faded, the evening seemingly became more entertaining. More laughs were shared and revelry ensued.

After several more hours, we either finished the large bottle of Kessler or decided that we should take our little private party to another location. I can safely say that at this point that our bodies had already taken enough abuse, but we weren’t about to let our minds make an important decision like that.

From there we stumbled our way into a local bar. A biting and frigid cold crept into town, and neither Art nor I had thought to bring so much as a jacket as we never intended on stepping outdoors on this particular night.

I remember ordering a drink, but what it was, I can’t recall. I have a vision of being near the bar and the next thing that I can remember is spilling the drink all over me. It’s safe to say that it was for the best that I didn’t actually drink it, as my next memory is of being sick in the bathroom that I went to clean up in.

For those of you that are experienced with the adventures that go along with drinking, one of the signs that a night is nearing its conclusion is when a friend throws up. There isn’t much good that can possibly come from the rest of the night after that. They’re not going to be the same person and, more often than not, the same fate will be awaiting you if you continue.

Thankfully, there was someone out with us on this evening that wasn’t drinking and was playing the role of chaperone and guided us from that establishment to the car. It was decided amongst the three drunken miscreants that we should go out to have a late night meal to settle our stomachs down, so that we would be able to enjoy a pleasant nights rest on a full stomach, or in my case, a partially full stomach.

We arrived at a Denny’s/Perkins restaurant and sat down and ordered a meal. After a few moments, our drinks came.

Art picked up the glass of chocolate milk that he had just received and splashed the entire contents of it onto my face. After any normal night of drinking the whole series of events would have been comical, if it would have made any sense. The waitress had gotten no further than a few steps away after setting down our drinks and I was covered in milk.

I sat there for a few moments, blinking, trying to put together the chain of events that had brought this upon me, but nothing seemed to explain it. I looked across the table to see that Art was still sitting there; but it was clear to me that he wasn’t there. There was no trace of my friend in the eyes of the person sitting across from me.

Art launched himself from the table and bolted for the door, with his college roommate close behind. I rushed to the bathroom to clean myself up, all the while trying to replay the chain of events that led to me being completely covered in chocolate milk. After a few futile moments of fumbling drunkenly while trying to clean myself I left the bathroom with a clean face but an unclear mind.

I found that when I returned to the table that neither Art nor his friend had returned and must still be outside. I stepped out the door and could hear the two of them arguing behind the restaurant. Art kept ranting about the fact that he had to go, but where he would not nor could not say. As I got near the two of them, Art noticed me and his shoulders dropped as if to indicate that he was sorry for what had just happened, but the moment that I stepped closer to him any trace of sadness that was in him was quickly replaced by anger. It was an anger unlike I had ever seen in a person; an anger that I’ve never seen in a person since.

After some time, Art’s friend convinced him that we should go home for the evening and with a small bit of struggle, we all got into the car. As Art’s friend had managed to talk him into the car, it was decided that he should stay in the back seat with him and try to keep him calm. For a moment it worked.

Within a few minutes, Art had taken off his seat belt and had attempted to jump out the door of the moving car, all the while screaming that he “had to go.” His friend, being a large man, held onto him as best he could, but Art was not going to be denied. Art rolled onto his back and began attempting to kick out the windows in the back of the car. This was the final straw for Art’s friend. He gave up his attempt in trying to hold him and we all watched as he jumped from the car.

Art ran from the car wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans but no shoes. The temperature gauge on the car indicated that it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

We sat in the car for a while and tried to determine where Art might possibly have been running to, but within a few seconds he was gone and there was no way to see where he went.

Art’s friend was so incensed at the fact that he nearly destroyed the inside of his car that he wanted nothing to do with him at this point, and no matter what I said, they decided that the best that we could do would be to drive for a few minutes and then go home.

To be honest, it wouldn’t have been a good decision for me to have left the car either as I was dressed in nearly the same attire as Art, but I felt that since I had my shoes at least I would be better off than he was. Sadly these were just the incoherent thoughts of an inebriated man.

We arrived at the house and I laid myself down onto a sleeping bag in the basement and cried until sleep finally took me.

I woke up a few short hours later to find out that Art had not shown up at the house. This was a time before everyone carried a cell phone, so we had no clue as to how we would even begin to attempt to track him down. We contacted the police, but seeing as how he had only been missing for a few hours, there was nothing that they could do to help us.

We got back into the car and began to drive around the neighborhood where Art had escaped from the car, but found no trace of him. It was at this point in time that I realized that the only possible outcome from this evening was the fact that my friend was dead. From the moment he left the car, I had pushed this thought into the back of my mind, but as more time passed I began to see it as the only possible truth. We drove for a few hours before we realized that our search was pointless as there were no traces of where he might have been and we were just blindly searching for something that we were petrified of finding.

Back at the house, we decided that we had to call Art’s mother to find out if she had heard from him. It was the last possible call that any of us had wanted to make, because if she hadn’t heard from him we would have to tell her what had happened. As expected, she had not heard from him and wondered why we would call her and ask her so, as he was with us. After a few awkward moments, we explained the brief outline of the events from the past evening and let her know that we had no idea where her son had gone. We told her that we would keep looking for him and would call her back as soon as we knew more.

Art’s friend told me at this point that there was nothing more that I could do and that I should just go home. My friend has disappeared into the night with nothing more than his jeans and a t-shirt and I’m supposed to leave and not do anything to find him? Somehow he convinced me that that was exactly what I should do and they drove me back to my car.

I don’t know why I couldn’t stay and look for him, but there was something inside of me that said that there was nothing I could do. I was already an emotional wreck and I think that my presence there was making things more uncomfortable for them, so I left.

The two hour drive home was the longest two hours of my life. Two hours of torturous thoughts of loss and remorse. Two hours of self-abuse and anguish over your own inability to attempt to help someone who desperately needed saving. Two hours of knowing that you would have to go to see your friends’ mother and explain why you didn’t do anything to help her son before he died.

I arrived at home a broken and distraught young man. Not able to feel good about anything I had ever done.

I walked in the door and found that Art had called his friend an hour or so after I had left. And that his parents were on his way to where he was to bring him home.

Art has no remembrance of that evening. The last thing that he can recall is arriving at the restaurant and eating dinner; after that, nothing.

He woke up the next morning in a strange home. He didn’t know how he got there, but awoke on the floor with no idea of where he was. After eating some of their food, he took a jacket and a pair of shoes and walked to a nearby bar. Part of the problem with the evening was that neither Art nor I knew where we were staying for the night, and so when he woke, he had no idea of where to go. When he arrived at the bar, he convinced them to let him the phone and he was able to call his old roommate.

Art came over to my home the next day and I hugged my friend like I would never let him go.

We became quite close for a few years after that night but eventually we drifted apart.

The fact that Art survived that night, to me, is astounding. Through luck and self preservation he managed to find his way into a home that, luckily, no one was in for the evening. The night could have gone so much worse, but through a great deal of luck, he survived it with no more than a cut on his hand from breaking into the house.

In my life, there have been very few events where either I or someone else made a decision that I will never be able to forgive them for.

While I know in this case I did the best that I could in that particular situation, I know that I could have done more.

Now, I hope that if someone who desperately is calling for my help, I’ll be able to stop the car, open the door, and run after them because that’s what a friend does.