Goodbye, Dear Friend...
by, April 13th, 2009 at 12:55 PM (611 Views)
Saturday's festivities for Mike's birthday started early, around 2:00pm, when our good friends Casey and Vic(toria) showed up. "Sorry we're so early," Casey said unnecessarily as they came into the house, "We needed to get out of the house," Vic said, finishing her new husband's sentence. Mike and I, who had been up early to prepare for the BBQ and had now gotten bored, were preparing to embark on a game of Monopoly to pass the time before guests showed up. "Yo, let us get in on that!" Casey exclaimed with a smirk.
So, there the four of us sat, our fake money spread out in front of us. Vic, who had gotten all the lucky rolls, had bought up half the damn property on the board. Casey, who had landed on not one but TWO "Free Parking"s was trying to buy what little property Mike and I had off of us, since his wife wouldn't negotiate.
After not too long, Mike received a call from his brother in Montana and left the game to talk to him for a minute. During this time, Casey also received a call. I assumed it was our good friend Eric, which was confirmed when Casey held his phone out and said, "He wants to holla at a nigga." Always thrilled to hear from Eric, I eagerly grabbed the phone and offered a spirited, "Whaddup, G?" "Whadduuuuup! Whatchu doin'?" We went on like this for a moment; I asked him about the house he and his new wife, Jack(ie), moved into, assuring him that, although it was deep (Olympia), we'd be down to visit him soon. Mike was still on the phone, so Eric told me he'd call back soon to wish him a happy birthday. "A'ight, homie, holla atchu lata," I said. For some strange reason, ebonics is the preferred form of both greeting and departing salutations between us.
Eric and Jack had been invited, but weren't going to show. Eric told Casey he was "counting quarters," suggesting he was broke. No wonder, either - I'm sure the recent move tapped their finances. Eric, an Army "lifer" was a proud kid; he wouldn't have wanted to show up to Mike's birthday party empty-handed. Last year, he happened by on Mike's birthday, not realizing what day it was. Refusing to observe the day without some offering, he rifled through his car to find Mike a present, a brand new... nose hair trimmer. It was awesome - not just because it was the most hilarious present ever, but because it illustrated just how loving this kid was. Eric... Fun-loving, social, outgoing, respectful, intensely loyal... It's hard to find something to not like about the guy.
I try to think back about exactly how we all became friends, and it's one of those absolutely beautiful collisions of circumstance that bring people together randomly and harmoniously. It all started when Mike and I lived in the hood. Eric had moved in next door with his older sister, Romy; Mike and Casey worked together; Romy's good friends Vic and Jack moved over here from Montana and, like usual, Mike's and my place was ground zero for kickin' it. Before we knew it, Eric was dating Jack and Casey was dating Vic. Eric enjoyed little brother status with us, and we had all become very, very close. When his sister moved to Kansas to be close to their parents, Eric leaned on us pretty heavily.
A stellar soldier in the military, Eric was clueless beyond the barracks. Mike taught him how to grocery shop; I cooked for him constantly. He always kept in touch, calling us frequently whenever he was overseas. He was the only friend EVER who I've exchanged "I love yous" with at the end of phone calls. I've got friends I've known longer and I've got friends I see more often, but I can't think of one who actively proves he cares like Eric does.
Over the years, our friendships remained static. Eric went to Iraq then came back; Casey and Vic had moved to Wyoming and came back, but we maintained communication all the while. Eric and Jack had just gotten married; Vic and Casey had also just gotten married and have a baby girl, little Brook, on the way. After I hung up with Eric, Casey, Vic and I discussed plans to drive down to Olympia to spend the weekend. This year, for the first time in several years, we were all in the same state at the same time and were very, VERY excited for what this summer was going to bring.
But that was Saturday. Since then, things took an unimaginable turn for the worse.
Eric never called back. We thought nothing of it; our house was filled with people now and we knew we'd be talking to Eric soon. If only I had been more insistant. "Eric, dude, you KNOW we don't care about the present... if you've got the gas to make it up here, we'll give you the money to make it home. You and Jack can have a good time, see all our friends you haven't seen in awhile, get wasted and stay the night." But I wasn't, and now, I'm wishing like I've never wished before that I had.
Yesterday, Mike and I got up for a day of recovery. We were sitting on the couch, at least two episodes into the Deadliest Catch marathon when we got a phone call from Casey. Mike answered the phone with a smile, but that immediately dropped from his face. "Oh my god... No," he said, not looking over at me as if to shield me from the news for as long as possible. "What happened?" After a few moments of listening to what Casey had to say, he confirmed what I was dreading. "Well, let us know about the services as soon as you hear. Thanks for calling us." When he hung up, he took a deep breath, turned to face me and simply said, "Eric's dead." "What?!?" I exclaimed in disbelief and horror, "What do you mean?" I hoped desperately that he had misspoke. "No details, yet, but he shot himself while cleaning or playing with a gun of his. Casey and Vic want to get together this week to reflect."
We sat, tears streaming silently down our faces, for at least an hour, unable to speak. I don't know how this could have happened; the guy was as proficient with guns as anyone I've ever known. It was Eric who taught me how to clear, dismantle and clean a gun. His guns had been in my house on numerous occasions, and I was never even the slightest bit uncomfortable with it. He was never unsafe.
The last person this close to me that died was my mother and, my god, I haven't missed feeling this way. Not one bit. I've been performing my daily functions like a zombie, desperately trying to keep myself busy and my mind off it, but I'm prone frequent episodes of crying. I came into work today because I have some deadlines to attend to, but I've been crying intermittently for the last hour and a half and, honestly, I just can't pull myself together. I'm going to miss that guy so much, I can't even begin to fathom. I've been through this before, though, and I know it's going to get worse before it gets better. And, of course, Mike's birthday, April 11th, will be forever marred by the untimely passing of a very beloved individual.
Eric, darlin', we love you very, very much, and you'll be missed far more than you could have ever imagined.
Casey on the left and Eric on the right, being their usual, hammy selves.
Edit: It makes more sense, now. According to the news, Eric and Jack had gone out with friends and, when they returned home, he decided to teach her how to handle a handgun. I can't believe he didn't make absolutely sure it was unloaded, first. Jack shot Eric in the head.
I don't even know what to say about that. That is, quite possibly, one of the most tragic things I've ever heard. I can only hope, at this point, that Jack doesn't commit suicide as a result of all this.
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