We would smoke cigarettes on the picnic tables next to the stony church building. When the drafts picked up in the sanctuary, the organ would sound out, dissonant and haunting. John and Andy would sit quietly. We’d listen to music echoing softly from their ancient laptop computer. I’d cling to their every word about music and film and life and chicks. I never told them how much I aspired to be like them, normal and accepted. I was in a dark place back in those days. I think Andy may have picked up on it, but I never talked about it. I wish I had. I wish I’d been a better friend.
I don’t really remember the last time I saw the old gang. I remember leaving after graduation and looking at the old high school, and I knew I’d never come back. At first I was only brave enough to live a few hours away. St. Louis, then Kansas City, back to St. Louis, and so on. The tours started while I was living in Brooklyn, and then I was everywhere, living out of a backpack, sleeping in vans and cars, and on rest area benches. After a while I upgraded to the occasional couch, or wigwams in the southwest, and cabins in Tennesse and Kentucky. Finally I settled on Kansas City. I found my small family unit and we’d drink and smoke and vomit and vent and laugh and cry. Molly and Brittni would sit in the living room and watch as I drowned myself in peach vodka. They’d chat and gossip next to me while I worked dilligently on Forest Life, which was just a series of scribbles and thoughts at the time. Sometimes I’d leave for a week or two. Normally, I’d just zip down to Paris and rent a cabin where I could drink and write and swim. After a while I’d get lonely and come home. They’d often throw welcome home parties when I arrived. My best mate, Aren, would make sure I wasn’t drinking too much, and he’d keep all the ”she-wolves” away from me. It must have been my apathy that attracted the occasional seductress because I had no interest in romance. I was under the impression that the opportunity for romance had passed me up.
Some nights I would get unimaginably lonely, the kind of lonely that makes you feel like you’re gasping for air. On nights like those I’d keep the entire household up and pose existential rantings and dilemmas to them. They did their best to medicate me. A lot of the time they’d take me down the street to buy booze and then we’d mix it in Quiktrip slushies and laugh the confusion away. They were a good family. I was still in a dark place during the Kansas City era, but that’s when I began to address my various neuroses. They were plenty. They are plenty.
The most important thing I took away from my time in Kansas City is the desperate need for communal living. We need other people to help us work through life. That’s why I recall my time with high school pals so fondly. I was so happy to have a few friends who would sit and smoke cigarettes with me. I was so happy in Kansas City with my cozy family. Be good to your friends.