About a month ago, Jeff and I went to the Metropolitan, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Nothing interesting happened. We met a friend from Park Slope there. Had some beers. Went back home. But it was a personal triumph for me and Jeff. An exorcism of sorts. We had been avoiding the place for over a year because of what we remembered about the last time we were there. Last fall, somewhere in the early days of November 2004, we met a friend there who would be found in his apartment a couple of weeks later dead from a heroin overdose.

We called him and persuaded him to meet us at the Metropolitan one night. He just wanted to stay for one drink. He had to get away for a little bit because he was having an argument with his roommate. We persuaded him to stay a little longer. He told about the argument. A plate was thrown and broken. It was something stupid. We told him we wanted him to come over for Thanksgiving, and we made tentative plans. Jeff and I were still new to the city, he having been here five months and I having been here just over one, and we were both hungry for friends. This guy was brand-new to us, but we felt like we were on a path toward something real. He was full of stories and jokes. He was comfortable and familiar after very little time. He had not the easiest life, but he wasn’t full of blame. He was just making do like anyone else. And he seemed so directed and in charge of himself.

The way he told it, he was at a point in his life where he was trying to ease into his 30s and settle himself a bit, to shed some drama and the people who bring trouble down on him. He was no stranger to drugs. He was known at at certain East Village connection points. But but he wasn’t irresponsible. He always took care of himself. And he wasn’t stupid. I remember he made a point of telling us once that he never touched heroin. He’d seen too many horror stories. And we believed him.

Jeff and I hadn’t heard from him since the Metropolitan a couple of weeks later. We knew he’d had some recent trouble with his phone, so we didn’t necessarily expect a call. We just didn’t know how to get a hold of him. So we walked into an East Village bar where we often hung out with him, half expecting to run into him. And we did, in a manner of speaking.

After a few minutes there, I noticed a tall candle burning in a glass enclosure with a note on it. I didn’t pay attention at first. Just some bar room bric-a-brac. But Jeff saw it, too, and we soon realized the note read: “For F____.”

You wonder sometimes when you don’t hear from someone for a while: Man, what if he’s dead. What would I do? How sad and weird! What’s the last thing we did together? When’s the last time we spoke? Wow, just imagine. Heh — I shouldn’t think like that. He’s fine. I should really call him one of these days.

We called the bartender over. Is that the same F____ we think you’re talking about? The bartender lowered his eyes. Yes, it was. And he told us the story: He had been found dead a fews days ago in bed in his apartment. He had been dead three days. It was a heroin overdose. There was a note next to him: “You looked so peaceful sleeping there, I didn’t want to wake you. —Ricky.” No one knows who this guy Ricky was. We think he’s the one who sold it to him. Either it was some bad shit or just a bad decision. Really loved that guy, you know. Everyone knew him. He was a real good guy. The funeral is this weekend in New Jersey. I can get you the information if you want.

Sure, thanks, we said.

We just sat there, silent, sort of stunned. Neither of us could imagine what to say next, except, occasionally, “I just can’t believe it.”

We left the bar without collecting the funeral information. I don’t think either of us wanted to go. He had far closer friends who should be there instead of us. It was a difficult night for us. We went for a good long walk and stayed up late talking about it and getting angry and sad and crying at times. The things you have seem so much more precious when you realize that someone you know has lost them forever. Forever. And what a waste to lose so much — all that goes into 34 years of life — and suddenly, it’s wiped out. Jeff and I had each other, so we held tight and remembered and cried for all of the things that would never be.


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the untallied hours

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