Paul and I are sitting in his basement drinking beers on a cold night. He’s got some girl over that I’ve never met, and she hasn’t talked at all during the night, which irritates me a little. We’re considering going to a bar where dollar drafts are the order of night, which is kind of cool because you can just throw down a twenty and have the bar loaded with enough beers to get a buzz. I hear a car door slam outside the house, and with a boom, the door to the basement swings open.
He staggers in, and saying that he’s visibly drunk is an understatement.
“Where the fuck were you?” I ask him.
“Drinking Hennessey with niggers in Bloomfield. I got back in like 10 minutes, I set my cruise control to 90 on the Parkway. People were getting out of my way, they were like, “Watch out for this guy, he’s partyin!' Christ, I am fucking loaded. Let’s go somewhere”. I could only smile and shake my head.
This is my buddy Harry. What a maniac. He’s about 6’3, and on the better part of 300 pounds. He digs being so big, mostly because he knows that he scares the crap out of most regular people. He’s got a tattoo of a cross on his left shoulder, and a red and black Chinese character on his right shoulder that he thinks means, “Bad Man”, (but he wasn’t paying attention when he got it, so he’s not quite sure). Across his back, he has “Veni, Vidi, Vici” in black ink, and on anyone else this might seem strange, but it somehow fits him.
He works mostly shit jobs that don’t pay very well, and has been completely broke so many times in the past couple years that he’s bought cigarettes with bags of pennies on many occasions. The guys at the gas station HATE him for this. He says “Nothing for nothin” all the time, and I don’t have the heart to tell him that the real phrase is, “Not for nothing”. Not that it matters of course, because he’d say it even more if he knew it irritated me.
You’ll never hear anyone in Wayne say, “Yea, he’s ok.” He’s not ok. He’s either one of the best guys you’ve ever met, or one of the worst, depending on how you view the world. He drinks like the rest of us drink, which means copious amounts which stretch the bounds of what you think “drinking” can be called (you might think I’m exaggerating here. I’m not). He does, of course, have the dubious distinction of being on of only three guys I know that can drink a thirty pack in a night, and still go out to the bar.
I guess he intimidates people as soon as they see him; a big guy like that, tattoos, dressed like he just walked off a construction site, smoking cigarettes faster than Marlboro can make them. Hell, he intimidated me when I first met him, and that’s not easy to do to a short guy who’s got balls like I do. But yes, even me. When I walk into places and its just me and him walking through the door, I always wonder if people think I’m in the mob; this short little guinea walking in with a guy who looks like hired muscle. If they don’t, they should.
You might think, from reading this, that the guy is scumbag, or a waste who won’t ever do anything good with his life. Ironically enough, however, he is one of the smartest among us. Not in the conventional school way, and he’ll be the first to tell you that; he once got thrown out of a class in high school for challenging a teacher when she said that she was the dictator of the classroom- he grabbed the American flag off its holder at the front of the class, and walked out, claiming that this teacher was a fascist. No, it’s a much more creative way that he thinks that I just cannot explain, and have never seen anywhere else.
He keeps the History channel on 24 hours a day, and claims that when he goes home drunk and passes out, he absorbs the facts in his sleep. One might think that this is kind of strange, but when he wakes up, he writes essays that I couldn’t come up with in a year of drinking. He’s got a humorous voice, a sense of irony, and some strange metaphors. But you can’t help laughing.
“Ever get so drunk that you literally can’t walk? Oh I have, like really you can’t walk. You just lay on the ground and curse gravity like Isaac Newton under that damned apple tree. Try to stand, and bang back to the ground, try again and bang back to the ground. Meanwhile that fucking Osmino Robot is running the quarter mile around Japan, while I am laying on my carpet like the Man of Steel blowing through a straw to get my dick to work. Eventually from trial and error you get back to being able to walk again, but not after you knees and forehead are decorated with carpet burns.”
Its crude of course, and forget about grammar. But for some reason, he is excellent at sentence structure, and some of the things he comes up with are amazing. He invents historical events, intertwines them with the slightest bit with real history, and runs with them, similar to a drunken Dave Barry. He’s written essays about beer, Sam Adams, the Civil War, the chupacabra, World War II, Star Wars, Wal-Mart’s business practices, and the Mandogcat (all I can say is that it’s half-man, half- dog, and half- cat, and the “g” is silent. I could not explain this to you if I tried). He got home drunk one night and wrote a poem called, “Ode to Hulk Hogan”; he later sent it in to some poetry contest. He won.
I always tell him to save these things, that he could get a book of humorous essays published in minute. He laughs it off…but I’m serious. I know he will never do it.
The last few times we’ve gone out drinking, we’ve done everything we can to start a fight wherever we are. Between me and him, I can see that we are itching for something like this, and I have no idea why. But after a couple beers, he gets this smile that means he’s going to cause trouble. I always like this, I guess because I know that we will have an interesting story to tell somebody the next day. I’ve finished fights that he’s started before, which is odd when you consider the size difference between us. I always tell him that it’s the size of the fight in the dog. He cuts me off before I can finish with laughter. Bastard.
Its ironic that he drinks so much, being as that’s what killed his old man. He was a Vietnam vet who fought in Saigon during the Tet Offensive of 1968, and I guess he just saw a little more than he could handle. Sometimes I wonder if Harry is going the same way, drinking himself to death, but he seems a little more responsible than that (if you can imagine this). He knows when to put the brakes on and take a couple days sober. I don’t know that he always will, but then I don’t know if I always will either, so its not my place to judge. Between his father dying when he was 18, and our mutual buddy dieing at the age of 22, life can get too hot to handle. I’m just speculating, of course; I can’t get into his head anymore than I can clear my own. However, sometimes I myself wonder what the hell the point of living so perfectly is when you can die in a flash anyway, and it all ends as suddenly as one can strike a match. Poof! And a whole life is up in smoke, reeking of sulfur and sadness. Why not have those last few beers….
He swears to God that a distant relative of his, one who shares his surname, was a stowaway on the Mayflower, and was one of the first men hung in the New World. He’s not sure why he was hung, or even why he stowed away, but he gets a kick out it nonetheless. I’m not sure what his fascination with history is about, or why he knows so much about his own family’s, especially things like this.
For a guy like this, though, I think history is more interesting than real life. Its far more exciting to read about stowaways on the Mayflower than it is to go to work at Stop and Shop or the Outback, just as it’s far more stirring to get loaded and try to start a bar fight then it is to sit around watching TV and fucking around on the computer. Drinking isn’t killing him, its boredom. And it’s damn frustrating to watch.