Monday, April 26, 2010

Over Fire (Joshua John)

I grew up with a kid named Josh. He was a close friend my entire childhood/teenage years. In fact, a good portion of his youth was spent under my roof. He was the last child in a long line of siblings, and I kind of this that by the time he was 8 or so, his parents pretty much let him raise himself.

It's not that they were bad parents. They provided, had game nights, loved to cook...the whole gauntlet. They're both successful, extremely intelligent beings. Both lawyers, in fact.

Truth be told, all of Josh's siblings turned out to be pretty big successes. Many of them being lawyers as well. Josh though, he never really went down that path. He was more of a loner, who was much more content spending hours doing absolutely nothing on his dad's computer at all hours of the night in his fathers law office.

Josh began to have seizures right around the 7th grade, and not a lot of people really knew how to deal with him. It wound up alienating him from some people in a way, because it was such an odd concept at the time. Most kids had never really seen something like that transpire, and truthfully if you've ever seen a seizure take place, you know that they can tend to be very frightening.

But he was like a brother to me. In a lot of ways, even though he was older, I wound up kind of looking out for him at times.

When his mental illnesses became too much (at the time) for our very modest elementary school to handle, he was referred to a school...I guess better catered to people who's needs were similar to his. His parents had me go with him his first day to kind of watch out for him.

But Josh....Josh is a special guy. I mean that in a very positive way, and I know I have to be careful with the context considering his above listed mental illnesses.

But he could make anyone smile. He could make anyone laugh. He was, in a way, the price of irreverence. He never cared, one bit, what anyone ever thought of him.

And at times that put him at odds with some of his older brothers. They'd tease him to the point of him needed to physically remove himself from the same zip code. It's not that they rubbed their success in his face; truth be told they were trying to push him to better himself an realize all his untapped potentials. Believe me, he had many.

But I understand how it all rolled down to him. Despite being the youngest, his parents we're somewhat older than other parents (oddly enough, that's one thing he and I bonded over, given that my parents were also a bit older that most of the kids parents at our age.) But he brought a whole new definition to the term 'latch-key kid.'

But he was always, I think, viewed as the black sheep of his family. Everyone heading one great big direction forward, and him always seemingly in neutral.

But the signs, they weren't what anyone really looked for.

I think for me a lot of how I perceived his actions were eccentric, but just...Josh. That's the best way to describe it. He was just himself.

He didn't listen to the right music, like the right movies....he didn't like parties, or anything like that.

But I think he fought hard to try to come across a bit more normal, to fit in.

The older he got, the more erratic his actions became. He'd go months without anyone hearing a word from him, or seeing him. I remember once literally having to kick down the door. The sight of him sitting in a rocking chair, staring mindlessly at a tv in a dark room while drinking out of a huge jug of wine (literally) was something that really sticks out to me now. I should've seen it then.

I broke up with a girl that I truly loved on October 16th, 2006. Josh, in his way of supporting, really kind of trashed her a lot during the following two weeks, or so.

I'd bought her an early birthday gift a few days prior to getting dumped. Cursive tickets on Halloween. One of my favorite bands on my favorite holiday with my favorite girl. All signs pointed towards October 31st, 2006 being my favorite day ever.

But she broke up with me, and I decided to go to Cursive anyway. Josh had offered to go along with, which was surprising, because crowds weren't his thing.

I won't get into the details because it's so petty now, so unimportant. But suffice it to say, after that evening I resolved to cut him out of my life.

He was negative, he had a tendency to take things, like friendships, for granted. he'd bad-mouthed a girl I was still very, very much in love with. I walked away.

Over the next few weeks he'd call, try to get a hold of me. But I always looked at the caller i.d, and ignored the call. Eventually, around the end of December the phone stopped ringing. A few months later I packed up everything, had a going away party (sans Josh, which felt weird then, too) and left.

Occasionally over the next few months I'd think about him. Wonder how he was doing. But goddamn I was so angry with him, so hurt, that I just kept on going. He was a touchy subject for a while to come.

Eventually I moved back to Arizona, same area, back with my parents. I dealt with my fathers cancer and knee surgery, chased a girl, got tired of chasing her and started chasing another, began writing seriously, and before I knew it, it was October 31st, 2007.

I kept on going.

About a year and a half later I got the last phone call from Josh I think I'll ever get.

It seems he'd went off the deep end. He'd been in a home once a few years ago when he and I were still close. But in the conversation he told me, and I can still remember the...emptiness in his voice. He was asking me if I'd told a judge that he heard voices, because they took his license. He told me, in fragmented sentences that were so eerily he'd attempted suicide a few times, lost his license (which always meant the world to him. It was always the one part of his life he could control with out seizure or behavior medication) and how he'd been to a hospital a few times.

He asked me, and I remember that for the first time in the conversation he showed any emotion, he asked me if he could see me.

This time I wasn't angry. I think at the time I was, but it was more to mask the chill it sent down my spine; his voice had almost being laying supine, but when he asked to see me, there was a hint of...something. Something sad.

But I turned it down.

The other night Josh was brought up in a conversation, and I remarked how I'd hoped he was in good health, and happy. The other people present wound up telling me how he now lives in a mental care facility, not an institution.

And that the thought of me sends him into a break-down. That he has severe nightmares about me.

It hit me in the gut like a truck.

I don't really know what to say after that, except that all I could do was write about it. It's included below.

I wish somehow I could give him peace.

This song is called "Over Fire (Joshua John)."

Take a seat my old friend
It's been years, my God what's happened to the time?
I heard about the spells in your head
A motion in a black ocean
Swallowed alive by these waves of regret
Another bullet in the chamber to live with
And I'm so sorry for the tremors
The shaking, the scars that no one can see

I'll bite my tongue even though I hate the taste
Rough days and demons dancing in plain sight
Voices shouting, but mouths sewn shut
If I could, I would take the brunt
Stay awake through the shakes
If it meant you could get a nights worth of sleep.

It feels like I've lost a part of myself
The memories rust shut, an honest man turned into a liar
I break at the thought of you freezing
Even though this dance is held over fire.

Heard the saddest song sung
Solemnly whispered from the tired soul of a caged bird
Mourning the memory of flight.
Churning in the guts of the imprisoned
Captioned for the deaf, a dream to fly higher
No longer dragged over fire.

My brother, take a seat
It's been years, time just pased us by
I dream about the spells inside your head
Constant moments and thoughts of bad days
Filling you to the brim with dread
And I'm so sorry....
My mouths rusted shut, and there's nothing I could say
Just know that I'd give it all without hesitation
To walk by your side over fire.

Until next time, stay safe.