Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Short Story-Ormand

There was a gentle knocking on the front door. It was late and no visitors were expected. A door opened slowly and the glow of the porch light was illuminating a young beautiful girl who hovered like a ghost in the night. Nervous stares were exchanged. Her bare knees banged against each other as she struggled to speak.

*****
“Excuse me sir, I hate to bother you so late in the evening.
Is your name Mason?’
“It is,” I said. “Can I help you with something?”
“My name is Stacey.
I am the daughter of Ormand.”
I looked at her as though she was telling the worst joke I had ever heard in my life.
“How is that possible?”
“To tell you the truth sir, I really don’t know too much about my dad. All I know is that he got my mom pregnant a few weeks before it happened. I tracked you down because I want to learn about my dad. I want to know what he was like as a kid. After my mom died in a car accident I was raised by my grandparents. Growing up I always remember my grandparents mentioning your name and talking about how good of friends you and my dad were. They have always kept my father a secret because they said I was too young to understand everything that happened. Well, I’m 16 now and I need to know.”
“My grandma is real sick now and I don’t if she is going to make it through. She told me to come and find you. She had told me that Ormand never talked about anyone the way he talked about you and that he idolized everything about you. She told me that you two were like brothers and that the most happiest times of his life were when you two were friends and hanging out everyday. She told me that she wished you and my dad had remained friends, because he would still be here today if you did. She explained to me how everything in his life began falling apart when you two started to drift apart. I want to know what happened between you and my father!”
I stared at Stacey marveling at how much she resembled Ormand. She most definitely had his eyes. She also has that same little smirk that Ormand used to have.
“Please come in. Go ahead and take a seat on my couch over there. You know what? The times I spent with your father were the best years of my life as well. We grew up side by side and figured out things about life together. Because I have always been somewhat of a loner your father was the closest thing I could ever say that having a best friend was like. I am an only child, but your father showed me what having a brother was like.”
*****
To recall the story of how Ormand and I met, I have to start with a place called Lexington Park. If you look right out that window there, and look closely, you will see the remains of a park where we spent most of our time hanging out together.
Lexington Park was my home. The house that you are sitting in right now is the same house that I grew up in as a child. Everyday of my life I would head across the street and play in that park. There was this huge tire swing that everyone used to play on. The coolest thing about it is that when people ran in circles and pushed you around, there was this large hole which formed in the woodchucks. When it rained it used to fill up with this nasty filthy dirty water. Riding the swing over this water always made it more exciting because you felt you were on a boat stranded in the middle of the ocean. There were monkey bars and a huge fireman’s pole that would burn your thighs every time you slid down.
As I got older I gravitated down towards the lonely basketball hoop which stood by itself on a single half court. Because Lexington Park was unique in the city to have the only half court hoop, L.P. as we called it, was the home to some of the best 3 on 3 basketball games that ever took place. I fell in love with basketball and dedicated my teenage years to trying to become the best at it as I could.
Ormand had his own crew of kids that he hung with. They were called the Brown School kids because they were known for hanging out in the Brown School playground, which was a few blocks away. See, in Somerville back in the day you were known by what park you hung at. That is how you established your identity and kids who hung at the park whose streets surrounded it become your crew.
One day Ormand and his boys came down to L.P. to challenge me and some of my boys in a 3 on 3 basketball game. Now I can tell you this, Ormand was known for having one of the biggest, boldest mouths on the streets of Somerville. I never met Ormand until this day, but have heard stories of his trash talking and how he would even intimidate older kids, something which rarely happened.
I was covering Ormand and he was also sticking me on defense. I can still feel the sweat on my hands from touching his drenched white tee shirt. Being the two best players out on the court, Ormand and I went at it pretty physically. Elbows were thrown into each other’s backs. Echoing slaps left red welts on our forearms from driving to the hole. Butts were slammed into each other’s stomachs from trying to box out. Getting sent to the hard concrete was a given when the other person knew they might get embarrassed. We got up in each other’s face a few times and I had to stop my other teammates from going after him. He always appreciated that.
Ormand loved and was really good at both basketball and baseball. That’s how we spent a good portion of our early teen years. We would cut up broomsticks during the hot summer days and play stickball and during the evening hours we would play basketball. We never wanted to go home no matter how late it became or how tired we got.
As time went on and we became older we needed things other than sports to keep us occupied. I remember this one sweltering summer night. It was about seven or eight in the evening and it was still 90 degrees out. We were bored out of our minds and had nothing to do. Don’t ask me how, but we ended up at a local supermarket where me, Ormand and two of our other good friends Dubbs and YT bought a sack of potatoes. I had just got my license and my first car a few days earlier. We got back into my car I took the wheel, Ormand was riding shotgun and Dubbs and YT were crunched in the backseat of my black two door Saturn.
We started driving and from out of the sunroof we began to launch the potatoes into the sky. As the potatoes traveled through the thick city air like grenades they would explode onto someone’s car hood, bang! We never knew what it was like being in a real war, but riding in my car which at some point turned into a tank, we rode through the streets like soldiers pulling invisible pins out of potatoes, ducking and waiting to hear the explosion. The noise echoed through the night like a war. This one car we hit, we actually knocked off the chrome bumper and gave high fives as it lay lifeless on the ground.
As our battle ended the sides of our stomachs were sore from laughing so hard, we got quite a scare later in the night. We pulled into a parking lot and went to hang out at the local bowling alley for a little while. We played a little pool and tried to impress some of the older woman who came to this place hoping to find a husband. We left the bowling alley arguing over who had the best chance to get with an older woman, when we saw a police car barricading my car in. We were scared shitless. We thought someone had gotten the plate and reported it. We walked around the square for about an hour, checked back again, and the cruiser was still there. We were too nervous, but not Ormand. He walked right up to the cruiser to see what the deal was. It just so happens the cop was there for another reason and gladly moved his car so we could get out.
Potato grenades were just one of the crazy things we did for entertainment. One day Ormand dared me to pull the handle on this car. It was a brand new Mercedes which stuck out like a sore thumb next to the beat up Hondas and Corollas which crowded our streets. I pulled it and heard the most ear wrenching sound I ever experienced in my life. I was known for being a good runner in my day, but that day I ran as though I never had before. Ormand used to kid me and smoke came out of my Air Jordan’s that day.
Then there was this time when I went to pick up Ormand and he was eating a small box of Frosted Flakes, you know one of those little samples that comes in the mail. We drove down his street and seen the little white bags hanging on everyone’s doorknob. We looked at each other and had one of those moments where we were both silently thinking the same thing. We drove around in my car and stopped at everyone’s house and stole their free cereal samples. We filled up my entire trunk and my entire backseat with Frosted Flakes. We laughed until tears came strolling down our cheeks and we stopped once we had no more space left anywhere in my car.
Another adventure that we would embark on usually on a Friday or Saturday night, was walking down to Davis Square and trying to get some of the dorky college kids to buy beer for us. Ormand was always the best at this. His personality and charm could convince anyone to do almost anything. Ormand made a deal with these kids one night that if they bought us some beer that we had to go to the local store and buy them plates and cups for the keg party they were having. So we went shopping for them and they went shopping for us. We exchanged items and we were on our way.
You might be wondering why we stopped being friends. Well, it’s not that we stopped being friends, it’s just that we were never the same type of friends as we once were, we were never as close again.
We were over my friend Dustin’s house, this big mansion of place in Wilmington. I was playing Legend of Zelda with Dustin on Nintendo 64 while Ormand and this girl I was dating, Sharon, were hanging out somewhere else in the huge house. When we were done playing video games, we went to look for Ormand and Sharon. I found Ormand with his tongue down her throat and his hand up her skirt. The thing which enraged me was that my best friend would do this to me. I didn’t care about the girl, I barely knew her and hadn’t developed any feelings for her. I was just so upset because I felt as though Ormand set me up. She was a girl he knew and I assumed he had planned everything. I felt like it wasn’t just a one-time thing, but that it was on going for the few months since he introduced me to her.
After that happened we didn’t talk for a good amount of time. He started hanging with some new dudes while I just played a lot of basketball and stuff like that, laying low. The new people he was hanging with were into some bad stuff. There were using OxyContin and Heroin. They introduced Ormand to these drugs and got him hooked.
Form this point on, everything that I tell you about Ormand was not really him. It was not his true personality. It was the drugs. It had been a good six to seven months before I had heard from Ormand. I have heard these stories of how he was ripping people off, breaking into homes and stealing jewelry, giving drugs to girls and having sex with them while they were high. Ormand got so deep into drug debt and beefs that he couldn’t even go home because there were people waiting for him on his street to break his legs.
Then one day I got this call. Ormand had overdosed. He had not died, but was in a coma at Beth Israel hospital in Boston. As soon as I received the news I rushed over there. The anger which I had once felt towards him had disappeared and all I cared about was going to support my friend and help him get through this mess. I’ll never forget going in there for the first time and seeing my friend, or what was left of him. His athletic frame had dwindled down to the point where I could see bones sticking out of his body. He had so many tubes and wires sticking out of him he looked like a robot.
I remember going into the room with him and wondering if he knew I was there. Wondering if he was thinking about all of the laughs we had and if he was smirking on the inside with me. I went there every night for two weeks and stayed until visiting hours were over. One day he came out of it.
The first time I went to see him when he was awake my legs felt like Jell-O. I wondered if he would even be glad to see me, let alone recognize me from any of the possible brain damage he might have endured. I let everyone else go in before me, the people who were still in his life and the friends who turned him on to drugs. I was the last one into the room. We stared into each other’s eyes for the first time in which seemed like forever. As soon as he saw me his frail body jerked inside of the hospital bed. I’ll never forget that moment, the little smirk back on his face, my friend was glad I was there.
I went over and grabbed his hand, my skinny small hands engulfed his palm as I gestured for him to calm down. At that moment although how dreary the circumstances around us, the beeping, the IV’s, we both looked at each other and knew things were only going to get better from here. I was back in his corner and he was back in mine. We had made up and apologized without saying one single word.
One of the first things we did together during our new friendship was move this insanely big air conditioner out of his old apartment. I remember us trying to carry it down this winding staircase which seemed to have a pair of old smelly sneakers on every step. Halfway down we lost our grip and we tilted it too much to one side. Gallons and gallons of ice cold water poured down our pants. I remember us hysterically laughing while trying to get the AC down the rest of the stairs and into my car. Things seemed normal again, but that would be the last moment I would spend with Ormand.
I never got into Heroin or OC’s, so I can’t describe the hunger, but I guess the urge was just too much for Ormand to handle. I received a call a few days later from his sister that he had overdosed again and this time, there was no coming back from it.
Stacey stared at me, her eyes filled with tears. She came over to me and wrapped her young arms around my aging bones. I cried for the first time since I looked at my friend lying in his casket. I thought about Ormand everyday, but was never able to see all of our childhood memories as clearly as I did tonight.
*****

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