(Albuquerque, NM – 1994, me left, Chris right)
Chris and I met in the fifth grade. Our class was doing a book report project on fictional characters. We could choose any fictional character from any medium and had to come to class dressed as the character and prepared to tell the class about ourselves. I chose Wolverine from the comics. Chris was the only person in class who guessed who I was. We became friends immediately.
Chris was loud and gregarious. He was a bigger, thicker kid than I and excelled at sports. He played defense on the football team through junior high and high school. He suffered from moderate hyperactivity, and was under clinical observation for aggressive behavior.
But unlike Dan and other friends, he was actually a good kid. He cut up and class and aggressed against kids who disagreed with him, but this was simply unrestrained masculine vigor. Chris had a good heart.
I remember watching Chris rough a guy up, slamming him against a locker and kicking his legs out from underneath him, over a conversation about football. I heard some commotion and turned around to see Chris beating a kid like a rag doll. The kid finally broke free and ran away. “What was that about?” I asked with a bit of surprise. “Stupid fucker thought the Redskins were gonna beat the Cowboys.” he replied.
We became best friends in the seventh grade when we discovered that we had every class together.We routinely got kicked out of classes for being disruptive:
Chris had an empty cologne bottle and I wanted to see if I could break it. It was thick so I knew I’d have to throw it hard. I went to the small metal trashcan in the corner of the classroom and slammed the bottle into it with all my might. The bottle shattered and dime-sized pieces of glass showered the room. We were both asked to leave.
I remember Chris getting into it with a kid right as class was starting. The kid was putting his books down on his desk. A few words were exchanged and Chris went at him, shoving him over his desk. The kid tumbled and books when flying. As soon as he was back on his feet Chris was on him again, powering him out the door. The kid ran straight to the principle’s office. I think Chris got suspended for a day or two.
After I got suspended from school, Chris was the only friend my parents allowed me to see. His mom would rent us movies and we’d stay up all night. We could help ourselves to soda, and watch any movie on the shelf. We routinely did horror marathons of movies like the Nightmare on Elm Street series or Friday the 13th. Once his parents were asleep, he would bust out his stash of Red Shoe Diaries and other soft-core porn tapes he had stolen from his older brother.
His older brother worked at the local movie theater. On Saturdays, his mom would drop us off at the theater as early as ten or eleven in the morning. His brother would let us in and we would roam movie to movie all day. We saw Twelve Monkeys opening night. To this day it’s one of my favorite movies.
It was refreshing to be with Chris after spending so much time with Dan. There was less anxiety about being caught doing something wrong. We still made trouble, but it was mischief, not crime.
His parents would drop us off at the mall in the morning and pick us up at night. We would spend all day there. As we roamed the back halls of the mall, we ended up in a small private room behind a photo studio. The room had a pay phone so we spent the next two hours making prank collect calls to people before we were interrupted by an angry store manager. We bolted, and his parents picked us up shortly after.
Chris did not smoke or take drugs, but he did not mind if I did. I would smoke while we walked around the neighborhood, and often times I would get high after school and go mellow out at his house until I had to be home for dinner. He didn’t seem to care, but always offered something better to do if I was interest.
On Valentine’s Day in 1997, Chris lost his life in a serious car accident. He and a friend had been driving to a party. They were T-boned on Chris’s side. Chris was hospitalized in critical condition, where he stayed in a coma for several days. He had suffered significant brain damage and spinal chord injuries. Had he lived he never would have been himself again. He passed away by the end of the week.
I had been in Salt Lake City for almost a year when I got the news. I wept uncontrollably. My parents made arrangements for me and I flew back to Albuquerque for the funeral. His parents were thrilled to see me there, and I got to be an honorary pall bearer.
Dan and Jeremy were in attendance. They were happy to see me and wondered where I had gone. When I told them I had moved, they took it personally. They believed it was because they got me in trouble. I assured them that this was not the case, but I could see that it didn’t change their minds.
It was a sad for everyone.