When word broke one of my drinking buddies, Chris Glandorf, died unexpectedly some weeks back, I was beset by a deadline that I still have yet to meet. I sat in front of my computer, deflated, wondering how such a thing could be true, the long line of goodbyes delivered via Facebook testifying to its validity.
Last time I saw Chris, who was 42, he had lost a significant amount of weight through, in his words, a restricted diet of 1,200 calories a day. I joked, somewhat jealously perhaps, “What, 1,200 calories from alcohol?”
Weeks later, he was deceased. Somehow.
Thus I sat staring at my computer while thinking about this past year. Thinking about the year before that even, when my mother had died. That, at least, made sense on some level. This year, though, two of my peers have now perished.
I then began to think about how, despite the somewhat cavalier life I have led, I had yet to lose a friend that I was truly close to.
Sounds horrible, I know, but beloved as Chris and Bones — my other fallen comrade — were to me, they nonetheless moved in and out of my sphere at will, falling somewhere between acquaintance and friend as a result.
In short, it confounded me that my close group of friends could have had that much fun and not have one of its members expire prematurely.
Suddenly, I thought about Leynlana. The last time I had seen my ex-girlfriend was in 2002. She was impossibly thin, still pretty, but her business in my backyard was obvious.
So, thinking that I might find arrest records or the like, I googled her rather singular name. Only one match popped up: a church bulletin wherein her parents had donated money to her memory in May 2009.
An already dark day faded to black.
I immediately thought of her son, whom I use to watch Scooby-Doo with late at night, our arms laced around each other’s shoulders.
I thought about how one night we happened upon the Weather Channel just in time to hear, “New Orleans is looking good for Mardi Gras.” Joking, I quipped, “We should go,” at which point Leynlana jumped up and started packing a bag.
I recalled how one time we drank a bottle of cough syrup and lay on the floor of her kitchen while listening to A Thousand Leaves. About how, soon after, she was kicked out of a Sonic Youth show for crowd surfing. Afterwards, I asked her why she would risk such a thing. Her reply: “Because that’s what we were there for: fun!”
I remembered how one time she sat in the corner of her apartment with the tiniest amount of cocaine, lighting the burnt aluminum foil compulsively, despite it being barren, in such a way I would never quite understand. Although I didn’t quit getting high, I did however make an effort to quit getting high around her.
I remembered the day we had tickets to the H.O.R.D.E. festival. I was tripping, and thus could not get over the sadness of the empty seat next to me, the Smashing Pumpkins’ melancholy vibe speaking volumes to my stood-up self.
I remembered the last day we hung out as an ostensible couple; we did so with some young people that were shooting heroin. I remembered doing it with her, not because I wanted to get high, but because I didn’t want to be left behind, which happened soon anyway.
I remembered, years later, my cousin Kevin, who lived behind me on Clay Street, calling to say that he had seen Leynlana standing on a nearby corner. Strangely, I had been in the midst of telling our story in this very column at the time, as if I had summoned her. It was December, and so I remembered the snow falling on the streets as I drove them, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” on repeat my soundtrack.
I ran into her not long after. She thanked me for the stories. We had some drinks and I took her home, as she had no place to stay and was on the nod. I picked her up and carried her to my bed. She giggled as I threw her onto my mattress, then immediately passed out. When I awoke, she was gone, having left behind only a school picture of her son. Not that much different from now.
When all the reminiscence in the world won’t change the fact that my ex-lover is dead, despite having been four years younger. It was a humbling thing to be left behind by someone almost anyone else could have had for a small price.
Yet I understand: Leynlana, for all her faults, was nonetheless a wonderful person, one that happened to get caught in a web, I can only assume, she could never quite extricate herself from. As a result, I sit here haunted, as I always was with her, with more questions than answers, not the least of which is:
How much of that web did I help weave?
I wait for an answer as I toast my fallen friends. Faced, as I am, with the notion that, instead of the stadium filling up — as I assumed it would — I view more and more empty seats while I finally meet my deadline with one last thought:
Our lives consist of individual moments. We are what we do. The poets are fond of imploring, “Seize the day.” But if we fail, as is our wont, what next? I say, salvage the night, then; salvage the night. And proceed in an attempt to take my own advice.
CONTACT MARK FLANIGAN: firstname.lastname@example.org