|Photo by a2td (Armend)|
“I have some awful news," Peg said in low voice. “Michael’s been in an accident, he’s dead, Lori just called me, she’s been up all night crying. She still loved him you know.”
“Poor Lori! When did it happen?" I gasped.
“After work. Him and Tom was riding home on the Alamany overpass, in the lane next to the railing. A van stopped suddenly, his motorcycle swerved, and Michael flew down to the highway below. Then his body was struck by several cars. One of them tore his legs off.” Her voice cracked. “They say,” she stopped to catch her breath, “they say he died instantly.”
“Were they drinking?” was my reply, although I knew what the answer would be.
“Yes.” She paused and then said, “The funeral is Friday, the rosary is at St. Peter’s Church.” I hung up the phone and stood there silently.
That memory is over twenty years old, now. When I close my eyes I can see it again so vividly; his funeral, his friends, the crowded church, his pale face in the half-open casket, and the pale rose I placed on top of it.
It was raining that day of the funeral. I took a bus into the city and hurried down 42nd Avenue to the church. Peg, Lori, and all the girls I hung out with in high school were seated in the front row. I hadn't seen them in months. The guys were sitting behind them, each one in a three-piece suit. I remember how handsome they looked.
I glanced around me, there were literally hundreds of people, and more kept pouring in. They filled up the back and sides of the church. I saw faces; then I saw Lori’s face. God, poor Lori, she really did love him. And it was hard for her to leave Michael, but the drinking got so bad, and the fighting.
It started several years before. One Friday night we were out and heading towards the park to our usual hang out spot. We stopped at a liquor store, found someone to buy booze for us, and continued on our way. Michael and Lori were up ahead yelling and screaming about something, they were always yelling and screaming. He told her to shut up and slapped her across the face.
As the years passed, Michael’s drinking increased, and one night he hit her over the head with a beer bottle, she left him for good. Then his drinking got worse and losing Lori was just another excuse to get drunk.
As the funeral started, several of Michael’s friends went up to the alter to speak, the last one to talk was his eldest brother, John. They proceeded towards the casket then the top was closed. I never saw Michael’s face again, and the guys I went to high school with carried the casket down the aisle. Some say guys don’t cry, but those guys did, even though they were just nineteen.