Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Crossroads

In Medway, we call it skid-hopping.

We waited inconspicuously at the stop sign.  The pick-up truck pulled up and then took the right onto Holliston St.  The truck’s tires spun out momentarily in the deepening snow, a pause that allowed just enough time for the four of us to run out and snatch on to the back bumper.  Our weight probably helped the tries grip.  Off we went. 

We skid-hopped along the slick road for close to a mile before reaching the busiest intersection in town, the crossroads of Holliston St and Main St.  Three of us peeled off, tumbling in howls of laughter as the powder broke our falls.  But Ollie held on, and careened through the intersection still affixed to the truck’s bumper.  

We watched in shocked admiration. Then we saw the cop car, idling at the red light, its driver no doubt even more shocked than us.

It pulled out behind the truck and on came the blues and Ollie spun off into the plow piles at the side of the road.  We ran across the intersection and stood in front of the The Little Store and watched as the cop got out and we saw Ollie motioning towards his house that was just a few dozen yards down the road and off they went.

It was the stuff of high school legend, Ollie careening through the intersection. Fearless and unstoppable. 

It wasn’t the first crossroad he had careened through. 

Ollie came to Medway from Brockton.  Short and stocky, rumored to be a tough kid, saddled with a stutter that he learned to make light of as the years passed. 

High school fights, primal as they are, can make and break a kid much more than they should.  Ollie had to prove his toughness on day one.  He did. Tough. And smart, very smart. Athletic, funny, caring.  He’d overcome his new-kid status to be president of the class in two years’ time. Careening.

We’d stay in touch through college and for years after, but I’d eventually lose regular contact with Ollie.  Sure, there was the parking lot at Great Woods before a concert – I don’t even remember who was playing, but I remember the tailgating before and the faint “Finnaayyyyy!!!” in the distance, over and over, and standing on my car and seeing Ollie wandering through the parking lot calling my name out because he figured I’d probably be there.  And the random phone call when he was up from Virgina to play in a golf tournament and his asking if I’d come out and meet him in Hyannis and my laughing “are you kidding me, of course I will!”  And Christ, it was just like old times, the drinking and laughing, the deep appreciation for a friendship we hadn’t honored enough through the years.

Suicide leaves a blast zone that permanently scars family and friends.  This month marks five years after my buddy Scott’s suicide blew apart our tight group of mt biking friends.  I knew Scott was feeling at a crossroads in his life and I had bought him the book Pathfinder by Nicholas Lore, a career-search book that is more like a guide on how to position yourself to live what Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist calls your “personal legend.”  Scott never read the book.  I don’t know if it would have helped him as it did me and so many others – helped him to see the crossroad for what it could be – the opportunity to forgive himself for all the past bad decisions, and the clean slate needed to get on with living the life he was meant to.

While I knew that Scott was struggling (though not to what degree), I don’t know what Ollie was going through; I wish he’d have reached out to tell me.  I only know that he was a good friend and that I feel so, so badly for him -- for the pain that he must have been going through, so great that it would have made him reach a crossroad and decide to stop, forever.  

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