Boots of Spanish Leather

Somewhere in my negative files, there is a photo of a pair of well-worn boots. I shot them because, even empty, they stood like the man who wore them: one foot out, slightly cocked to one side. He was my last college boyfriend, and he was a junkie. Oh, he was clean, more or less, the time we were together, but he taught me that once a junkie, always a junkie. You might be clean and sober, but you are still a junkie. It was he who took me to that first Springsteen show at the Miami Jai Alai fronton. Somewhere I still have the photo he gave me from that night: Bruce from the back, a heart-shaped sweat stain on the ass of his jeans, blurry with the motion of Bruce whipping his knit hat from his head as he danced.

Why the melancholy reminiscence, you may ask? Because his death notice was in the alumni newsletter this week. It took all of my google-fu to find his obituary, and discover that he’d died in October of last year. I wrote our mutual friend: Why didn’t you tell me? Because he didn’t know, either. None of us knew. And that makes me sad, and a little angry. His on-line guest book is full of love and thanks from his patients and friends, because when he finally did get clean, he became an addiction therapist. Teach what you know, I guess. And he had a gift, apparently.

Reading the guest book made me sad for the man I didn’t know: the one who was generous and kind, something that we only saw glimpses of in school. He was filthy rich, but never let anyone know. He was always bumming a buck for a beer, never had anything less than a fifty, and couldn’t break it. It was a shock to me when I finally found out about the family money. I went down from Boston to meet him in New York City, and he took me to meet his grandfather. There’s something you need to know before we get there, he said. I’m rich. No. Really rich. Granddad owns the building we’re going to on Central Park West. He moved to the penthouse after Grandmother died and he didn’t need twelve rooms anymore. Now he only has seven. In the penthouse. It was his grandfather who convinced me that I shouldn’t waste my time on Boston, but move to NYC. It’s all happening out there he said, with a sweeping gesture, out his window overlooking the park. And it was. And I did.

When we left, Eric shook a paper bag at me. It clanged. The rest of the set I was born with, he grinned, showing me a silver service for eight. He hocked it. He went back to shooting dope, and begged me to come back to Miami for him. He pleaded with me. He wanted to marry me. I had to come back from New York. So I did. And found him living in filth in the Grove, where he apologized for dragging me away from the city, because in the month it took me to get my affairs in order and leave, he had met an eighteen year old girl, fallen in love, bought her a five carat canary diamond, and was over me. I never spoke to him again, although I knew what went on through mutual friends.

He ran through his inheritance. He was disowned. He moved to Arizona. He got clean. He was welcomed back into his family. He had families of his own. He became respected, loved and the man whose potential we had only seen in passing. And now he has passed. I’m sad that those of us who knew him when and loved him anyway weren’t told. But I don’t know. Had he disowned his past? I’ll never know. But I will find that photo of the boots.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/29 at 09:53 AM in Maudlin Crap

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