I learned yesterday that the devil on my shoulder from my high school days passed away on Friday.
I haven't seen him or talked to him in years. In fact, the last week of our senior year may well be the very last time I had any meaningful engagement with him.
Still, the news of his passing from some horrible illness he suffered through alone in prison while his family waged battle with a judge to grant him the solace of dying surrounded by those he loved has discombobulated me completely.
Dana was a ring leader. Football player. Epitome of the street smart dumb jock. We partied at his house every weekend, while his mother worked nights somewhere. He always had the goods, or at least the access, and the legions of "friends" that go with it.
But he had countless legit, heart to heart friends, too. I like to think I was one, for a while at least. We had a weird closeness. He dated my best friend. Fell hard for her. When she moved away to Texas, he made a road trip down there, only to be spurned, not only by her, but most forcefully, by her father, who paid for some repairs to Dana's car in exchange for his promise to leave and never return.
I dated his best friend, for a hot high school minute or two. Dana didn't care. We had a flirty love-hate-love thing between us, and I knew that if push ever came to shove, Dana would be there. He'd find a way
It shames me to say that if he had been inclined to count on me in that way, he would have been severely disappointed. I was a "good girl." He was the ultimate "bad boy." I was attracted to him and the universe that revolved around him like a moth to a flame.
Most of the real trouble I found myself in during my senior year could be traced directly back to Dana in some way. To the point that my mother walked down the street, knocked on our neighbor's door, and asked him - the sitting Chief of Police of my hometown at the time - to keep an eye on me and any possible association I may have with one Mr. Big Shot. Because Mr. Big Shot is Trouble with a capital T, I can hear her say. Mr. Big Shot is a bad influence, especially on impressionable young girls like my daughter, I can hear her say.
She was partly right. He *was* trouble. Maybe even Trouble with a capital T. But we loved him for it, begged him for it, aided and abetted him in it, whenever he would let us.
I was no innocent.
I was just smart enough to know that partying wasn't enough to build a life on.
And I think that Dana sort of pitied me for thinking that way, because to his way of thinking, life *was* the party.
It all eventually caught up with him, of course. I mean, it always does, right? I remember hearing about him being in and out of jail for various things. I remember coming home and hearing that he was really messed up on drugs, really doing himself some damage. I remember hearing stories from people who would run into him from time to time, and the tone of worry or pity, sorrow or helplessness as they recounted moments from their encounters.
I remember reading an article in the newspaper about him getting arrested yet again, but this time, it was nothing small. He had a loaded gun in his possession. A felony parole violation. He was sent away for a long, long time.
Facebook, right? I mean, you gotta love it or hate it. Through friends of friends of friends, I managed to keep track of him a little, doing his time. His family posting about his loneliness, about his remorse. And then about his illness - terminal; about their legal battles - fruitless.
They tried, so hard, for months and months to get this one particular judge to grant some compassion. They knew he was dying, and as a result, their desperation and frustration grew more intense by the day. Finally, on Friday of last week, he was moved to an intensive care unit in Lexington, Kentucky, and his family was told they could come down to see him, spend his final hours with him.
They never made it.
They had just left town when they got another call, letting them know he was gone, advising them to turn around and go on back home.
That just guts me, every time.
Dana did some bad things, and was punished for them.
I don't understand why his family now has to live with knowing he died alone, isolated, nobody to hold his hand, whisper in his ear, tell him he was loved.
I don't understand what justice is served in that.
So, I roll that emotion on up into the ball of other unresolved feelings and grieve.
With them. For him.
For all of us.
Rest in peace, Dana.
*Title observation by the inimitable Benjamin Franklin.