Return To Asbury

[Originally written on this date in 2004]

It had been way too long since I had seen Jon, though three days after his accident he sent me a post card from Atlantic City telling me he was alright and that he was sorry I had to witness what I did.  The hand writing was shakey and I felt no better than I had since everything happened.  However, I had to put on the ‘everything-is-okay’ act and hang out with the Asshole for some stupid gig that didn’t happen.  Then I had a show at his friend’s place for post Halloween celebrations and I have no idea how I made it through that without just breaking down in tears.

Just when I thought I was going to drown in my own sorrow, I get an e-mail from Jon.  He wants me to meet him in Cherry Hill, and while I have dozens of questions spinning through my mind, I write down the address and make no haste in getting out the door.  It is a white knuckle drive down the Turnpike – I need to see his face and know that he is alright, because my gut is telling me otherwise.  My heart was racing when I spotted the Chevy and my door was half open before I even finished parking.  Stumbled over myself getting out of the car and tried to be cool as I approached Jon.  Immediately my heart sank.  This is was not my best friend – this was some drug zombie who hadn’t shaved in weeks, with sunglasses hiding the haze in his eyes because he doesn’t want me to see it.

There were so many things I wanted to say but none of the words would properly form.  Instead my mouth flopped around like a fish gasping for air, though the disappointment must have been evident on my face because Jon couldn’t even look at me.

“I fucked up,” he mumbles, slowly slipping his hand into mine.  “Hurt myself, bad.  Set myself out on a path of destruction and realized that I was hurting you too.  Sorry doesn’t cut it and I cannot change the things that have happened.”  A sigh squeezes itself past his lips as he lights a joint and finally removes the sunglasses.  “Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?”

An absurd question rolls around my head while I stare into his eyes and try to make sense of everything.  It was not his fault, or at least I don’t think it was, even if he did keep snorting coke when he damn well knew better.  Who am I to tell him what he can or cannot do?  A friend cares, but he is the only person who can stop himself – all I can do is be here for him no matter what.

“You owe me nothing,” I say, doing my best to keep back tears.  “It would be nice to spend the day with you, though.”

Jon smiles slightly and gestures for me to get in, so I do.  The music is blasting and we are passing a blunt between us like nothing happened.  Our destination became the D&R Canal, a place far removed from the main sections of whatever town we were in.  It was obvious he chose the spot so we could be alone and talk about things in the privacy of the woods.  We began the walk by passing through a dark tunnel and Jon makes a joke that we were crossing into another dimension.   The air was a bit chilly but we were both well-dressed in preparation and found the occasional breeze to be quite refreshing.  Might I point out here I couldn’t help but think those woods would make for the perfect out-door concert spot.  Though the trees were mostly bare, there was an odd beauty to them and I could smell the dampness of the leaves that had fallen from them.  There was a random white sheet hung from some trees across the water with no visible path passing by, so I wondered how it had gotten there.

Eventually Jon broke the silence and explained his absence, apologizing profusely for succumbing to weak moments and feeling like a failure for resorting to drugs.  What am I supposed to do, give him a lecture and make him feel worse?  There were a lot of emotional words shared between us, and while I am not exactly thrilled with his behavior, I want to be here for him so that he does not have to think drugs are his only alternative.  He still needs to make that choice by himself.  No matter what, I still love him.  Maybe I am the crazy one for saying that, but this man is the most important person in my life and I would hate myself if I ever abandoned him.

Once the air was cleared we finished smoking the blunt we had started earlier and turned around to head back to the Chevy.  Jon is in a better mood and says that it would be funny if some dude waving a machete and wearing a hockey mask suddenly jumped out to attack us.  No sooner had the thought been vocalized than a bell rang behind us.  Almost afraid to look, we slowly turned around to see a man riding a bike coming up on our right and laughed when he went by.  The evening turned cold fast as the sun was going down, and walking through the pitch black tunnel was a bit creepy.

Waiting for the Chevy to warm up, Jon said that had a surprise for me and hoped I was not in a rush to go anywhere.  Of course I said that nothing could tear me away from his side.  We head out onto the highway and the mood is definitely lighter after our walk through the woods.  Stopped off at the beautiful Seville Diner where we ordered salad and fried calamari, though I was disappointed that there were no tentacles.  We were amused by the waitress who was curious enough to ask if we were going to a show.  Why do people always assume that?  Perhaps it was the way we were dressed, and while she was not trying to be rude, it is still a question that gets asked so often it becomes annoying.  Jon put on a smile, churned out the Southern drawl and had her drooling, all the while slipping the tip money out of her apron and into his pocket.  Enjoying the rest of our meal without further disturbances, we became absorbed in casual conversation.  There was an incident at a table behind us, as I saw one guy throw a glass of water on another.  We were hoping for a fight but some employees came round to discourage any of that.

Jon tells me to go wait in the car and that he will settle up the bill.  The engine is already running when he strolls out, but he cannot stifle the laughter as he backs up and pulls out of the parking lot.  It’s good to see he hasn’t lost his touch, and for some reason I feel like he needed to make that point.  The more I smoke, the more thoughts want to be expressed, yet I don’t want to be rude or out of line.  Besides, I am having a blast and that is better than lingering on negativity.  Gazing out the window, I see a shooting star in the sky and take it as sign to just let go.

When we arrive in Asbury I am full of curiosity but trust Jon and say nothing as we exit the Chevy to do some exploring.  First location was the much neglected Metropolis hotel.  Apparently the property is for sale, but like the other abandoned buildings there, all entrances were boarded up.  Well, except for windows which are well out of our reach and that one doorway.  We would have went in but it was dark outside and even darker from what we could see of the inside, so neither of us thought it would be a good idea to explore the blackness.

Then we went over to the boardwalk to check out the casino again, but were disappointed upon discovering the loose board had been nailed up.  Strolling onto the beach, Jon comments that he really appreciates how loyal I have been as a friend after all of the things we have been through together.  He thanks me, in fact, and says that whether I knew it or not, I definitely made a difference in his life and he wanted me to know that it meant a lot.  It was really unexpected so I did not know what to say, though was assured that did not matter with a soft kiss on the forehead.

When I realized we were standing at the steps of the bowling alley, Jon pulls a ridiculous pose and shouts “Surprise!”  He had brought me there to see Demented Are Go and I was astounded.  Commenced drinking, bowling, seeing an amazing psychobilly band, dancing and having a complete blast.  There were so many moments where I was completely lost in fits of hysterics, finding little things about Jon that made me love him and being thankful that our bond would be strong no matter what.

Made a late-night early-morning coffee stop at another diner, though I was far too weary to be paying attention to details.  Though before parting, Jon said that he needed to take a little more time to get his head straight, and then promised that I would see him again soon.


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