Old Friends

Just when I thought I was done writing about the Point of Pines, Revere, another old friend re-enters the picture.

Mood music:

He tried to call me the other night and left this message: “Mr. Brenner, I just want to say sorry for being such a punk when we were kids, and for taking so long to call you.”

And there it was. For the first time in more than 20 years, a message from Kevin Flanagan. One of the kids who was always around. He was among the friends who tried to offer me sympathy when my brother died in 1984.

We fought a lot as kids, mostly because we were both the awkward types who would sometimes pick on someone else to make ourselves feel better. At one point when we were around 16, I boasted to my under-the-bridge friends that I could take Kevin down in a fight.

They held me to it. They brought the two of us down onto the beach, carved a boxing ring into the damp sand, and we went at it for however many rounds. We didn’t really fight, mind you. We just circled each other, waiting for someone to throw the first punch.

We worked out those kinks as we got older. We settled into a pattern of smoking cigarettes on the boulders behind the sea wall at Carey Circle and occasionally drinking together. One summer he worked in my father’s store. We both went to the Voke in Wakefield for high school. He was a regular in my basement, which sometimes resembled a neighborhood bar for minors.

Then he went his way and I went mine.

He was lucky enough to miss my most self-destructive years, particularly those immediately following Sean Marley’s death. I doubt I would have been much of a friend to him at that point, anyway. I was too busy isolating myself, binging and spending what was left of my brain in the fearful pursuit of career advancement. He didn’t miss much.

Turns out he’s been living in Atkinson, N.H. — the next town over from me — for years.

Go figure.

He’s not on Facebook, so it was particularly cool that he sought me out. He seems to be doing well for himself.

We hung out at the bar at the Haverhill 99. He had a beer and I had a diet coke, because that’s all I can drink at a bar. Someday, I’ll find a place where Red Bull is offered on tap. We ended up sitting next to a woman who got more talkative with each sip of wine.

I’m still trying to decide if she made me feel proud of the fact that I’m sober now or if she made me long for a real drink. I think I would have understood her better had I been drunk.

Ah, well. I was home by 8:30, which was for the best. I had been tired and depressed for much of the day and really didn’t need a late night out. I was supposed to go to Lynn for a Paul Revere School reunion, but that was postponed.

Why does Revere keep following me?

I guess it’s a ghost I’m supposed to keep trying to make peace with.

Whatever the case, I’m glad Kevin Flanagan is back in my life. You can never have too many good friends, and he was and is a good friend.


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