I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the circle of friends I used to hang out with in Saugus, Mass., the town next to my home turf of Revere.
I’ve recently been back in touch with some of the friends from those days, and it reminds me of a few regrets I’ve carried over the years.
Saugus was as much a home to me as Revere for the simple reason that my father’s business was there and I spent as much time there as I did at home. Even today, when I take Sean and Duncan to visit their grandparents, it’s usually at the Saugus building.
I also had a lot of friends there because I went to a regional vocational high school and Revere and Saugus were two of the places that made up its student body. One of my best friends at the time was Aaron Lewis. There’s my first regret. Not that we were practically inseparable, but that I treated him like shit much of the time.
I met Aaron in 1985, my freshman year of high school. He was the kid with really bad acne. But nothing ever seemed to bother him. I’m sure a lot of things bothered him, but he was very good at hiding his feelings.
That made him the perfect target for a creep like me.
We hung out constantly. He practically lived in my Revere basement at times. I let him borrow my car regularly. And if I drank, that was OK, because he almost never drank. He could be the driver. Except for the time I encouraged him to drink a bottle of vodka. He had just eaten a bag of McDonald’s and I told him I was sick of him trying to get buzzed off of wine coolers. This night, I told him, he was going to do it right. He got smashed, and proceeded to puke all over my basement — on the bed, the carpets, the couch, the dresser. That was some strange vomit. It looked like brown confetti.
I sat on the floor, drunk myself, writing in my journal. I wrote about how drunk Aaron was and prayed to God that he wouldn’t die.
He was the perfect counterweight to Sean Marley. Marley was essentially my older brother and I spent a lot of time trying to earn his approval. I didn’t have to do that with Aaron. He didn’t criticize. He didn’t judge. He just took all my mood swings on the chin.
I would sling verbal bombs at him and he’d take it. I would slap him on the back of the neck and he’d take it. I was such a jerk. And he took it. That’s a true friend. Times have changed.
Aaron got married, moved to California and has a growing family. He’s doing some wonderful things with his life, as is his former girlfriend, Sharon. Those two were always together. The night before Sharon’s high school graduation I let them borrow my car. The next morning Sharon’s father called looking for her. “She’s not here,” I said. Silence, then his response: “They said they were staying with you for the night.” Busted. I don’t think he stayed angry for long, though. I remember her dad being a big guy with a big heart.
There was the Jones family, with whom we’d hang out for days on end. Jeff Jones (he goes by Geoff Wolfe today) was my fellow Doors freak, and I remember many pleasant afternoon’s and evenings in their back yard. I was there for July 4 1991, which I remember because someone slammed into my car and took off that night. The car, a 1981 Mercury Marquis, never ran right again. I got pretty smashed that night.
There was Bob Biondo, a kid who must have weighed in excess of 400 pounds. He had long, curly hair and always wore a cap and trench coat to hide his girth. He supplied me with a lot of weed and cigarettes and he was another mainstay in the Revere basement.
At some point in the early 90s I decided I was getting too grown up to hang around with these people. So I stopped coming around.
I moved to Lynnfield and made sure Biondo didn’t know where I lived. I simply stopped calling the Jones house.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I was beginning a deep slide into depression and addiction. I cut myself off from a lot of people and started to isolate myself.
My weight swelled to 280 and I didn’t want to be seen by old friends. I was too ashamed. So I binged some more to numb my feelings.
I’ve recently been back in touch with the Jones family, thanks to Facebook. I plan to keep the line of communication going.
Biondo died of a heart attack on Valentine’s Day 2009. I had just gotten married and was working with special-needs people. I always assumed he drifted into an adulthood of waste. I always figured he’d die young because of the weight, and I was right. But I was wrong about the man he had become.
Part of me wishes I’d kept in touch with him over the years. It wouldn’t have changed the course of his life, but as it turns out he didn’t need my help.
You can’t change the things you’ve done in the past. But you can make amends.
I’m glad there are enough people left in Saugus for me to make amends to.