A few months back when I wrote “The Lost Generation of Revere,” I forgot to mention someone very important to the story; a kid who died six years ago: Jay Nickerson.
I don’t remember Jay doing what a lot of us kids were doing: smoking pot and drinking under the General Edwards Bridge that connects Revere to Lynn, fighting (or cowering from a fight); bullying or getting bullied.
Jay always seemed to exist in a cheerful fashion, peacefully co-existing with the punks and the more mentally-balanced kids. I don’t think he ever said an ill word of anyone. He was just this big, lovable bear. He did insult me once. But the problem was more my lack of humor at the time.
We were standing in the Gibson Park tennis court. I was just starting to get into heavy metal and was wearing a Motley Crue “Shout At The Devil” t-shirt. Jay looked at me and said, “heavy metal vomit.”
“What did you say?” I asked, shocked.
“Heavy metal vomit,” he repeated.
If I remember correctly, I told him to fuck off and walked away. I don’t remember how he reacted to that, but I can picture him shrugging, smiling and going about his business.
We started out in the same grade at the Roosevelt School, but I was forced to repeat first grade because I was a year or two less mature than the other 7 year olds. But when we were still in the same first-grade class, I remember him hounding me to share my Ritz crackers with him. Actually, he wanted the whole sleeve I would usually bring for recess.
Both are fond memories of a big kid with a bigger heart.
I lost track of Jay after high school, until one day in the summer of 2005. My mother called and told me he had died of cancer. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea he was sick.
That a former schoolmate died young wasn’t the shock. I had already seen that happen plenty of times. The saddest example was Zane Mead, a troubled but tenderhearted kid who threw himself off the top of an apartment building off of Shirley Ave in the late 1980s.
An old friend recently suggested that there was a curse hanging over Revere natives from our generation. I found that intriguing.
As a teen I was so self-absorbed over my brother’s death that I didn’t realize how much loss our generation was suffering.
Was there some kind of curse hanging over the city in the 1980s? Were all my adolescent traumas part of that curse? Was my brother’s death and Sean Marley’s death part of it?
If you asked me that about six years ago, I’d have bought the theory straight away. Today I doubt it.
It was a sad and unfortunate period, but it wasn’t a curse. We all had our share of childhood happiness in Revere in between the bad stuff, and kids like Jay always seemed to be happy.
I know now what I didn’t get back then: That we weren’t meant to live soft lives devoid of pain and struggle. These things are tossed in our path to mold us into what we can only hope to be: good people. It doesn’t always work out that way, of course. But has life ever been fair?
Some would say that what happened to Jay was brutally unfair.
I wasn’t there when he was sick, but I suspect he handled the illness with the same good cheer he always seemed to carry in abundance.
I have no idea if he thought life had dealt him an unfair blow.
But I’m pretty sure he made the best of it.