Alex…

Alex just showed up one day. That’s not really a negative comment, just a plain one. One day he wasn’t in my social circle of friends, the next he was there, plain as day and offering input as if he had been there from the start, and that was okay. His musical knowledge combined with his wide vocabulary put me in instant awe, and I loved to hear his opinions when it came to most anything. The best thing about Alex was that, despite his clear intelligence, he was totally fine with being involved with all our childish antics.

I love fireworks. I buy several hundred dollars worth every year and use them throughout the whole month of July. This has (obviously) caused several problems. One of which being a night when I was trying to figure out what to do with my leftovers. They sat in a box in my living room of the apartment I was residing in with Alex, Chad, Nolan and Jordan all surrounding it. They examined my random assortment, stumbling across a pack of Little Dynamites, which was literal. I’m not sure which one started it, (It may have even been me) but soon everyone was lighting and throwing them at each other. Harmless little pops were made and everyone jumped when one was thrown. I walked into the kitchen to fill my cup with ice and when I returned Alex had one in his hand. He lit it and tossed it to Chad, who deflected it with black cat-like reflexes. Unfortunately, the little stick of dynamite bounced right into the box.

Everything stopped.

It was the first and only time in my life that I could swear that we were literally stuck between seconds. Finally, something pulled us out of it and the dynamite went “Pop!”

Then, “Pop!” went another firework.

Then “Pop! Pop! Popopopopopopopopopopopopopopopopop!”

We all scattered, running outside while my apartment filled with black smoke and flashes. We stood and stared as the sound got louder and louder. I looked to see that everyone had made it out and asked “Who grabbed the fireworks?” Everyone either shrugged or shook their heads, and I burst back through the door into the darkness, coughing as I felt for the fiery Pandora’s box. I rushed back outside and threw it on the front lawn, where it had exploded mere moments after impact.

Did I mention fireworks were illegal in my hometown? Police sirens sent us running like rats and we met back up at Nolan’s house, hands shaking from the pure adrenaline of nearly setting an entire apartment complex on fire.

I wish I could say that was as bad as it got, but I’m afraid that’s not true. When I was 19, I became infatuated with a practice called “Fire in the hole” where one would order a cup of water from the drive-thru, and toss it back at the worker before speeding off down the road. It was an asshole thing to do, but I more than paid for it. One night in the pinnacle of it all I had a car full of friends; myself, my cousin, Alex, Joe and another friend Nelson. My cousin drove my car as we went to a McDonald’s. He ordered the water and tossed it back at the man. I don’t know if it hit his face or not, because my cousin skidded down the road in my little Plymouth Neon. We sped down the wet main street of the city, laughing about what had just happened. About three or four miles down the road came a stop light. We halted, and out from behind another car swerved right in front of us, slamming on their brakes and cutting us off. We screamed, “Whoa! Hey! What the fuck assh-”

It was the McDonald’s guy.

“Back up! Back up!” I shouted. He backed up and the McDonald’s guy immediately got back in his car, entering us in a high speed chase in the rain on a busy street. To this day I’m amazed no one got hurt. We dodged around cars and it seemed there would be no way out, when I saw an exit onto a highway. “Get on there!” I shouted, a little too late. My cousin tried to turn onto the highway at 55 mph, only to end up sliding sideways and slamming against the curb. Clunk, clunk, clunk. The car barely rolled forward. I accepted defeat and told him to stop the car. The man parked behind us and stepped outside just after I was reviewing the damage. I barely got a look at my destroyed axle before the man stuck a hammer in my face. “Get back in the car!” I couldn’t tell if it was spit or rain that he spewed, but I did as I was told.

He proceeded to pace around the car, telling us how many kids he had (two) and what he gets paid (minimum wage) and how he doesn’t have to put up with our bullshit. Livid is an understatement for what this man was. He didn’t let us respond, and he wouldn’t have cared about what we had to say, anyway. He taught us a lesson, though, by throwing his hammer through my back windshield and getting back in his car, peeling out down the road. We never caught him, and my car sat in a parking lot nearby for 8 months before I could pay to fix it, only to have it completely destroyed two years later in a bank parking lot on a Sunday afternoon.

Like I said, despite joining us for these little activities, I couldn’t help but admire Alex and his intelligence, especially when it came to music. He seemed to have knowledge that was unmatched in the world of lyrics, especially when it came to American Pie by Don McLean. He analyzed that song for me one rainy night driving back from the greatest movie theater in America so thoroughly that I had to adopt it as my own and spread his interpretation to other people. Every time that song comes up I tell people Alex’s analysis. I watch as their eyes get wide with such a great interpretation and smile when they can’t help but say “Wow…” when it’s all said and done. I like to think I add a bit of passionate theatrics to the mix, too.

One day, whilst I’m in the middle of explaining American Pie’s depressing description of the deterioration of music to a few new friends, jumping around their living room and speaking as fast as I can to keep up with the lyrics, if I find myself overly into the part where Mclean watches Mick Jagger on the stage with his hands clenched in fists of rage, and I rear my head back to shout out “Break that Satan’s Spell”, I slam my head so hard against the empty coat rack that I end up hanging myself on it, I’ll have died thinking of my admirable friend Alex, and the things he’s taught me.

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