Thursday, April 7, 2016

Memory of Spencer

I had one of those insanely vivid dreams that I was on an adventure with a very old friend, and of course a stream of memories were accessed in my brain when I woke up this morning.

I just had one of those feelings that my brain was getting ready to purge this information for some new stuff, and I felt sort of sick to my stomach not having a memory of my friend Spencer.

Spencer and I hit it off in 4th grade, when during our scheduled restroom break, we were sitting cross-legged in the hall of the school. Most of my friends were in the other 4th grade class, so not being shy about just talking to whoever was around, I turned to the guy behind me, pointed at a roster for the 2nd grade class, and said, "there's a kid in that class named "I-ON." (Phonetically how I said it)

Spencer looked at the name, and looked me in the eye, and said, "You're an idiot. That's my brother. His name is Ian."

And that is how we started hanging out.

Spencer used to spend the night at my house fairly often, especially early on. We would spend nights drawing from comic books, drawing on huge pieces of paper, even drawing on my unpainted wall in my basement room.

I remember how he used to tell anyone that would listen, how great of an artist I was. He's honestly probably the reason I kept with drawing for a few more years.

I know Scully, my face exactly.
He'd often spend the night on Friday. I remember this because he had an unhealthy obsession with Gillian Andersen's (Scully) boobs.

After NYPD Blue showed a bare butt on TV (a dude's at that), Spencer was convinced that Scully's "bowling ball boobs" (his 4th grade words, not mine) would eventually be shown on TV. So every week, around Wednesday, he would start hyping up the Friday X-files by telling me his older brother heard this was the week.

It obviously never happened.

Side note: This may be where my love of red heads came from.

After we had been hanging out for a year or so, he started inviting me to spend the night at his grandma's house, but not his.

His grandma and grandpa were pretty well off. They would pick me up and take us to Mid-Rivers mall in their giant, leased SUV. Spencer's grandma would give him $30 to spend while we putz around the mall. I always thought Spencer was lucky to have so much money at his disposal.

We usually ate mall food (me Sbarro, him Chic-fil-a), comb through all the books at Walden's, usually buying a comic-book (me, Calvin and Hobbes if I had money, him Batman vs Predator), and then head back to his grandparents's really nice duplex around a lake.

Normally we would then play his grandparent's Gateway PC which was incredibly powerful
compared to any computer we had.

There was a largely forgotten game called Hunter Hunted that was our favorite, where one of us would play as a beast and one a man, and we would fight our way through a post-apocalyptic future together.

To this day, these warm memories usually have me loading the game onto my PC once a year to play through it.

We would fall asleep on the couch bed and every hour I was woken by an incredibly loud cuckoo-clock.

It was probably year 2 when I got my first invite to Spencer's actual house. Even then, I remember feeling really bad for him and his dad.

It was an ideal Bellefontaine Neighbors suburban ranch home, probably built in the 50's. It was down the street from a middle school, had fenced in yard, made of brick, and had a market on the corner.

Except that this house was on the western side of the town, near Glasgow Village and the river. White flight had already started in the area. The middle school had closed down from lack of kids. There were 10 houses on sale and not taken care of in the area. I remember how the street used to shimmer under street lights from all the broken glass.

And Spencer's dad... he was the man I really felt for. He had a 900 square foot house, filled with five children. He worked long hours, 5 in the morning until 7 at night from what I understood. Some sort of manual labor. He would come home, pass out fast food to everyone, and sit to watch TV.

He was nice, never hit anyone, but he did have a temper. He was too tired to really pay attention to the kids, so instead he would yell for them to do things.

I remember eating pancakes off a plastic plate at Spencer's one morning and the pancakes tasted like soap. Spencer's dad flipped out yelling at Spencer, "I told you to rinse all the soap off of the dishes when you're done cleaning them." We all sat in silence eating our soapy pancakes.

I think the worst I felt for Spencer's dad is even though he had all the kids, Spencer's mom got them in the summer and she got to be a superhero. All the kids couldn't wait to go out to Arizona where there were no rules.

Every year, when Spencer was coming back from his mom's, excitement built again. I couldn't wait for nights filled with games and comic-books.

Then one year he came back. I rode my bike to his house, and we started walking to our favorite market to buy candy. He pulled out a cigarette. This must have been before 7th grade. I felt a sea change.

He offered me one, I said no. Then he got antagonistic, "Oh, I guess you're too good for me now. You think I'm a piece of crap for smoking don't you?"

Despite me answering no, something had changed. We both knew it. We got some candy, made some small talk, and this is the last time I remember hanging out with Spencer. I was at a different school now, we were both at different places in our life. It's one of those friendships where a coming of age film could be based off of it. It was probably a few years too short, but I really appreciated having it at all.

I saw Spencer once, maybe six years later, at Jamestown mall. He looked exactly as his older brother looked back then. Him, just stretched longer, some stubble on his upper lip, wearing a Charlotte Hornets Starter Jacket.

I think about Spencer every now and then. I think because it was such a short friendship, I don't have as many stories about him so he doesn't come up as often. I hope he's doing OK.