I once had a friend named Chris... He was a soldier stationed at Ft. Bragg; we met back in the day when Benson, North Carolina was the "cruising capital of the south."
Chris was an amazingly fun and charismatic fellow who was as funny and entertaining as he was handsome. It was impossible to not have a great time when he was around and we spent a lot of time together watching movies and stealing into matinees for free second shows, camping and fishing in the middle of the night, rappelling off of base towers and being escorted off post, visiting my friend Karen at ECU, and just generally goofing off. He was a great friend and perfect gentleman and though we never dated, I always thought he would be a great catch for some lucky girl. Life was one great big adventure with Chris and everyone wanted to be along for the ride. To know him was truly to love him.
Once, Chris, his friend Mike, and I set out for a weekend at ECU to see Karen and partake in a bit of East Carolina's infamous college life. It was a hysterically crazy fun weekend until Mike, having exceeded his limit of alcohol, puked all over Karen's laundry. Furious, Karen made us spend the bulk of the following day at the laundry mat washing her nasty, chunk-covered clothes while she went to work at the mall where we were to meet her later. --Even doing laundry was a riot with Chris modeling for us one of Karen's pretty floral sundresses...
"I triple-dog dare you to wear that to the mall!" I said.
And he did. --It was a Sunday afternoon, the mall flooded with nicely dressed couples and families just out of church who all just stopped and stared, mouths hanging open, at this 6'2" smiling soldier with hairy legs and armpits sticking out of a very feminine summer dress sauntering his way through the mall and into a kitchen ware's store.
Karen beet red from embarrassment, could barely contain her laughter as she mustered up her most scolding motherly tone and exclaimed, "You go take MY dress off right now!"
I still have the pictures.
There are so many memories flooding my mind now as I type this and even if I wrote them all down, I still would not be able to sum up the essence of Chris.
Back then, there were no cell phones and no email, and gradually we lost touch as we both began dating other people. He left me a few messages on the answering machine and I tried phoning him a few times too -- which was a challenge calling the barracks because whether or not you actually got through to the person you were trying to reach depended solely upon the willingness of whatever CQ was stuck answering the phones to get up, walk down the hall, and go check their room... But we never connected again.
May 27, 1993 -- For no particular reason, Chris popped into my head that afternoon and would not leave. I dreamt of him that night, and the next... Strong, vivid dreams of nothing specific, just his haunting presence. Something wasn't right and I felt it in my bones.
The following day, I called his barracks and explained to the CQ that I desperately needed to reach my friend, that I was calling long distance and wasn't even sure if he was still stationed there or if he'd already left -- please, please, please see if you can find him... I gave his name. Silence. The First Sergent took the phone and began quizzing me on how I knew Chris, my relationship with him, and when I last spoke with him... My mind was racing - I was thinking, oh no, that crazy-ass went AWOL, but no such luck...
May 27, 1993, just three days after ETSing on permanent leave, Chris was shot in the head at point blank range while visiting a friend in Indiana by some unprovoked, deranged bastard who said he felt threatened by the "military look" in Chris's eyes; his friend, Denise, was also murdered.
I felt numb, empty, in shock. --I spoke to Mike, who gave me Chris's mom's number... Though I'd never met nor spoken to her, she knew exactly who I was. We talked and laughed and cried for hours. --Perhaps that was what he wanted, for me to comfort the mother he loved so much.
Shortly after his death, the girl Chris had been dating found out she was pregnant; she had twin boys - who look so much like the father they would never know.
It's been 17 years and I still think of him.
I still miss knowing him...
A Trick I Learned In The Philippines--
I can see your mouth smiling
At my brain,
As clear as the last photo I took--
that devilish grin
of a boyish man,
full of mischief,
full of life!
--You are still the fun
In my fondest memories
And I miss loving you,
They say you're dead.
He stole your mischief--
the fucking BASTARD!!!
But for me,
You will always be
full of life;
it's in your smile,
hiding in my brain...
CLJD 25 January 1994