Cap would not have wanted me to write this.
He didn’t want me talking about it at all. Not with him, not with our friends or his family, not with anybody.
But he’s gone now. And in the end, the booze had him so bad he was beyond caring what anybody thought. So there’s nothing to stop me from gleaning what I can from the whole of his life, tragically short and woefully unlived as it was.
I met Chris Cappelletti in kindergarten on Long Island, or maybe the summer before at Hemlock Park, part of our neighborhood network for children that ran all the way west to Washington Avenue, easily traversable by bike or skateboard.
From the beginning, he was good at everything. Kickball first, then soccer and baseball. He could drop shots on the court at Hemlock all day long, and I’m pretty sure he could even play tennis. He had all the inside information on parties and concerts — he was our designated mail-order guy for Grateful Dead tickets — and he could drive to this friendly little bodega in Queens and back inside a 24-minute lunch period.
He stayed on the honors track in school, too, until senior year when we all slacked off a little. That year, I saw him jump behind a drum kit before a band practice and just start… playing drums. Like he’d done it a million times.
For some reason, that sticks with me. As does the specter of his apartment when Dr. Lawyer and I went up there 10 years ago to get him into a hospital, before I really knew what was going on: broken windows, a pile of cigarette butts in the toilet rising above the waterline, an army of empty liquor bottles — the kind with handles — by the door.
And still there were those fine, forgotten Italian suits lined up in the closet, because before he fell off that time he had been making a killing selling commercial real estate in Manhattan. He could do anything.
But he couldn’t stop drinking.
He’d put together a year or a long string of sober months, and then he’d drink until everything crashed down around him again, a terrible cycle from which he could not escape. Not with all his abilities, all his confidence, all his force of will, which at one time was quite formidable.
The booze didn’t do him any favors. It finished off his career and most of his relationships. It took his health and, eventually, his mind. It robbed him of his potential and left him to die alone.
There was nothing any of us could do.
I said goodbye to Cap years ago, and have since pondered the lessons he had to give.
And I know it wasn’t much of a life for him there at the end, and I hadn’t talked to him in years. But still the world feels different to me without him in it.
That’s something I wish he could have known.