Mike was just 25 when he left us, gone before the medics made it out to the wreck on Long Island’s Meadowbrook Parkway. “He died fast,” was one of the things we said to each other in the following days, as if that horrible truth made it any easier to swallow.
On my own timeline, Mike’s death pops up 25 years ago, at the front end of an extended period of nihilism, where I completely lost faith in any sense of the world as it had been taught to me — though, at the time, I just thought I was partying.
That funeral was the last time I saw Mark, Mike’s younger brother… until Friday, when we ran into each other in downtown Winston-Salem.
We both still dream about him.
That night, I was visited by the ghost of Tim LaFollette, who became my friend more than 15 years ago, and who also left too soon. And while Mike’s visage came across in his younger brother’s features and mannerisms, Tim was a specter in the Crown during the Kudzu Wish reunion show, so very present in the lyrics and basslines and the wild, happy crowd that frontman Adam Thorn seemed genuinely surprised not to see him.
“Where the f*** is Tim, man?” he said from the stage. “It’s getting late.”
The third ghost came Monday, over the phone.
Danny wasn’t my friend, exactly — he was my friend’s little brother back on the street where we grew up. I recognized the number when it came up on the display, a vestigial trace from a time when we used to commit phone numbers to memory. I believe it was the first phone number I ever knew besides our own family phone.
A few years ago, Danny, 40, shortly after the birth of his first child, went to bed one night and woke up dead.
It was his mother calling, trying to track down my own mother here in North Carolina. And I recognized the despair in her voice when we talked about her son, deeper, I believe, than my thoughts have ever taken me.
Mike. Tim. Danny, too. But the rest of us are still here. Maybe that’s the only point. And for now, it’s enough.