It hit him like a bus. No. This felt more like a train, yes a train, and a particularly large train at that. And it hurt. But I guess these things always do. That final realization hit Jon like nothing before in life. And he stood there stunned, shocked into silence for the first time in his life, he had no punch line now, no snappy remark or quick come back, just emptiness and… Oh, I’m getting ahead of myself, let me start again, from the beginning as it should be, I’m sure then you’ll understand.
Jonathan P. Sutherland, the P. for Patrick, after his late grandfather. A typical American name for a typical American boy, few new he was Irish by birth, and he liked it that way. He moved to New York when he was too young to remember, and spent his entire youth there, so he therefore classified himself “Proudly American”. Jon, as he was later to be known, can be perfectly described by two words. These words being ‘average’ and ‘normal’. That being said makes it perfectly understandable when one says he grew up in an average American home, and grew up like any normal American of his time. Though few know the real truth behind Jon and the amazing secret life he led, and that’s the story I’m here to tell. You might be asking yourself right about now, ‘so then whys this twat called the book “bygones”?’, but let me assure you that it will all be explained as my story moves along.
Now where was I, oh yes. Jon grew up in a typical American home, not the slums, yet, not the stateliest dwelling in town either. But it did the job, whatever that is. Anyway, Jon had a good life, mother and father, though he doubted them sometimes and really did wonder if he was adopted. You’d think the same if you saw him, pale, not tall, yet, not short, blue eyes and, thanks to heaps of peroxide, blond short cropped hair. While his father, a rather large man, with a gut that told you he liked his beer, and rather unquenchable thirst which reinforced that quite well, looked nothing like him. Jon had very prominent features, a sharp nose, deep eyes and soft cheek-bones. While his father was much different, the bags around his dark brown eyes showed more prominently on his face than the obviously more than once broken nose, and though he was fairly dark in complexion, one could see by his face, drained of nearly all its essence, that he had seen far more than just his fair share. Jon’s mother was in a class that can only be described as her own; she refused to be referred to as ‘mom’ and chose her first name, Darlene, instead. A more complex woman I have never met. Darlene looked far too young to be the mother of Jon, and with auburn hair, green eyes and the face of a vacant model, the similarities she shared with her son stopped with them both having the same last name. Of course this all enthralled Jon extremely, and he was always coming up with these wild stories of how he was truly a descendant of royalty and… Done it again, going too quickly for my own good. Let’s have a new beginning then.
I first met Jon in play-school; he made a rather prompt introduction of himself by whacking me on the head with a plastic shovel during recess. Needless to say we were instant friends, after I had knocked him in the stomach with my own shovel. After that we became inseparable, probably because we were always trying to kill each other.
We spent our time in primary school as good friends, dawdling along as most do in their years at primary school, eager to learn the tricks of the trade with dreams of becoming an astronaught or a fireman. Only when we hit junior high were we thoroughly bored with school. We spent many afternoons on the lake in the park, as high as kites with all the marijuana we smoked. We lived our lives according to the words of Sid Vicious and enjoyed the alarming looks and stares from the elderly our peroxided hair, punk clothing and piercings attracted. Jon was always good with women, they enjoyed his company and he always had a way with words. I was just seen as the loyal side-kick and stoner buddy. Of course our relationship was much deeper, and we shared our deepest thoughts and wonders with each other. Most of it was non-sensical bullshit because we were pretty well stoned during those times.
By the time we were in college, which we were surprised to be in at all. It was pretty obvious my father being senator and all had pulled some strings, but the best he could manage was a public college in Detroit where he had a few people that owed him favors. Our grades being what they were always got us the evil stare from any lecturer that walked by, which we were quite comfortable with. As I was saying, by the time we were in college our understanding of each other was immeasurable and we would have readily taken a bullet for one another without a moment’s hesitation. We preferred the company of each other to that of our girlfriends, which pissed them off quite a number of times, and spent most of our days, still stoned, playing our instruments till we passed out or just hanging around passing the time while the weed made philosophers out of us. Which, suited us fine.
Yes that sounds like a good beginning and now on to the story. It was a typical Thursday, easily the most boring day of our mundane week, filled with the urge for it to be a Friday, yet still comfortable with the week taking its mothers time to come to a close. We had often discussed whether the weeks had a mother or not and came to the conclusion, after much weed and little sleep, that the mother of a week is the lover of father time, whoever the fuck he was. Anyway, Thursday, we were in our usual spot in the shade of a large oak tree on the school grounds, of course we had classes but the lecturers and other school staff had given up on us long ago. We were discussing how trees had sex, when she walked by. Yes I’m sure this is how it goes in many stories, but unlike the supermodel ‘she’ from the generic literature which I’m sure you read, this she was different. This she, had not the classic blond head of long flowing hair, but the short, black, sharply spiked hair that many would have looked upon as ‘unsuitable for a lady’, of course one could tell she couldn’t give a flying rats ass. She, yes, still with the she, wore a black tank top (another topic of our discussion, which wanker had come up with that name, but we eventually came up to the conclusion that all military men were gay so imagining them wearing that in a tank was perfectly reasonable), anyway, off topic once again, a black tank top with a black mini-skirt that did a very good job at directing the attention of many onlookers to her long shapely legs, over which she wore black stockings, and to end off her lovely outfit with, the classic, 24-hole lace up black combat boots. “What do you think?” I asked Jon, as I was well aware of where his wandering bloodshot eyes had stopped, “’bout a c-cup I would presume” came his reply, “no, I would say a large b, but could be a c, never know with all these damn push-ups and paddeds now a days” I disagreed. He continued to stare, and it was well evident of our longing gazes, which I think she quite enjoyed. She turned and started to walk up to us, though he didn’t move, I could tell Jon was anxious by the look in his eyes and the smile on his face. She dropped her bag and took a seat on the grass with us and broke the ice with “so you boys bunking McKinley too?”, “yep” came our synchronized response. We sat in silence for a while and watched the clouds as they failed to resemble anything, until she said, “So you boys got any weed, or what?”, again the perfectly timed “yep”. We all rose and started to walk back to our apartment, though we were stoners we weren’t stupid enough to do it in public, especially on school grounds, where any staff member would be more than willing to rat us out to the cops. We entered our ‘home’ about five minutes later; I left them alone in the living room while I went to fetch the stash in my bedroom. I re-entered the living room to find them in a very intimate conversation, I stayed out of it and concentrated on rolling the joint, though with all the many years experience I could do it with my eyes closed, I just sat and listened. Yeah, there was old Jon at his best, using his simple charm and wise cracks to keep her smiling and laughing every now and then. I finished and lit-up, not wishing to disturb Jon while he worked, we spent the rest of the afternoon like this, I was quite happy to keep my mouth shut and let Jon have his fun, every now and then adding a little “yep” or “ah huh” to support his many wild stories he told, of course they all included me, but I didn’t mind when he omitted that every now and then. She left around six, by then I had managed to gather her name was Rachel, but we preferred to use Ray, which she didn’t seem to mind. “Nice one” were my first words to Jon, “thank you” came his reply “I owe you one, I'm sure it must have been hard to just sit there and let me have this one”, “think nothing of it old friend” I replied with total sincerity. “’Nother joint then?” he asked, “yeah, why not” I replied. We smoked till we were well passed stoned and philosophized until we passed out.
I awoke from my place on the couch, where I had spent many a night, to find Jon taking a package from a McDonald’s delivery boy at the door. “The usual” he told me, “Mmph” was my mustered reply. I got up and went into the bath room to wash my face when the doorbell rang, “fucking brilliant” I thought “more bloody loafers”. I walked out to find Ray, scantily clad once again, with an equally scantily clad blonde haired mysterious friend sitting on the couch. After about three hours and six joints I had discovered this mysterious friends name was Kelly, she too was in our college yet was still in her sophomore year, having failed twice. Around eight Kelly asked “so what's the plan tonight boys?” “Lets head down to thrashers, I know someone that can hook us up with some speed” came Ray’s little too well timed response. Now, though we were stoners we had made a vow not to do more than weed, we’d already had three friends destroyed by coke and ecstasy. “No” I replied, “I don’t do that shit”, “oh come on, don’t be a pussy” parried Ray. “Look” I said, making my tone much stronger, “I’m not doin’ that shit, you guys go ahead, I’m not in the mood to go out anyways”. Ray now directed her attention to Jon, on her left, “What about you Jon, you got more balls, you gonna join us right?” I gave Jon a stern look, which he returned with a look that meant ‘sorry mate’ and said “yeah, let’s go”. He jumped up, disappeared into his room and quickly emerged with a fresh pair of clothes and they left. I was pissed, of course, but kept my feelings to myself and passed my time playing pointless video games, retiring to my room around four in the morning; I was asleep before Jon came home. I avoided him the next day, rising early and ducking out to the library, the one place I knew he wouldn’t find me, just as he was waking up. I spent the day on the internet among pointless websites and time wasting games. Just as I was walking out I literally bumped into the girl of my dreams. Not that I knew that at the time. Not my usual pick either, but I knew she was different somehow. She was tall, coming to the shoulders of my six foot two stature, with long brown hair held back in a tight pony tail, she wore very loose fitting track pants with a tight Hook-ups t-shirt and large skate shoes which were very torn up from obvious hours of the chore they were manufactured for. We collided and she dropped her books on to the floor “I’m sorry” I said, for only the third time in my life, the first for fighting with Jon in play school and the second for being born. “Watch it next time asshole” came her sharp reply, as she bent down to pick up her stuff, usually I would have walked away without a second thought but for some strange reason I felt compelled to stay and assist her. I bent down myself and started to help her pick up her belongings and said again “I’m sorry” she had a way of making me say it. “Its fine, don’t worry about it, it was my fault I should have been looking where I was going” she replied in a subtle yet crisp British accent. We stood and I handed her what I had picked up “thanks” she said and began to turn to walk away. “Hows about I buy you a drink to make up for my fuck up?” I blurted, surprising even myself. She stopped and looked at me, firstly hesitating then giving in and said with a smile “I’d like that, been waiting for a reason to get the hell out of here all day”. We walked to a close by café which I frequented often with Jon, and sat for three hours and shared names, hers being Stacy, phone numbers and life stories, it was the first time I truly enjoyed myself without a craving for weed. We left and I walked her back to the library where she had left her car, we departed with a quick hug, and I walked back to my on campus apartment. I walked in to hear the sound of Ray and Jon’s laughter from Jon’s room, I quickly walked into my room locked the door and cranked up my stereo to drone out the sound of their voices. I heard them leave an hour later, which pissed me off even more, considering Sundays Jon and I always spent together laughing about what had gone on in the week, adding on to the frustration that he hadn’t even bothered to call me on my cell phone, now I knew why. I made myself dinner, and just after finishing cleaning up I received a call from mom, we talked for about forty minutes on dads’ new campaign and how things were in New York. I had an early night that night, retiring before midnight for the first time in years.
I arose the next morning early and skipped my usual morning joint and decided rather on breakfast out. I ignored the sound of Jon snoring and washed and left without disturbing him. I ate alone, a new prospect for me, at the local café; afterwards I attended my first class of the year, philosophy, which I surprisingly found quite enthralling as to how you can use the shit you conjure up when you’re completely stoned in class and have it considered completely logical. So much so that I attended every class on my schedule that day, I wont lie and say they we’re all great, but some where enjoyable. It sure beat the hell out of lying around stoned the whole day. I was even more pleased to find I shared a few classes with Stacy. We spent lunch together on a picnic table on the schools front lawn, Jon was nowhere to be seen but for once, I didn’t care, laughing and enjoying each others company. I returned home at three, finding Jon was not home, and decided it was time for a change; I had never tried to live one of those ‘normal’ lives and thought to myself “why not give it a shot?” I spent the next hour cleaning my room, I discovered that my carpeted floor was blue and my room was a lot larger looking without all my shit lying every where. I removed some of my posters, discovering my walls were a very light shaded off-white cream, very calming I concluded. I took a break from my work, though I was enjoying myself considerably, to go down to the garage we had been allocated, and brought up a few of my storage boxes. In those I pulled out the books I would need for my courses and sorted out the rest of the things which I thought were worthy of keeping. I later refilled two of the boxes with things I would give away to charity and the third and final with all that I couldn’t even pay people to take. I took the two boxes to the salvation-army and disposed of the third in the largest dumpster I’d ever seen, situated next to the building. I returned home to discover Jon was still not around, funnily enough this did not bother me, though I did worry about him. I spent the next hour sorting out my wardrobe, toning it down slightly from the black, morbid and rather demonic black to a soft scream. I then stood in front of the bathroom mirror. I removed my nose-ring and eye-ring because I thought they looked childish, and re-dyed my hair back to its natural black. I ate a light dinner of Chinese take-out and slept early again, not bothering to notice Jon had still not returned.
I witnessed a lot of changes over the next couple of days, the most alarming was when I quit smoking marijuana, which was surprisingly easy, though I couldn’t stop the cigarettes I was able to cut down to six a day from two boxes after a while. I started attending class every day; I seemed to have a natural talent in philosophy, history and psychology and enjoyed the lectures immensely. Stacy was surprised by my change, but grew to like it almost instantly. I had also started seeing much more of her, and much less of Jon. We only shared that rare conversation when I was still in the apartment after eleven (am) and he wasn’t with Ray. I once attempted to talk about Ray, I told him “she’s trouble man, I don’t like what she’s doing to you”, but this just enraged him and we would not even look at each other for a week afterwards. We never talked about ourselves, usually just about the weather or news on campus, not like it used to be. Until the night it happened. It was late, around one in the morning, for some reason I hadn’t been able to sleep that night. My cell phone started ringing, the caller id said Jon, I picked up and recognized Ray’s voice on the other end “what’s up?” I asked, “Look, I think you need to come get Jon, he aint looking too good, were behind thrashers.” She then hung up. I got dressed and took a bus into town to Thrashers, Jon had my car. Thrashers, was an old indoor skate park which had been shabbily transformed into a Goth club. I walked round to the back to find Jon lying on the sidewalk. He had lost his shirt, phone and wallet, and was past out lying in a pool of his own vomit. I luckily found the car keys were in their usual spot in the side of his left boot and shoved him into the back seat of the sedan. I had managed to convince my parents into buying me a Mitsubishi Evo for graduating with full sports kit and all the racing extras; it was my pride and joy. Now I watched Jon spoil the rear sports seats with vomit stains and a smell I knew would probably never leave. I drove Jon to the St Mary’s hospital. The doctors pumped his stomach and put him in Intensive Care. I later got the diagnosis; he had suffered a drug overdose, obviously, speed mixed with marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine washed down with lots of alcohol. His liver was in bad shape along with his kidneys, stomach, thirty percent of his intestines and had could have severe brain trauma. It was still too early for a diagnosis. He spent the next six days unconscious, and Ray was nowhere to be seen.
Fourteen days later, when Jon was finally allowed to leave the hospital he came back to school to discover Ray had moved on and had already selected another victim. And then the realization hit him. We sat up one night and he told me “I thought she was the one, man. I had the ring and everything.” I pitied him. He apologized for being so deluded and I forgave him. But all he had was that final realization that he was now alone, alone and fucked up. No one wanted to be near him now, his body had a distinct odor of death and decay to it, and he needed to go to a bathroom every hour on the hour. He was now truly alone, with nothing to turn to or laugh at, just his fuck up. Its funny how one thing leads to another and how easy it is to destroy yourself and a life which was so good. I got my degree that year after a fuck-load of studying and extra classes, and joined a law firm in New York. Jon dropped out and relapsed into drugs again. I broke up with Stacy after college, she got a job in Chicago and I didn’t want to tie her down, to this day we remain good friends. Jon is in rehab for the second time, and its beginning to become quite expensive. I know he will end up spending the rest of his life there. He now needs a full time nurse and constant supervision, the permanent schitsophrenia the cocaine has left him with causes him to stutter and slur. He drifts in and out of consciousness and sometimes gets so violent he needs to be restrained. But I will continue to pray and support him. For few will ever be able to understand the bond we share. He was more than just a step brother, whose family I had been chosen to join when still too young to remember. He was my twin soul; we shared a connection that only God himself would be able to understand. And I have forgiven him for every fight, squabble and wrongful act he has ever done to me. And everyday that I visit him I am reminded that I should have looked after him better, but I know he’s forgiven me when he says “thank you K.C.”.