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Updated on June 4, 2014

He was a gentle giant, this friend of mine. We met when we were in elementary school. We had one thing in common. We loved recess time. It afforded us 15 minutes of playing sipa and catching robbers (tag). We were really rowdy inside the classroom so much so that we made boys bigger than us cry, and for this we were relocated to the end row of the classroom. By the skin of our teeth we made it and passed Grade VI. But we did not want to go through Grade VII. We wanted High School.

We left elementary school and met again in High School as freshmen in a college that offered high school. To say that the wild days continued from there is an understatement. We cut class. We frequented billiard halls. We watched dirty movies in run-down theaters. We had girls who went with us wherever we went because, well, we were bad boys.

It all started harmlessly enough. Took and drank a bottle of beer. Tasted it and liked it. I became fascinated with the guitar and after two months learned to play it, and learned songs by ear. Earlier heroes were now replaced by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Foghat, Black Sabbath, and the Rolling Stones. Man, I could reach those notes easy. At this point, my friend and I frequented a place near a military base where rock was the music. Watched The Song Remains The Same and it turned our world upside down. Suddenly, new people we just met that day passed around weed, and wow, it was an awakening. My friend and I started travelling to the mountains of the south, then to the north, all in search of the ultimate high given by the ultimate weed. We found it further up north, where the climate was cold, and the weed was wet, sticky, grew with no leaves, no seeds, and stalks as long as your arm. Dried them up, packed them, took them back down to our place, and spread it around. Girls came in droves, and so did the heat. But they never did pin us down. We were smart.

Then we started experimenting. Brownies. Hash hish. But the high was never high enough. We were able to get inside the world of the rich via our sweet weed and we got into those pills. Mogs, V10s, Red Devils. The gang once went to the northernmost tip of these islands, lit up a bonfire, jammed, then dropped paper acid just to watch the sunset at the horizon for a trip session like no other where colors exploded in front of you. It was as if you were just alone. We used to disappear from our homes for weeks on end and our parents would be worried sick and thought we were dead. Then on it went to codeine, eventually to cocaine, morphine, heroin. All of this I experienced because of my friend. All of this was just in High School of the 80s. We were invincible. Or so we thought.

One day I accidentally met a girl up north. I was looking for a cheap motel to spend the night after another one of those nights where I pass out and would not remember what happened the night before. She was a sight to behold with her long, curly, flowing black hair, high-bridged nose, clear, supple skin, with deep set eyes that pierced right through me and saw who I really was: someone who needed and is crying out for help. Someone who, if not stopped, would be dead by age 27. She spent an afternoon with me, and I was sober, and she kept me sober. An afternoon became mornings, then evenings, then whole days together, only for her to return to her home with her parents. A whole summer passed with the way things were with her. Beautiful summer days. But I had to go back, for I, too, had parents, sisters, brothers, cousins, relatives to go back to. With the heaviest of hearts, we parted.

I went straight to my friend upon arriving home. He was a mess. Addicted to drugs, he enrolled in the Police Academy, and he was accepted. I was a freshman in college back then, and every weekend when I had the chance I would take the six hour bus ride to be with the girl. I did not have time anymore to go back to my friend to help straighten him out. I realized that I learned to care, and this girl taught me something I would not have figured out in a long time, and that is to love. It went on for about three years, I visited and stayed with her every summer, and when I was about to go back up to visit her I received a telegram. It was from her. She said that each and every one of us is given a choice that is laid out in front of us every day. That it is up to us if we choose to be bad people or the opposite, to choose to touch other people's lives and make them better. And that today, as I read her letter, she is choosing to let me find my own way without her…that she knows how smart I am, and that to continue on with her would only hinder me from becoming what I truly can and want to be…and as for her, she needs to go to serve because she has finished her Nursing course, and that she has been accepted in a job…that I should not follow her…that we should stop seeing each other anymore….

I sat alone for a long time inside my room and asked why is it when I seem to be getting things right that something is taken away all so sudden…needless to say, it hurt me real bad…so bad that I chose to go back to my wild ways alone for a while…only to realize that doing so is something that she does not want me to do. She would have wanted me to go to my friend and straighten him out.

I sought him out and found out he became a policeman but got kicked out of the force after three years because of extortion. But before that, his Mom told me that he had three children with a woman who left him and took his children because he was an addict, and the mother and children migrated to Canada. His Mom also told me he gunned down and killed someone during a drinking session argument. That he did not stop taking drugs, living the high but hard partying life.

He died of an overdose of sleeping pills. He had a heart attack while he was asleep, his doctors said.

Was I glad to have met the girl? Hell, yeah. If it were not for her, I may have been the first to go.

But I miss you, my friend.

To be ridden with guilt for not doing enough to straighten you out is something I live with till this day.

The crosses we have to bear in life will always be there. Me? I choose to remember the good in you, my friend. And the cross I bear gets lighter as time passes me by.


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