The phone rang while I was changing an album on the stereo. It was Becky, wife of one of my most congenial drinking pals.
“V, Wesley is dead,” she said. “He died Tuesday.”
I paused. “You’re not kidding.”
“No, V. He hung himself. I found him in the backyard. Behind the backyard, actually. In the woods. I cut him down, but it was too late.”
“Oh, Becky,” I said, “I’m so sorry. I knew Wes wasn’t happy… You and the girls… Can I do anything? Is there going to be a service?”
Something bi-polarish had plagued Wes since college. He was the most studious person I knew, but if you were able to convince him to go get fucked up, a great good time was guaranteed. I could tell his temperament was unstable; it was unnerving how dark he could get sometimes, but I never knew exactly what troubled him. And, truthfully, I didn’t care. We were twenty: we were all moody. All I knew, there was no one more fun to drink with.
The two of us had been friends for fifteen years now. He got married around the same time I did and hanging out as two couples was easy and brilliant. The wives just seemed to go with the goofy, drunken flow. We visited regularly and sometimes shared vacations, like a rented cottage on the lake in Maine. By this time we both had small daughters.
I drove up to Massachusetts alone. Tru decided to stay home with Claire. I missed the funeral, but the interment was to be held immediately afterwards. The cemetery was not hard to find. From the parking lot, I could see the cluster of the stricken, a patch of black on the brown winter hillside. I made my way to the edge of the group. The afternoon was cold and late, with pinks and oranges tingeing the gunmetal overcast from a crack at the horizon. Moments after the minister stopped talking, the people scattered, needing to collect themselves, to comfort or be comforted. I found Becky. Her face brightened at seeing me. We held each other at the shoulders for a second, then we embraced and held tight.
“Good-bye, Wes,” I said over her shoulder.
“Yes,” she said, “Good-bye, Wes.”
I kissed her and walked back to the car.
The adhesive vacuum that had been Wes stuck to everything. I had never lost a friend before. I didn’t pick up a beer or search for pot. That never really crossed my mind, not as a solution anyway. I moped for a while. I took it to AA and I commiserated with our mutual friends and with Tru.
Time went by. I didn’t call Becky. She was on one side of the hole he left and I on the other.