Thursday, October 16, 2014

Roman

As of the time I post this, it will have been exactly one year since since my old friend and high school classmate Roman was declared dead. He was shot multiple times after supposedly stepping in front of the friends he was with at the time during whatever confrontation ensued. As I was not there, I cannot personally confirm any of the details of the events surrounding his death, but it sounds like a very Roman thing to do.

I met Roman on my first day of high school on the school bus, and we started off laughing and joking on the long bus ride. That started everything. We ended up shooting the shit, and were each supremely excited to discover that the other was a St. Louis Rams fan. Though he had no connections to St. Louis, he became a fan during the Greatest Show on Turf years (and let's face it, who can blame him?) and stuck it through the Marc Bulger and Ryan Fitzpatrick years as well. No one can ever claim he was a frontrunner there.



The Original 10: (from left to right) Lalita, Ashley, Nicole, Kristen, Joe (standing), Ryan (kneeling), me, Roman, Mike, Hiral
It then turned out that we had identical schedules. There were 10 of us; Roman, Joe, Ryan, Hiral, Mike, Kristen, Nicole, Ashley, Lalita, and yours truly. We certainly never got along perfectly with one another, but that was beside the point. For that year, we were essentially (a rather dysfunctional) family. We grew close to one another in the way that people shoved together in a really tough schedule can be (those fucking double Diaz periods, I swear to God...). Though I never really told him, Roman helped me a lot during my first two years of high school, even if only inadvertently. The shit that would come out of that kid's mouth sometimes... Even if he was insulting you, he could come up with the most bizarre shit that you just had to laugh. He always had a way of cheering up the people around him. Whether this was intentional or just an accidental quirk of his personality, I'll never know.

Not to say everything was always peachy. Roman had a temper on him. Unfortunately, so did I at the time. Almost inevitably, mostly in sophomore year (in which we again had nearly identical schedules), we butted heads more often than not, including once incident where we almost got into it in Ms. Lohf's Geometry class over (and I had forgotten this until seeing Sade and Stephanie at the funeral last year) throwing fucking paper balls at one another. Yeah, I was an idiot in high school, I know.

There are, however, two memories I will always associate with Roman. During the afternoons, we'd often go out to the parking lot across the street and play football. Sometimes it was actual touch football, and sometimes we just ran routes and threw the ball to one another. This time, it was after the Rams staged a crazy comeback overtime victory against the Seahawks. (According to Wikipedia, this occurred on October 10th, 2004.) We were running routes and throwing the ball around when suddenly we were Marc Bulger and Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald throwing and catching the game-tying and game-winning touchdowns over the hated Seahawks. The way we hollered and jumped up and down and hugged one another you'd think we actually just won the game ourselves.

The second came under (initially) worse circumstances. Though I never saw it at the time (because I was certainly a self-centered prick), Roman had problems of his own, and he got into fights (which, I should point out, were not necessarily fights he started). After one such fight, he was suspended from school late in the year for the remainder of the school year. But on the first day of junior year, there he was sitting on the bus again. We saw one another as I was moving to get on the bus, and I will never forget the look of excitement and happiness on his face. He was excitedly bouncing up and down in his seat with one of the biggest grins I have ever seen. We greeted one another with big hugs, and much pleasant chatter.

Sadly, it mostly went downhill from there. Not really in a bad way, we never fought one another or butted heads or anything like that. We just drifted apart. We fell in with different groups of friends (mostly based on our selected concentrations) with different interests and hobbies (and drug habits, for that matter), and didn't really see one another much except on the bus. At the time, I didn't think much of it. And honestly, I still didn't even years afterward until last year. We had different friends, and mostly went separate ways, except to occasionally commiserate about how bad the Rams were.

I don't have many regrets in my life (I actively try not to), but one of the few I do have was letting my friendship with Roman fall to nothing. We were never too close, but I wish we had been. I blame myself for this, as I feel like I judged him harshly and falsely many times over. He didn't deserve that. I'm sorry I never really gave him a chance, and I'm sorry that I was never able to tell him any of this. According to Nicky, he did still ask about me from time to time. What I would give to just spend one day with him now and catch up on everything we missed because I was a fool.

Roman had a special way of cheering people up and bringing people together. I wish I could convey how many people crowded that little room in the funeral parlor for him. And it wasn't just the number of people, it was the diversity. There must have been at least 40 different countries represented by ethnicity (likely way more) and people from every stage of his life. The stories people told were everything from hilarious (because you couldn't not laugh at his antics sometimes), to inspiring, to heart-wrenching. I left the telling then to the people who knew him best, but now here's my own story.

Here's to you Roman.

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