By Matthew Wallenstein
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
The first person my own age I knew that died was T. A heart attack got him at 16. He was overweight, comedic, he played in bands and did drugs with my friends. His body was found in the living room of his house. He died shortly after he left New Hampshire and moved down to Florida. Once when D was driving he pulled into a station to refuel. T got out and pumped the gas. Not paying much attention he left the nozzle in the tank. He just forgot the thing in there. D drove off and they found it when they stopped again a few miles down the road, ripped off, sticking out from the car like an appendage. D told that story at his memorial.
J had a lot of hustles. One was buying and selling, which sometimes meant stealing and selling, sometimes meant picking up trash and selling, sometimes meant some complicated scams, and sometimes actually meant buying and selling. Most of his findings were kept in his basement, stacked high, filling the place up. I lived in a small room down there in that basement with the girl I was with at the time. The walls were always sweating and large bugs would run across our bodies at night. We would turn the lights on and try to kill them before they could disappear into a crack. J’s lady was always throwing things around upstairs and yelling at all hours. J had this microwave that he gave to us because he couldn’t sell it. B was a friend of mine who lived at his parents house on the edge of town. The house was out in the woods, down a dirt road that was so skinny that if you wanted to you could walk down the middle of it and almost touch the branches coming off the trees on either side. That night was very dark. There weren’t streetlights for miles. The moon wasn’t even out. B started drinking. He went inside and brought out an extension cord which he attached to the microwave. We popped it open and put the empty cans inside along with some rocks and spent shell casings. I set it for 30 minutes and we stood behind a truck to watch. Sounds started coming from it. There were flashes of green and blue, like a scrambled channel on tv. After a while B went and got his handgun and we shot at some trees, shot at the microwave. B kept on drinking. He would disappear into the house for a while, then come back out with a different gun. He was pretty drunk so I kept taking them from him and telling him to lay down. This happened a few times before he decided that instead he would chase me around and try to grab my penis. He was hell-bent on it. Kept saying, “Matt, I am going to grab your penis.” I did manage to outrun him. After he fell over enough times, he finally gave up.
It was my last year in high school. Her grandmother died and I was supposed to help carry the casket along with her father and uncle. I was standing next to her with my arm around her, waiting for everything to start. She leaned over to me and said, “It’s so weird being here, I used to fuck the grounds-keeper who worked here. We had sex on the hood of his car right over there.” She pointed. “Uh-huh.” I couldn’t say much in the way of being jealous or not wanting to listen, after all her grandmother had just died. “I don’t know if he still works here. He had a huge dick, it was like 9 inches.” “Uh huh.” “There was hair that ran halfway up it.” “Weird.” “He loved David Bowie.” “Uh huh.” Then they called me over. I carried a corner of the box with her dead grandmother in it over to a hole in the ground.