So many people in my life have been fascinating studies of an inherent subconscious, or in some cases, a conscious desire to self-destruct.
I met Jonathan when I was still in high school and our friendship lasted nearly a decade. Jonathan was highly intelligent, charismatic, loud and gregarious. He also had an amazing penchant for bouncing from one horribly dangerous and disastrous situation to the next.
He was a couple of years older than me. He had been living in California making a living as a petty drug dealer. I’m sure it was a great life for a 19 year-old while it lasted; surf, skate, drink, sell blow. But after handing coke to an undercover on the Venice Boardwalk, he fled the bust into rush hour traffic. An oncoming car bounced him into a full body cast.
His family had money and arranged to bail jump smuggle him out of the state and he came to live in Las Cruces with his father. Within a few weeks of his arrival, he got stir crazy and sawed off his last leg cast and showed up unknown and unannounced to a party, held up by a cane and limping like a gimp. This impulse decision led his leg to heal crooked and the limp became a permanent part of Jonathan’s life. I really feel like this introductory anecdote defined him, that self- induced disability was his perfect metaphor.
While I often found myself needing to get dangerously close, and even hang off the edge of a cliff, Jonathan felt compelled to bound past me and jump straight off. I think we had a symbiotic relationship. I was hooked on the insanity he attracted and he needed someone to (at least try) to be a voice of reason.
I had just moved to Albuquerque to go to school and distance myself from the Lost Causes clique. But soon Jonathan showed up in town with his girlfriend Kim and the rest of the Las Cruces townies began to follow. There was no escaping the old crew. That’s when we had our quick encounter with Matt Green.
While Jonathan was a long-standing fixture and drama magnet, Matt Green was a fast, dangerous blip that passed through our lives. I entered Matt’s orbit right at the moment of his supernova end that almost took me with him.
Matt was a hard drinking, punk rock, combat fetishist. He was obsessed with guns, knives, martial arts and fighting. Everyone has met that that guy, but Matt didn’t fit the creepy low charisma stereotype. He was likable and funny and somehow he pulled off a Colonel Kurtz, steel toe, black pajama chic.
The first time I saw him he was trying to fistfight two skinheads outside a Melvins show. He held his own for a while and then got the shit kicked out of him. As I stood and watched his beating, I thought, “this is a guy I want to meet.”
Matt’s ability to ingest huge amounts of chemicals and booze far surpassed ours. It became clear that this mixed with his love of lethal weapons and Jonathan’s terrifying recklessness was a dangerous combination on the first night we went to his house.
The three of us, and our respective girlfriends had retreated to his rundown apartment after the bar had closed. The girls all laid on his bed and I stretched out on the floor while Jonathan and Matt stood above me maniacally discussing guns. After a few minutes into the conversation, Matt reached under the mattress and pulled out a shinny chrome plated .44 magnum. Jonathan held it with awe.
“Is that loaded?” My girlfriend, Jennifer, asked.
”Let’s see” Jonathan laughed and pumped a round into the floor right next to me.
The muzzle flash was only inches from my face and the blast was so loud that I felt like someone had hit me with a crowbar. I went deaf for a split second before the wind tunnel ringing set in. I looked next to me in a dizzying daze and right next to my leg was a crater in the carpet about 4 inches wide. I looked up, straining to focus as Matt pulled the gun out of Jonathan’s grip and unloaded the pistol onto the carpet, scattering shells all around me.
Now, a man of good judgment would have said “this is not a smart place to be.”
I was there the very next night.