The Tire and the Footlocker

by Bill Brenner on March 7, 2010

The author opens up an old footlocker under the stairs and finds himself back in that old Revere basement.

As I dumped some trash into the garage bucket this morning, my eye caught a couple memories under the stairs.

An old tire Peter Sugarman gave me a week before he died because he was worried that a tire on my car had worn down to the treads, and a green footlocker my grandfather used when he was in the military.

I didn’t forget they were there. But for some reason, I decided to pull all the junk off the footlocker and open it up.

Next thing I knew, my brain was back in the old basement of the house I grew up in on the Lynnway in Revere.

So let’s see what I found in there, shall we?

Mostly, the box was full of comic books. Not one of them newer than 20 years old, several dating back to the 1960s. I read a lot of comics when I was a kid. The real world was not an ideal place at the time, so comic books were where I did my hiding.

Superman. Spider-Man. Lobo. X-Men. Just a few of the flavors I found.

There were the Time and Newsweek magazines I collected in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when I was obsessed with current events. I followed the lead-up to the first Gulf War closely, terrified that I was going to be drafted.

In hindsight, I was an idiot for worrying about that. Not because a draft was never really in the cards, but because it was another example of me worrying about me. Ironic, since the magazines were in a box once owned by a man who parachuted into danger despite whatever fears he had, in the early-morning hours leading up to the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

Then there were the odder finds, including a “High Times” encyclopedia of recreational drugs.

Next to it was a cigarette butt that had to be more than 20 years old. I have no idea if it was one of mine or if it belonged to someone else.

Since I used to smoke in the concrete bunker beneath the patio, it was probably mine.

Now for the weirdest find. A poem written by Joy Affannato, before she married my best friend, Sean Marley:

“Blessed and Black Clad, Dedicated to Bill Brenner”

Clad in black

with a black-lined heart

like the charred edges

of our burnt society

Gathering the ash

to sift through and find

some satiating solution.

…A poet

with a doctrite of humanity

But, no one really has the answers:

Every question is relevant

And using words of metaphor

he transforms the WRITTEN WORD

My first reaction was a feeling of loss.

Joy dropped out of my world after Sean died. I think she was angry, along with Sean’s mother and sister, because I wrote a column about his suicide that revealed too much detail. I don’t blame them one bit for blackballing me.

In hindsight, I think my need to help her cope with the grief made me a particularly suffocating presence. Possibly, she also disappeared because she didn’t want to be around anyone who reminded her too much of Sean.

There’s also the inescapable fact that I was wrapped up in my own little world, worried about me and me alone, at a time when Sean was sinking into depression and needed the love of ALL his friends.

I could be wrong about these things. But it’s my best guess. Either way, I felt a wave of sadness that this person dropped out of my life.

Once I got over that, I started to examine the poem for some sense of meaning.

I did wear a lot of black back then. Still do. You could say I wore my dark side on my sleeve.

My poems at the time were full of bleakness, so I can see where the ash description comes from. I was definitely a seeker. Still am. Fortunately, in the years since, I’ve found my Faith.

The funny thing is, the poem reminds me more of Sean than of me. But it makes sense, because back in the day Sean was the man I most tried to be like.

At the bottom of the page was something that made me smile: The logo for my old band, Skeptic Slang, and a cartoon with the caption: “The mind is mightier when you’ve scored.”

I’m back from the basement now, and, to be honest, I’m a lot happier where I am now.

But it’s nice to know someone was thinking about me back when I was only just beginning to descend into madness.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Greg Dungan March 8, 2010 at 6:59 am

I was thinking recently of the people who gave dropped out of my life. This Is where Facebook has been helpful. I have found that I need only to put out the Bat signal once in a while to find that the same people who cared back then still do. It’s nice to know that my crazy hasn’t driven them far.

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