If you haven't done so already, please read the first part of this post HERE.
Our schedules revolved around movie night, poker night, and turning the store where we worked into our own version of Empire Records. But the most meaningful times were nights we would stay up talking for hours. Mr. Jones was the story of our lives. We helped each other believe in anything. We told each other fairy tales. We would look into the future. We knew that once everybody loved us, we would never be lonely. And we were going to be big stars.
Then there were days we would hang out at the mall. We would watch people and (just like the song) stare at all the beautiful women. We would exchange conversations lifted straight from the lyrics "She's looking at you. I don't think so, she's looking at me." I find it enlightening that the song starts off with such bravado, but revises the line toward the end to reveal a more insecure perspective: "She's perfect for you, man. There's got to be somebody for me." When we were having these conversations, we would brag and exaggerate, but if either of us were truly honest, we were nothing more than mumbling, bashful, and awkward when talking to any attractive girl.
Eventually, I moved away from Marysville. We maintained our friendship while living in different states. Five years later, he followed me eastward. Neither of us stayed there. I relocated to North Idaho and he moved back to Marysville. Due to tragic circumstances, we lost touch.
See, not every story has a happy ending. My Mr. Jones had a drinking problem. He hid it while we were younger, never imbibing while we were together. I knew that he would drink when I wasn't present, and was aware his dad was an alcoholic. I made it my mission to be around as much as possible in hopes to prevent him from following his father's path.
In the last year that we were friends, he no longer hid his drinking. By then, he was swimming the depths of alcoholism. Soon after, he also developed a narcotics problem and it didn't take long before he was mixing the two. He was dating a girl I had introduced to him, and at the end of that tumultuous relationship, he turned suicidal. He was drinking more and was increasingly angry.
In a phone conversation with his mom, she told me, "Do anything you can to save my baby boy."
I did. And it was the last we ever spoke. He was arrested on narcotics charges and spent a week in jail. He blamed me. His parents sent me death threats. Part of the terms of his bond was that he was to have (for my protection) no contact with me. That was the end of my friendship with Mr. Jones.
Years later, I got nosey. Googled his name. Looked him up on Facebook. I learned that he had moved back home with his folks. But other than location, not much had changed. He was still a metal-head, still loved Star Wars, still collected comic books, still struggled with depression.
Still an alcoholic.
In my last contact with him, he expressed a deep hatred for me. I didn't want to reopen old wounds, so I never made an attempt to reconnect online. My curiosity was sated. I moved on.
A couple years ago, I looked again. Instead of the typical "this is my life" posts that everyone shares on social media, I found messages from friends saying "We miss you." A Google search turned up an obituary. No cause of death was listed but knowing his lifestyle, his temperament, and his addictions, I could probably guess.
Why do I share this long and sad tale of an old friendship that has long gone cold? Well, the song has been on my mind a lot lately. We’re three weeks into the new year, and during this time (more often than not) I have had this Counting Crows tune playing in my head. In the shower. Along my commute to work. As I fill out reports. While I clean my apartment. When I try to fall asleep at night.
The words resonate with me. In quiet moments I can hear myself internally singing along, “She's suddenly beautiful. We all want something beautiful. I wish I was beautiful.” Then, “I want to be a lion. Everybody wants to pass as cats.” And later, “When I look at the television, I want to see me staring right back at me. We all want to be big stars, but we don't know why and we don't know how.”
This song has been stuck in my cranium for three weeks. With it come memories. As much as my Mr. Jones had his flaws and demons, he was a good friend. Probably the best friend I’ve ever had.
Why now? Why so long after everything fell apart? Honestly, I don’t know. However, I am not a man who believes in coincidence. I believe that everything happens for a purpose. Perhaps this song will remain lodged in my consciousness until I figure out the reason why it is there.