I am losing three friends to horrible circumstances. Two are rapidly dying from cancer, and the other one has voluntarily placed a bull’s-eye on his back. 

Even though both of my friends that are dying from cancer are in massive amounts of pain, they are handling their situations in different ways. One of them is fighting valiantly and keeping us updated by social media, text messages, and interviews on TMZ. The other one is drugging himself into the stratosphere until he passes away in the next few months.

My third friend is a little different, but I feel it the hardest because he’s walking towards possible death without any hesitation by recently patching into a gang.

I don’t understand how cancer picks its victims, and it’s a weird thing to be dealing with this closely in two different instances.  All the friends that I’ve lost have been sudden and horrible shocks because I never got to say goodbye. Waiting for people that I love to die is a new experience. 

You might think that losing two good friends to cancer are the losses that I am having the hardest time trying to cope with, but that’s not the case. I know at a certain point very soon that the friend who I’ve known the longest is going to die. He’s made peace with it, and he doesn’t want to fight it anymore since this is his second time around with cancer. He’s in excruciating pain and the chemotherapy makes him sick for days. For awhile I was numb at the thought of losing him, but now I’m just waiting. He doesn’t have but a few months left at the most. I can’t even begin to count how many wild nights we’ve had, but also couldn’t begin to count how many mellow ones we’ve had either, sitting around making fun of each other, just being happy in our friendship. 

I became close with my other cancer-stricken friend about four years ago, and he’s fighting hard. My friends and I had been huge fans of his rap group as teenagers and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we got along like a house on fire when we met. I’ve never partied so hard with someone that I’ve had to ask them to stop giving me booze, and then the next week give me motivation and support that helped me get through school. He found out about his cancer a few months ago and is doing everything he can to come out alive on the other side. He’s not okay with it, but he’s very religious and believes even if he doesn’t make it he’ll be in a better place. I think it’s odd to run across people my age that believe in God so intensely. Not because I’m anti-religion or anything, but growing up in the era of ‘better living through chemistry’ has made it nearly impossible to comprehend that anything and everything can’t be fixed with enough drugs. The problem that I see with people not having religious beliefs is that what do you do when the pills don’t work, and you don’t have faith to fall back on?  

My other friend is rowdy. I’ve known him for 13 years and he is like a brother to me. It was guaranteed when we were out drinking that it was going to be a long night with endless possibilities of danger, but man was it fun. Certain bars that our friends owned would only let him in to socialize but not drink because he would get into trouble. In order for him to be inside he would have to spend the entire time with his hands in front of him in sight on the bar, and when he was walking around with his wife she would make him keep his hands behind his back like he was in handcuffs while she kept an eye on him from the rear.  When he moved back home out of state a few years ago, I missed him more than I ever thought I would.  

The other day I called him to check and see how he and his arthritis had fared through the winter because he’s full of titanium like a super hero. About six years ago he was in the grisliest car accident that I have ever seen in my life. He was so torn apart that the surgeons in the hospital he had been air lifted to literally had to reattach his hand and arm back to each other. A fanatical love horror movies is part of what bonds my group of friends together, so when he sent me a picture a week or two after the accident I thought he had sent me some top notch special effects make-up with a severed arm that had muscles and blood spilling out of it. It took me awhile of admiring the talent of whoever had created this pile of gore before I started to recognize some of the tattoos. When I realized it was his arm I immediately passed out and fell off of my couch. After about twenty minutes I called and gave him hell for sending that to me. He just laughed and said he was sorry.  

Once we had caught up and made each other laugh for awhile he told me about joining this social club of ‘brothers.’

I normally don’t use names when I write about my life and this is one of the times that I’m hesitant to even mention anything about this entire situation, names or not. I’ll give no intricate details or about it other than this: I told him that what he was doing made me feel like I was watching him cross the river Styx into the land of the dead, and I meant it.  

The extreme political unrest in this country these days has basically divided us all into two camps. You’re either for it all or against it all, and that statement can be applied to both sides.  I don’t really think privately that anyone can say honestly that they’re completely against the entire ideology of either side, but publicly you’re supposed to be on one side or the other. 

Unfortunately for the deep love and affection that I have for my friend, his new affiliation has put him on the other side. He has assured me that he will never change who he is. It was kind of a question when I said ‘congratulations…?’ after he told me he had acquired hundreds of new brothers all over the world by becoming part of the club, because in so doing he had acquired thousands of built in enemies all over the world at the same time. After I did a little online research like a total nerd that included watching multiple YouTube videos and searching through countless newspaper articles, I finally had to send him a message saying that I was really upset. I told him to tell me anything, just one thing, the tiniest thing that would help me to see that what he was swearing lifelong allegiance to wasn’t as terrible as what I had seen. Between the numerous felonies his new brotherhood had become notorious for I must admit I really didn’t think I could feel less congratulatory towards my friend. My confusion about it all left and was replaced by sadness and fear. The disturbing thing is that none of those things is what made me start to cry as much as I began to, but the fact of him calling himself a brother to people that were just so ugly on the inside and hated people for no reason. The racism that runs rampant throughout these groups is staggering and its own brand of cancer.  But this is someone that I’ve always considered a brother. A protective and loving and fun as hell brother. He’s very large, tattooed,  and fun as all get out. He could easily fit into any Aryan nation gathering with no problems. It just never occurred to me that one day he might end up doing it.  I started to think about how he could never again be able to surprise me by showing up at my door with bootleg moonshine in the middle of the night after travelling for 14 hours  because this state and a few in between are now off limits. We could never go raise hell at a seedy bar just for fun if we were in the wrong one. I asked him if I would know if anything ever happened to him and he said ‘don’t worry. Me and death have had this dance before.’  It sounds silly coming out of my mouth, but it didn’t coming out of his.

Just like in the documentaries I used to watch for kicks on the history channel had said, he couldn’t  come down here without clearance from about six other clubs in Texas alone because they’re all sworn enemies. There has to be a really solid reason why he would be in Texas, and hanging out with the likes of me isn’t one of them.

He swore to me over and over that he knew who he was, and no one was ever going to change his way of thinking, but the last message I sent him was that I loved him and to be careful. 

In my last message to him I also said that I didn’t want to think of him running around acting like a criminal with a bunch of racists, and was just going to pretend that he and his new brothers were doing things for the community like passing out stuffed animals to local poor children and raising money for the homeless.  So when I told him that I loved him I also told him to never forget that. His last message to me was that he never could or would forget that, and he was always was careful. 

And I feel like that has to be my final goodbye to him because I just can’t support his decision. I can’t support someone purposely joining a group of trigger-happy drug runners that get used as security at Klan rallies.  

And that’s the friend I’m having the hardest time losing because it’s a horrible shock, even though I’d had the chance to say goodbye.  

R.I.P. Bill 12/8/66- 6/09/19

R.I.P. Chad 10/3/72-8/18/19