Friday, September 10, 2004

Apparently, inspiration abounds...

Just finished catching up over at J1B. Poor thing. She seems to be going through some crappy shit. And I admire her so! I really hope things look up for her soon...

Her situation with the boy she likes reminded me of stuff I've been through. Stuff I think about daily, but doesn't nearly get to me like it used to. Unless I've been drinking. And am feeling a bit dizzy...

I moved to Kansas back in August of 1996, after I'd graduated from Pepperdine, and couldn't find a job for the life of me in LA. My sister lived here, and I'd visited her and my brother-in-law, and fell in love with the town. So I picked up and moved here.

I didn't have any friends outside of my bro and sis, and they were really ok with that, it seemed. My bro-in-law was the branch manager of a company here in town, and he hired me soon after I'd moved here. Well, as soon as he could really. It was December before I started working for his company.

Through that job, I met a cool chick who lived in the college town nearby (Lawrence...home to University of Kansas - a.k.a KU. Rockchalk, babay!!). We would go out on weekends, and go to lunch together/hang out around the office during the workweek. (We pretended we were a lesbian couple so as to deter the freakish IT guys that lived behind the glass wall we didn't dare pentrate...anyway...) One weekend, we wound up at an afterparty at an ex-boyfriend of her's house. I met a boy named Dan at that party that changed my life. It was January of 1997. We only dated for about a month and a half before he pulled the whole "let's be friends" thing, but we hung on and went in and out of a relationship for the next few months.

In June, we happened to be on again. I went out to Lawrence to hang out one Friday night (after spending some valuable happy hour time with my dear Old Best Friend), we danced to "Son of a Preacher Man", we said goodbye. It was 5 a.m. That next week, I called him on Wednesday. I was blowing up balloons for my bro-in-law's birthday, decorating his office at 11:45 p.m. Dan and I talked for about an hour, and then said our goodnights. Things seemed to be going well.

Thursday night, I decided it was a good night to head to Target to return the lawn chair I had purchased that had broken as soon as I sat down in it. (I only weighed about 140 then, so shut it!) The only Target in the KC metro back then was in Lawrence. I drove out, exchanged the chair (for one I still have incidentally...), and then stopped by the usual apartments to see who was home. Everyone was out at the bars, apparently. I drove home. I missed Dan, but I figured I'd see him the next night.

I went to bed that night hoping he would call. I was desperately in love with him. So cute! So perfect in every way...I so wanted him to just reach out to me...

I woke up at about 3 a.m. with the phone in my hand. Dan was asking me what was wrong. I realized he had called me, and I had answered the phone before I really woke up. I told him I didn't know what he meant. "The guys told me that there was an emergency, and I needed to call you. What's wrong?" he said. I told him I hadn't seen or spoken to anyone since the week before when we had last been together. He sighed. "Oh. Well...I'm sorry to have woken you," he said. I told him, "You know you can call me any time you need to. Are you ok?" I could hear his printer working in the background. He told me he was fine. I told him to call me Friday night, and he said he would.

I couldn't sleep after that. I wondered if I should go out there, or if I should try calling him back at least. For the first month of our relationship, he would call me at about 1 or 2 a.m. and ask me to drive out. I would do so, and we would sleep side by side until morning, when I had to get up and go to work. I hadn't done that in a few months, though. Was that what he wanted, I wondered? What was the emergency he was talking about? I think I drifted off again at about 4:30 a.m.

The next morning, I got ready for work as usual. I "listened" to the radio while I was in my bathroom, putting on makeup and doing my hair, etc... They spoke of another housefire that had happened overnight. Damn...there had been about 3 that week already! They gave the name of the person who was found inside, the address, and all the particulars they had on the fire. I was tuned out. Didn't even listen, really. Then I clicked the radio off, said goodbye to the cat, and went to work. I wanted to call Dan and make sure he was ok after the call from the night before...

I called him at about 8:30. He should be getting ready to go to class, I thought. (He was taking 2 summer school classes...he had some units to make up from his sophomore year...it didn't go so well, due to his parents' divorce that happened...) His phone rang and rang and rang...suddenly, a man answered. I asked for Dan. "Dan Hamman?" He asked me. Yes, I told him. I thought that maybe the phone lines had been mixed up, and some business had suddenly been receiving Dan's calls. "May I ask who's calling?" he asked me. I told him I was a friend of Dan's, and I was trying to catch him before he went to class. "I'm afraid there was a fire in his apartment last night, ma'am..."

I was stunned. I heard the firechief tell me that Dan had been flown via helicopter to a nearby hospital, and I asked him if they knew anything about the fire, and he said they were still investigating, and then we said our goodbyes. (Oh, he asked me if he could talk to me later, as well. I gave him my work number, and told him he would likely find me at the hospital, too...)

Dan died at about 3:30 p.m. that day. I had spoken to him about 12 hours before, and had wondered what the hell it was all about. If anybody knows the feeling of true regret, you know what I still feel to this day, and will always feel for the rest of my life. He hadn't been burned...he was making hamburgers, and they lit on fire in his oven. He had removed the batteries from his fire detector because he needed them for an engineering project, his roommate (who was at his parents' home for the summer) later told me. (Dan was an engineering student at KU...very smart boy, too...except for the whole battery thing...dammit.) Someone walking by the building had noticed the smoke coming out of the roof...his brother lived in the apartment next to Dan's so he called him, and then he called 911. It was about 4:10 a.m. I ran into the guy that Friday night. (I was sitting on the steps next to Dan's car, and the guy asked me if I'd known him.) I thanked him for calling the authorities as he had. Dan might've had a chance if he hadn't been so long exposed to the smoke. But he had already pretty much died from the inhalation. The firemen had revived him enough so that they had a heartbeat when they transported him to the hospital, but the doctors told us that he would have had severe brain damage if he had survived at that point. His mother and I cried and cried together when we heard that. We knew in our hearts that he wasn't going to make it.

It's been 7 years now. I only have 3 pictures of Dan, and I still refer to him as "the dead boyfriend"...people hate that, for some reason. After he died, I didn't date for 4 years. Well, I went on two dates about 2 years after he died. They were within 2 weeks of each other. I consider it a fluke, really. Neither boy struck my fancy, and I went on for another 2 years without anyone in my life. (Hmmm...wonder if all those 2's mean anything? Um. Naw...pretty sure they don't actually...)

I think of Dan every day. I still talk to him regularly. For the first 5 years after he died, I wore a neclace I'd bought for him (which I stole back after the whole "let's be friends" thing, obviously) constantly. I still wear it when I travel, feeling like it's a bit of extra insurance that he's watching over me. I don't think he felt nearly the same as I did about him when he died. After all, he was a BOY!!! But I do feel like we have a connection. I was the last one he spoke to. I was his girlfriend, sort of. I think that, besides his family, I'm the only one of his friends that visits his gravesite annually. But I can't be sure of that. It just used to be that when I'd bring it up, everyone would always say, "Man, I've been meaning to get down there..." or, "Wow, can I go with you the next time you go?" but then they don't go with me...so I just stopped bringing it up.

My mother died less than a year after Dan did. He died on June 27th, 1997. Mom passed on June 13th, 1998. So when I visit his grave, I dedicate it to the both of them...I visit in the middle of their "anniversaries", as best I can. Depends on weather. His grave is off of a gravel road in a rural area of Kansas...It's so weird that every time I go there, I cry like they died yesterday! But then I get up, and I wander around all the other old graves (the oldest person there is from the 1790's!), and I calm down, and realize I have to pee again, and I go home. And then I talk to them all the same just before I go to sleep. Mom has Dan with her...she promised me before she died that she would.

So that is what J1B got me to thinking about tonight. I know how crappy it is to worry about a loved one that is sick. I know how crappy it can be, and how alone you feel, even when surrounded by several people who know that person better than you, and they're all feeling the same thing. It's a unique relationship...the whole early-on-don't-know-what's-going-to-happen-yet thing...and no one else knows how you feel. So let it be.

Oh, and the "emergency" that Dan had referred to when he called me that night? His roommate told me that he liked to use that as an excuse to call girls he was dating, so that it didn't seem so weird for him to call out of the blue.

But I think it might've been more than that, really. It's my prerogative. And, he's never disputed it.

1 comment:

Janalee Robison said...

Hello, I'm Jana. I knew Danny. I met him at our dorm, Oliver Hall, freshman year. Since the anniversary of his death is coming up, I googled his name...I thought there might be a memorial page or your blog...I was out of town the summer he died. I didn't find out until, I came back to school and read it in the school paper. Awful! We had a nice "last talk" in front of the library...but, I still regret not going to a graduation party he invited me to. Anyway, glad to stumble upon this. Thank you.