Brian Patrick Hagman. I knew Brian in junior high, only vaguely, boyfriend of a friend, giant smiled and preppy, winner of the science fair. Fast forward two years, Junior English, and he’s lanky and much more handsome, the best hair at school, seated next to me. No longer preppy, sporting shirts emblazoned with my own recent obsession: SKULLS. I am instantly smitten, duh, duh, duh. Though he has zero romantic interest in me, we are fast friends in all other arenas.
On our first outing, he picks me up in his coolest of cool cars, a red convertible VW Bug. We sail down I-70, hair whipping, a cacophony of tunes and voices shouting over the din. Destination: Mushroom Tables, me a lone female among a sea of skaters, the magic and splendor, joy and ease. There will be more of this and other hangouts, caffeinated evenings, diners and dives, Paris on the Platte, too.
Brian will form a band – Wretched Refuse – named after the Emma Lazarus poem, cementing both his daring and intelligence. He was ALWAYS the smartest person in the room. I’ll attend shows, mostly in shady warehouses downtown: deafening, rowdy, moments straight from fil-ums, and stand in awe of his wit and charisma.
Always open to novel experiences, I organize an evening at a theater above Paris, Sam Shepard’s Seduced. If you’ve seen it, you likely know where I am heading. Imagine being seventeen, sitting next to a boy you fancy, while simultaneously trying to pretend this creepy, long nailed, Kleenex flinging weirdo isn’t simulating masturbation right before your eyes. I don’t think the pair of us ever worked so hard NOT to look at each other.
In that youthful time of firsts, my season with Brian was a source of many: first ride in a convertible, first cigarette (oof!), first and last porno play, first (only?) friend to show up wearing the same shirt without prior planning, first friend to get a tattoo (and later name his second band after it), and first friend with whom I will play pool and stay out until dawn, in one extraordinary two-fer.
That halcyon night into morning, testament to Brian’s story telling prowess, had him conjuring us, as we all wore Army inspired garments, as veterans of Vietnam, our detailed fictional history brilliantly woven from the ether. After a smashing defeat at the pool hall, with me at the wheel, Joy Division on the speakers, we zoomed the back way to Boulder and across the diagonal, to Longmont, nearly Ft. Collins. The laughter and stories, going, going, of our dreams, of landscapes, of Rudy (Ru-dayyy) the Zippo lighter, a gift from Mike Lombardi, also present, though no longer, lost more than a decade ago.
Life separated us, for painful and practical reasons, and this conjuring of memory, a joyful opening of a precious time capsule, the result of me wondering if he breathes still. My kindly friend who never belittled nor diminished me, who smiled, who filled rooms with thunderous laughter, both his own and in response to him. How I loved him. How I loved who we were together.