Who gets to own our memories? Our hopes and dreams? Our thoughts? If you share a memory or a story, does the act of sharing it diminish it in some way? Are memories like sacred magical items, which can only be touched by a few clean hands? Are they to be protected in velvet lined boxes and only opened for a few righteous souls. If someone steals your story, do they also steal a part of you? Do they break into your thoughts and pry your memories out forcefully like a thief popping out a car stereo? What happens if you are the sole person who holds onto a memory or a story, do you have an obligation to share it?
The story which I am about to tell is one that involves the best friends any person could ask for. And it is sadly one that only I can tell. In 6th grade, before puberty totally destroyed our creativity and free spirits, and replaced our ideas of adventure with thoughts of conquest a “club” was formed. The Club (as we called it) was formally banned by the school we attended after ‘the incident” (as the school liked to call it). All of our notebooks which were covered in Club propaganda were repossessed and disposed of. We were told to stop writing the secret symbols of the club on our arms with bic pens. They even told the gym teacher to make sure to split us up when we played dodgeball. It was as if we were all on probation and any contact with other miscreants (mainly our best friends) was strictly forbidden. But of course that didn’t stop us. How could it? We were 11 years old. You can’t tell an 11 year to do anything. As it should be.
The name for the The Club was taken from two sources, one of which is glaringly obvious, we were a small group of friends, therefore a Club, and the second was the name of the porno mag we stole from my friends dad. Which was also called Club. The Club consisted of four members, bound by blood and mutual experience.
Ben was the muscle, he came from money and lived in a big house on the outside of town. He was good at every sport he ever played and was unusually large for his age. Hitting a growth spurt early had made him one of the best basketball and football players his age in 6th grade in Bismarck, North Dakota. Ben was a natural adrenaline junkie who never turned down a challenge. Which made for some interesting circumstances considering that I would generally be the one who lead everyone else to trouble, but when the time came, I’d second guess myself and reluctantly continue.
Jason was my best friend since I can remember. Growing up just down the hill from me. My first memories of Jason are when we were in his mothers minivan and he had an asthma attack. Playing suddenly turned into panic as his mother veered the car to the side of the road. Throwing the entire contents of the glove compartment onto the floor in search of his inhaler. I just sat there completely quiet, looking him in the eyes as he struggled to breathe. Only to be relieved by his mother grabbing him by the back of the head and wedging the inhaler into his mouth. And then, a minute later he would be all smiles again. As if nothing ever happened. And I’d convince myself that nothing ever happened as well. My best friend was still here with me, everything was ok.
And then there was me. Jeremy Olsen. I was essentially the ringleader, as I see it. Whenever there was trouble I was sure to be around. However, I never got caught. Which made both the teachers as well as the other parents to see me as a good influence on their kids. “You see how Jeremy always says please, Jason? That’s how nice boys talk to their mommies” . Old people were such suckers.
Rusty was the latecomer to the Club, and you’ll get to know him a bit more in a moment. However, none of what I’m about to tell you could’ve happened without him.
The Club operated from October of 1988 to September of 1989. Forged in Roosevelt Elementary School in Bismarck, North Dakota. A small town of 50,000 smack dab in the center of a huge sea of corn and wheat stretched on endlessly in all directions. The nearest city is Minneapolis, which is an 8 hour drive. So needless to say that back in 1988 most of our only connection with city life would be on television or spray painted on the sides of the train which plowed straight through the city. The Graffiti was a brief glance into urban life, and something which was completely removed from all of us. A place which was so different that it was frightening. None of us had any desire to move or complained about having “nothing to do” as we all would in our teens. We had a river. And what else does a city really need?