November 14, 2018 – We stood in line on the hot asphalt in alphabetical order. It was September of 1967. It was the first day of tenth grade at a new high school. I went to five elementary schools and three high schools. I had been in three high schools in two years. I was a very good kid, it was just circumstances that had me moving around. It was decreed by higher powers beyond my control.
Alex was tall and thin with beautiful, perfect white teeth. Mine were stained with a bit of yellow due to a medicine my mother took while pregnant I think. Those stains always bothered me.
My last name started with a K and his being Lopez, he was next to me in line. It’s funny how happenstance and luck makes your life. How we meet our wives is a good example for many of us, I’m sure.
I had been raised in a Mexican neighborhood from a young age as my family owned a Mexican restaurant for many years and I have felt at ease and comfortable with Mexican people my entire life. Is that racist? I don’t think so. They were often my only friends and companions as far back as I can remember.
Alex became my best friend for six years. We worked on his cheaply bought cars which he repaired and often enjoyed for a while and then sold at a profit. One 56 Ford was bought for $45.00 after the owner thought that it had a leaking head gasket. It did not, and Alex fixed it up and we had many fun times running around in it.
I drank my first beer with him and drank too much for the first time with him and paid the price of the usual sickness that quickly follows too much of a good thing.
We longed for women together and searched for them to to no avail together as young silly boys search for something that they will never understand but must have. He found his first.
He started a family but we remained close. I soon found my first love and we were content together. He had his first child and then Alex was gone. In an instant he lost everything that he had ever wanted and his wife and child lost everything that they ever needed or wanted.
It was Christmas morning and he had gone to a party with some friends the night before. He drove one of his favorite, very small cars. He made a simple mistake and he was taken from us. He lost his chance to be a father and a husband and we all lost him.
I couldn’t go to the funeral. He was buried in his uniform. He always wore a white “T” shirt and Levis. He was 21 years old. He lived on Mohawk St. in Santa Ana California. He was my best friend.
Every Christmas I remember him. It has been 46 years.