The Ghost of Ricky Smith
Jesus, Ricky, forgive me. I've started a blog.
Ricky Smith was sort of a jackass, minus the "sort of" part, a thorough pain in the ass to be around, never shut up, and rarely did he comment on anything not directly involving himself and his own brand of personal pain. Ricky once did an excruciatingly uncomfortable hour-long spoken word performance in a coffee shop, in which he, among other things, sodomized a blowup doll with a flashlight while simultaneously simulating injecting her with heroin and railing against the press and government. This was part of a talent show, in which everyone else read a poem for about five minutes. That was the kind of guy Ricky was.
I met Ricky in grad school in Miami, 2005. Pushing fifty, he was an old New York junkie, withered, weathered, wretched and ragged, who could make my oft surly disposition downright pleasant to be around by comparison. You never conversed "with" Ricky as much as you were talked at. Ricky was like that Kristin Wig character on Saturday Night Live, the one who can always outdo any tragedy. If you knew someone who caught swine flu while fishing in the Keys, Ricky knew someone who contracted Ebola in a Turkish prison. But I liked the guy.
I didn't get to know Ricky that well until my second wife pulled the proverbial rug out from under, leaving me on Easter Sunday to stay behind and fuck one of my oldest friends in Houston. We shared a similar background, Ricky and I, and when I was at the breaking point, couldn't take it anymore, he was a sympathetic shoulder.
Ricky hated a lot of things, including, among others, Miles Davis, Catcher in the Rye, sunny days, rainbows, and laughing children. But above all, perhaps, Ricky hated blogs.
"Everyone with fucking fingers has a fucking blog these days," Ricky said one night in class, dragging out the word "blog" to mimic retching. "Fucking pissing out their mouths, like everyone needs to hear their every thought. It's not writing; it's blogging. Don't talk to me about blogging. I don't want to hear it. I fucking hate it, makes writing seem easy. And writing's not easy. It's fucking hard work."
Ricky died the next year, complications from a hard life, found dead on his bed, in front of his computer, post rigor mortis fingers curled on the keyboard, working on his still unfinished life's story. We included an excerpt in my final issues as editor of the grad school's lit magazine.
But I still see him around. Not in the "oh, his soul lives on" kind of way, or the hippy "we're part of the wind" crap. I mean, I see him, or rather guys who look just like him, the beaten down, the broken, the angry-pushing-50-something-wasted-life guys, with the same lachrymose soul bleeding dread and despair, sloughing down dirty city streets, in search of a fix or a fuck or whatever temporary relief they can find, in their ragtag flannels and unwashed jeans, pulling up lame outside some residential hotel, faces carrying more years than can be measured by calendars, and to look in their eyes, it's like Bruce says: they're the ones who hate for just being born. And every time I see one of these guys, I'll text my buddy from grad school, C-Love, and say, "I just saw the ghost of Ricky Smith..." And a couple days later I'll get a text or e-mail back, saying, "Me too." Which isn't a surprise, because once you start looking, you see guys like that everywhere.