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SKEMERCON '99 (The Finale)


The Finale

I didn't know what to expect upon waking Thursday, whether I would have a hangover or feel sick. Having been drunk exactly once in my life, I'm not terribly experienced at this type of thing. Luckily, I felt fine, if extraordinarily tired. Rich, who had actually gotten a full night's sleep the night before, told me to shower first so he could sleep more. Too tired to argue, I stumbled blearily to the bathroom and napped under the spray. Brad and Rich told me earlier that weekend that I fall asleep terrifyingly quick - when you do it standing up in the shower, you begin to suspect they're right.

We made it to breakfast at the Howard Johnson's down the road by ten o'clock, hoping the girls of our clan (minus one - Heather, she of the eerie Gage Creed impression, had departed earlier that morning) would hurry so they wouldn't be late. We shouldn't have worried. We were an hour early. (Curses!) Eventually, other SKEMERs began to trickle in, shouting out orders to our frazzled waitress and passing around copies of the Anthologies to get signed by all who hadn't signed before. For many, it was our last meal together - the group of people who had met at the Chinese restaurant at the beginning of the weekend were seeing the last of each other today. My friends, both new and old, were leaving. As we met out in the parking lot, we all got in line to hug Michelle - it's her party, and she'll cry if she wants to. I saw Michelle and Jim only once more that weekend, and it was fleeting. I'll be seeing her again at her wedding in September, and that makes me happy. Love you, Michelle - as always, it was sad to see you go.

My troop decided to use the last day in heavy relax mode, tooling around Bangor and checking out the local sites. Betts, of course, was our first stop (as always), and reassessing my dwindling funds, I decided I could afford a copy of the 1986 Time magazine that featured King as a cover story. The first school paper I ever wrote on King relied on that issue heavily, and I hadn't been able to find it since I gave it back to the library. Just another one of my small dreams Betts and the Tinkers made come true.

We took a trip over to the Bangor Public Library, and I showed off my King knowledge by taking Joy, Nick, Brad, and Anthony to the "brick wall" on the third floor. Made of clay bricks, the wall displays the names of people who have donated money to the library's refurbishment. In a small upper left-hand brick, the names TABITHA & STEPHEN KING are etched in. It was really cool to be able to show people something special that only I knew about before. We left the third floor and came downstairs, where Brad ran into a woman who was having trouble breathing. Pulling together as a team, Brad ran up to Jen and I. I found a librarian to call 911, and Jen, being an EMT, went to work helping the woman. Soon, the problem was resolved, the paramedics came, and we got to go off on our day, but I took a second to think about what we had done. All weekend, my group and our peripheral members had become more than friends - we were a team, all independent but integral to each other. There were seven of us in our original Van Clan. I think there's some significance there.

Until dinner, we went our own ways, browsing through bookstores, sleeping by the pool, driving around Bangor. Nick showed up at the outside pool around four with newly developed pictures. Sarah, Jen, and I, who'd been relaxing (and trying desperately to avoid the gaggle of small girls who excitedly kept telling each other they wanted to be Shania Twian), took our favorite double prints (note: I look really bored when I'm drunk.)

Brad had plans with Michelle and Jim elsewhere, so the rest of the group decided to go out to Captain Nick's for dinner. Joy, who is allergic to shellfish, opted to nap instead. Nick (not Captain) had never had lobster before, and was fairly nervous about trying one for the first time (actually, extreme terror is closer to the mark.) Mommy-to-be Sarah, however, wasn't afraid at all. That woman can eat, downing two-and-a-half lobsters n one sitting, plus a salad. She was about to get up and threaten the people at the next table (I think "Your lobsters or your life" were the exact words), but we calmed her down. Nick soon got over his fear, too, eventually eating with the same fervor, if not the same capacity, as our Sarah. I got a burger. And they burned it.

After dinner, we hooked back to the hotel to pick up Joy, and it was off for ice cream! Across the street from a place called Kev-Lan (I swear that's a real place) stands the best ice cream place in New England. I wish I could remember the name of it. (You know, I actually did bring a notebook for this stuff, I just kept forgetting to write in it.) As I had finished placing my order, I saw that Sarah (who'd ordered first) was nearly finished with her cone. This led to a great many jokes (Rich wondered if we needed an ice cream trough for the ride home) at the expense of the pregnant lady. I didn't pick on Sarah, though. After she beat me up and took my ice cream cone, I was pretty quiet. (Joking, Sarah!)

A small group of us spent some moments that night in Nick's room. I didn't drink, but I fell asleep quickly on Nick's mattress, only to wake up about ten minutes later feeling a prickle on my forehead. I was a little disoriented, but I saw Jen trying valiantly not to burst a vessel laughing, and then I saw Joy above me with a pen in her hand. Exhausted, I asked her what she was doing. She told me she was writing "Ross" on my forehead with a SKEMERs pen (refer to the fifth season finale of Friends for the reference). I fell back asleep then. Maybe I should have cared more.

That was the last I saw Anthony and Nick, but I truly hope I see them next year. Other than Joy and Brad, those guys were the best new friends I made during this trip. We made a cool little team, those of us that stayed until Tuesday, those of us who rode around in the minivan and got drunk in Nick's room and played with demolished lobsters at Captain Nick's. I miss you guys. I miss you a lot.

Early the next morning, the original Van Clan (a.k.a. The Winslow Family) minus Heather took off to go back to Boston. Like the day we drove up, we stopped at Burger King for breakfast, and, except for one or two stops, drove straight through with no problems. We made it back to my house a few hours later and saw the girls off to Rhode Island, where they would drop off our Mirth Mobile and go their separate ways. Brad, Rich, and I stayed on at my house for awhile, playing on the puter and listening to Smash Mouth, and then I herded them up and took them to the airport.

I watched Rich, the Big Guy, leave with some of the sadness I've had in my heart each year when I've said goodbye. This time, though, it felt a little lighter, a little more like a "see you later" than a "goodbye." The first year, I didn't even have my own computer. I couldn't communicate with my friends over instant messages and chat rooms as I do now. That first year depressed me heavily. Now, Brad and I said goodbye to our friend Rich, and I smiled a little bit. So long, good buddy. Can't wait to see you next year.

The hardest moment came a few hours later, when Brad's plane came in. This was finally it, finally the end. Sarah, Heather, Jen, Joy, and Rich had left me, and now it was Brad's turn. One of my best friends, and I'd only just met him this weekend. My buddy, my confidant, my brother - Brad, you need to live closer because the saying goodbye killed me. I watched you board the plane and I wished you luck, and I wished your wife luck, and both of you happiness. I love you, man.

I came home, happy and resigned. I plugged my headphones on and let the sounds of Catatonia take me though the tunnels under Boston toward my house. As soon as I got there, I turned on my computer and opened one of the SKEMERs letters I needed to catch up on. I was home again.

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