Remembering Ira pt. 1. – Are You Ira?

“I’m not going to tell the story the way it happened, I’m going to tell it how I remember it” 
- Finn, Great Expectations. The 1998 movie version. Ethan Hawke and all that. 

Although I have many memories with Ira over the last 27 years (what the actual fuck, time?), I have been cherishing my very first memory of him because it is so fucking tender and perfect. Nothing happens and everything happens. I think Romcom fans call this a “meet-cute”.

The first section is from a writing exercise I did years ago- just to give you a sense of the setting.  Some of you will know this well.  

The Bench

There was this bench stuck into the pavement in the middle of Hanover, New Hampshire, home of Dartmouth College. It’s where all the bad kids go. A fine mixture of punks, hippies, and skateboarders would converse there like the midnight meetings of witches and nymphs. The bench asked “Himo where you be?” roughly engraved in the sun-bleached seat.  However, it was not rough enough for slivers; nothing in Hanover gets that rough, lest one of the visiting parents catch their Dockers or stockings on them.  

The Bench held tired asses and dirty feet, dreadlocks, stoned stairs, and angry glares at the cops who governed there. We whisper among ourselves that they had a record on each of us. This bench held our whispers of which secret spot we would meet up in at 4:20, it held spilled coffee and Mango Madness Snapple stains, it held misguided spit and loose tobacco.  We would douse ourselves in patchouli to cover summer sweet and the obvious waif of herb that seeped out of our skin, the bench soaked this all in. It held the stories of those who were lucky enough to escape this town and go to The Meeting School or Rehab. It held the sounds of rumbling wheels of boys in baggy pants and All-Stars pushing towards us on their skateboards and the echo from passing Audi’s Boss bass belting us with its thumping heartbeat. And when we heard the shopping girls giggle past us, the bench heard our jeers and mimics of “Oh, My Gawd!  I fell into the GAP!”. It listened tenderly to our confessions and held us in its well-worn arms when we awkwardly tried to figure out who we were. Sometimes, Bench and I would sit alone- I wasn’t satisfied with its company because I hadn’t yet embraced awkward silences. Even when I read, I looked up frequently hoping for a familiar face. I didn’t trust Benches’ assurance that I was worthy of my own thoughts and insecurities. I needed someone dirty and desperate to sit next to me so that I could borrow theirs.

Late Spring 1994 

I took the bus that day, as I often did, from Lebanon to Hanover for the chance that I might meet up with some bored Freaks Like Me. You never knew with the benches, somedays it would be dripping with hippies and punks and skater kids, and some days you could hear a lone wind blow- just you and the tumbleweeds and the cops, watching- waiting. Back then there were no cellphones, just chance meetups if you hadn’t made plans. That day was a tumbleweed kind of day. I sadly passed the empty bench and hit up Stinson’s for a Snapple and a pack of cloves then headed back to The Bench where I settled down with my shit and a book.

After reading for a bit, with occasional glances-up in search for a friend, 3 boys skated up and settled onto the bench across the ally. They were cute and I had seen them around but had not met them yet. They each had their own brand of cute- Tall Mean Punk-Cute, Short Teddy Bear Punk-Cute, and a lanky skater boy with reddish dirty blonde hair- who wore a Lemonheads T-shirt, and I dug that. While they fucked around on the bench, I would look up occasionally and each time, I caught the eye of the skater boy and we’d both blush. The boys teased and laughed for a bit, I think in part because of the blushing. One of them had a particularly adorable giggle that didn’t quite match with the punk persona he was trying to push, and I just fell in love with each of those brats without even meeting them.

After a little bit, the short punk and tall punk stood up suddenly and announced loudly and obviously, “Ok Ira! We are going now!  Have fun! Be Good- see you later” (giggle giggle) and rode away. 

So, there we were, two blushing strangers sitting on facing benches across the ally from each other. I let about 2 minutes go by before I put my stuff into my bag, got up, and walked over to him.

“Hi, are you Ira?” smirk.  
“Uh, yeah, heh” mumble, blush.
“Hi, I’m Angela. How old are you?”
“Cool. I’m 15. Want to go get a coffee?”
“Uh, yeah- sure”. 

(Looking back on that moment, I admire myself for being so bold while also feeling so awkward and looser-ly; I must take notes from me-then- oh, to have those guts.)

So, we headed to The Dirt Cowboy- had coffee and smoked cloves, cuz back then you could do shit like that. I don’t remember what we talked about- I think music, school, our life (so far)- but the conversation moved, and we made our way to The Point where we lounged next to each other, almost touching, learning about each other. I learned the two boys he was with were his best friends, Zach and Ben. I Iearned about how he had been left back in school, so he was 2 years behind me. I learned how pretty quiet boys are and about the awkward gorgeousness of not touching. Somehow nothing happened that day and everything happened that day. I don’t know what we did after The Point- maybe met up with Ben and Zach- I certainly spent a good amount of my high school years hanging out with those fuckers. It’s sweet, to look back on that moment now- when we were all strangers.  Little did I know how much silliness and trouble I would get into with those three, and how many of our bored times together would become the very memories I cherished all these years later.

Last week, Ira went missing in Port Townsend, Washington, where he lived for years and ran his small timber production company. Two days ago, Matchoo called me, and I knew before picking up the phone.  

“Hi,” he choked out.  
“I don’t like the sound of your voice,” I said. 
 “I’m sorry, I was trying to pull myself together. They found Ira.”
“He’s not alive, is he?”.

He is not alive anymore.  But so many years of memories with him are, and I want to write them all down before they start to fade. For now, I am going to keep basking in this one, when we were both so alive in the most alive and stupid and cute way. There’s a way of being alive when you are a teenager and in your 20’s that you don’t ever quite experience again in your lifetime- an Aries kind of alive- young, kinetic, fire. I’m so glad I knew Ira in so many elements and ages, what a blessing that adorable brat was. 

Photo Credit unknown, shared by Ben Rippe .  Front to Back: Zach Lihatch, Ben Rippe, Ira Nelson-Bokum, Ben Ripply


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