acta deos numquam mortalia fallunt

In the winter of 1984 I was as lost a soul as you can get. I was rooming by myself in Ball State’s Palmer Hall, surrounded by bible study groups and bad nouveau folk singers. I wasn’t adjusting to college life very well, wasn’t making new friends, and was fast losing contact with my old ones.

To make matters worse I was eating Darvocet by the handful. I’d been given an open script for the pain killer and was downing a bottle a week, usually with a half-pint of cheap whiskey. I had constant stomach pain and was coughing blood, so I took more pain pills, never realizing that the pills were eating a hole in my stomach and making me depressed.

Kids, right?

So, there I was, bummed out and miserable, a college freshman who was getting surprisingly good grades despite being an absolute hermetic wreck.

Enter Brent Smith.

My pal Brent had just got back from London and was living off campus. He tracked me down, calling me frequently and begging me to get out of my room and come hang out with him. I drug my feet. I was, admittedly, in a dark hole and at a loss. Then one night, a pound at the door and there Brent was, with his Cheshire Cat grin and a gorgeous brunette in tow. We chatted for a bit, then they drug me back to their house for a party.

It was crazy — three kegs, girls dancing atop furniture, wild music. I drifted through it all, being introduced to Brent’s roommates and friends. Brent and I had always been pals, since we were little kids back in Converse, but that winter, we became inseparable, really.

I ditched the pills by spring of ’85, having found other outlets in my quest for self-discovery. Brent showed me, beyond anything else, how to let my hair down and have fun. I have always had a tendency to be a bit too serious, a bit too self-reflective. He helped change that.

That was a crazy spring. We used to hit the Midnight Movies a lot. Brent had a buddy who was paralyzed, had been in a wheelchair since a car accident several years before. He used to drop acid and get up and walk around. Like I said, it was crazy. Anyway, he’d go to the movies with us — Song Remains the Same, Tommy, The Wall, Rocky Horror — and we’d smuggle in ice and cold beers by packing them in his wheelchair.

When we weren’t in class we prowled the Village, hanging out at Wizard’s Keep or White Rabbit during the day and talking our way into bars on occasion. But mainly, we stayed out of any real trouble. We played a lot of D&D, hiked along the river, and made frequent trips out to Stonehenge.

Hard to believe that was 30 years ago.

I was a long way from becoming the person I am today, but I doubt I would have lived through any of it if it weren’t for Brent. We were one helluva team…

He passed on twelve weeks ago today. I can honestly say, we did a fair job of looking after each other. We kept each other alive for a long time. Longer than either of us thought possible. He kept me going and I returned the favor as best I could.

I’d miss him a hell of a lot more if I didn’t feel him with me every single day.


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