Angie Marcotti came from a family of older brothers, the kind that are into motorcycles, martial arts, body-building and petty crime. Their neighbors' lives were daily vexed by the window-rattling roars of twelve cylinder engines and the unnerving screech of tires and by keg parties that inevitably boiled down to drunken fist-fights at two in the morning. Police were routinely patrolling the street where they lived, always on the look out for something amiss, some shred of suspicion.
Basically, the Marcottis were a close-knit family of low class. And that was unusual for the sub-division. It was actually a pretty nice place to raise children. Naturally, the neighbors despised Marcottis and would privately complain and console each another. They'd dream up ways they could banish the family from the neighborhood. Any direct action would have set off a war; it was easier and safer just to move.
By virtue of her family, Angie was quite a queen bitch of the school bus 39. She came and went to high school only if no better offer came around. Despite her attractive Italian looks, precious Angie, with her wicked generally vulgar sense of humor, could destroy any one that came too close. Like the neighbors, nobody that rode the bus dared confront her. She would sit at the back of the bus with another girl, Julie, and terrorize the other passengers. There was a specific range that was their "killing zone." and God help you if you sat in any seat too far in the back.
Craig Falschemann was their primary target. Their harassment was continual and vicious. They would laugh at the way he looked or the way he dressed, cast doubts on his manhood and laugh at any sign of weakness. Since Angie lived right across the street, she was able to take note of random strangeness at the Falschemann home. Julie and Angie would laugh about how Craig would storm out of his home and sit in his car, listening to music until late in the night. Never driving any place, only sitting alone. She loved to disclose how strange his whole family behaved and details about the arguments she had witnessed. For some reason, Angie never seem to bore of picking on Craig and for his part, he never tried to defend himself.
Craig admittedly was a bit of an oddball. In high school, every silly detail about a person can have such exaggerated importance, every thing seems to be under a burning spotlight of scrutiny by fellow students. Craig always wore a military-style parka and, even when the weather was not all that cold, he would zip it all the way under his nose so that all you could see were his eyes. But even that wasn't true because Craig like to wear aviator-style glasses that became a dark whiskey color in the sunlight.
Although I had never had even a conversation with him, I had seen him practically every day. I think I tried to speak to him one time but he seemed to ignore me. Perhaps he could no longer trust a stranger. As John Prine sings, ".. and you carry those bruises to remind you wherever you go."
There were times when the things that Angie and Julie said seemed quite funny. And yes, Craig was a weirdo, there wasn't much question about it. And he appeared to be asking for this harassment by sitting "in range" every day. In fact, Craig was a brother to a friend of my sister's. And the few times, his sister mentioned him while visiting, it was as though she preferred to leave much to the imagination. (I generally spent most of my time as a teenager, wondering what people really meant.)
Craig graduated a year before I did. I carried on at MacArthur Senior High with a spectacularly interesting senior year. Craig wasn't much missed and by that time, I believe Angie and her friend stopped taking the bus. Perhaps they dropped out of high school altogether. Thankfully, I never had any classes with either of them. They were gone and that was quite enough.
The following year, just before the winter break at the end of his first semester at university in Columbia, Missouri, Craig found that he was flunking from a couple of his classes. It must have been a desperate situation for him. He obviously had been unhappy at home and now, in addition to an added failure, he would be faced with returning to what he had escaped.
So on a night of a snowstorm, Craig took a taxi to a local cemetery and told the driver not to wait. He found a spot where he could do what had to be done, a place where he wasn't likely to be disturbed. He took a newly bought revolver and blew his brains out.
When I heard this news, it was naturally a shock. After that initial shock comes the predictable, "But why?" In Craig's case, it was not as shocking as it should have been. He had always acted like a person who'd fallen overboard. Over time, I thought about Craig and I developed a kind of regret about the events.
If I had talked to him, had made more of an effort, maybe he wouldn't have lost all hope. I wondered many times if I could have reached him. And if not, shouldn't I have been strong enough to defend him, just one time? Told Angie and Julie to shut up. It wouldn't have killed me but it might have given him just enough hope to have a second thought when he was desperate.
Most of all, I worried that if given the same set of circumstances, if even now I would be strong enough to voice my dissent. Even though I am sure Angie Marcotti and her friend never once gave a thought about the role they played, I know over the years I have remembered Craig Falschemann.
Now here comes the strange part of the story.
There's a time in life when nostalgia sets in, degrees vary but at middle-age, a person tends to glance back to see how the times have changed. Trying to make sense from the life of experience maybe. Somehow I got interested in finding out what happened to the people I went to school with and I joined a FaceBook group of MacArthur Senior High School alumni.
I saw only a few familiar faces, people I had passed in the hall at school but, unfortunately, I haven't managed to connect with any close friends.
One day, as I was peering through the list of group members, I found the name Craig Falschemann. This member had graduated from MacArthur one year before me and his profile photo (with a bit of mental de-aging) bore a faint resemblance to the Craig I knew. I really didn't know what to make of it. It seemed unlikely there had been two Craig Falschemanns. This Falschemann seemed very much alive, both married and happy- as far as I can tell. He's a Republican apparently. It must then have been somebody else and the name had been reported incorrectly. I had only heard about the suicide, not read it in the newspaper or on television. It's been a long time and I can't recall how I learned or who told me. So dumb to spend such a long time feeling remorse about something unconnected to me.
I thought about asking the Facebook look-a-like about it, but what would you say? I asked him if he had an older sister by the name of Janice but I never received an answer. I'm happy I was wrong all these years. Still, it is faintly embarrassing.
Of course, I suppose in this case, in the end, believing the wrong thing wasn't so bad.