Same Old Saturday Night

Went to see a movie show,
Found myself an empty row,
Thought the show was just alright,
Same old Saturday night.

Then I made the usual stop,
Coffee at the coffee shop,
Friendly face nowhere in sight,
Same old Saturday night.

At the end of my freshman year at Texas A&M, I spent some quality time with a guy named Mitch. We met at an affectedly avant-garde coffeehouse where both of us sometimes picked up shifts, and where, when the planets aligned just so, he would grab a mic and croon his favorite Sinatra song to much acclaim. I’ve never been quite sure if we dated or not. I mean, I was very infatuated with him, and he was admittedly attracted to me, but he had recently gone through a breakup and wasn’t over his ex. Plus, there was an age difference with which neither one of us was comfortable, and I was busy flunking out and gearing up to move to Houston, which put the kibosh on any chance of an actual relationship.

Off-kilter attempts at romance aside, he was also my first sober acquaintance. I don’t remember how it came up, but he once mentioned that he realized he had a drinking problem when every story he told began with, “So this one time, I was really drunk…” While this revelation did not immediately force me to review my personal imbibing issues, it did stay tucked in the depths of my pickled brain, bubbling to the surface whenever my own anecdotes started leading with the same disclaimer. I’m sure I drank heavily in front of him at some point or another, but he never called me out on it, and I’ve always been grateful that he set an example of recovery for me, something I could go back and reference when it was time to sober up myself.

I really thought – the papers I bought,
Would help me forget you for a while,
Believe me honey – the funnies weren’t funny,
They didn’t even make me smile.

Mitch and I communicated a few times after I left College Station but quickly fell out of touch, and while I occasionally found myself wondering what he was up to, I could never find any contact information for him. He was one of the first people I looked for when Facebook became a thing, but whatever he was doing, it was decidedly offline.

Over the past few days, I’ve seen a number of social media posts about a website called “True People Search.” Everyone seemed alarmed about the accuracy of the information it contained, which tripped a trigger and made me suddenly think of Mitch. Feeling encouraged, I hopped onto the website, typed in his full name and finally tracked him down.

He died in a car accident 17 years ago, a couple of months after I graduated. According to his obituary, he left behind a domestic partner of three years (a fairly progressive thing to include back then), so hopefully he was happy. I told a friend of mine about this, who immediately asked if he’d been drinking, thereby causing the accident. It’s a valid question. I don’t know the answer. But I knew him as a sober individual, and since the intimate details of his death are not available, that is the way I will remember him.

I’m trying not to feel guilty about not finding him sooner, especially since the resources to do so simply didn’t exist at the time. And I’m trying not to put undue energy into wishing that I could have introduced him to grown-up, sober me, or maybe even seen if there were any sparks left over from liaisons two decades old. Regardless, I will use the sparks I do have to light a candle for him, and I will thank him for being a good influence when I didn’t yet know who I was.

I really think he would’ve liked who I turned out to be.

How I wish you’d lift the phone,
Fun is fun – but not alone,
‘Til you let me hold you tight,
Same old Saturday night.

One thought on “Same Old Saturday Night

  1. That’s a lovely tribute to your friend from former days. You know that saying, I’m sure, about how “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” Perhaps his reason for being in your life was precisely to model recovery and sobriety for you for when you were ready yourself to embrace it.

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