One winter, around that time, I am home for a holiday visit, walking around on a cold night, just after last call, and I stop by Curly’s, a diner open until four so drunks can dry up after last call. Curly’s is a place where I don’t expect to see anyone I know, where I go to get warm and avoid everyone.
At first I don’t recognize the bloated guy behind the grill with the apron around his waist and the towel over his shoulder. He’s been kicked out of The Replacements for doing too many drugs, which is like to being kicked out of a school of fish for being too wet. He looks ruined now.
When I realize who it is, I say “Bob Stinson?” and he looks at me a little suspiciously.
“Do I know you?” he asks.
I tell him no but I used to see him play a lot, and I miss him in the band. He smiles and stares at me for a long time, unblinking. A few months later he’ll be dead; so many years of abuse will have made it impossible for his organs to continue functioning.
Before I leave, Bob gives me a napkin with his autograph scrawled on it. “Don’t tell anybody I’m here,” he mumbles. The sky is starting to lighten faintly with that dull gray glow, and I know this means soon I will have to go home and pretend to wake up.