First Foster, then Winston. Stacey attracted puppies.
Foster had known Stacey from high school, but they ran in different cliques. He'd been a jock, she'd been in the rebel alliance. For many athletes, high school meant the apex of fame, followed by the end of dreams. After graduation, there were no college scholarships, no professional careers, no All-Star games, no Wheaties cereal box covers.
Foster was one of many. He hadn't been big enough, strong enough, or fast enough for major university squads. Parents shuffled him to junior college. One semester, then done. An uncle got him a cushy messenger job for a defense contractor. Drove from office to factory to field. Shuttled plans or paperwork, now and then electronic gear. The rest of the time, he tended his shadowy flock.
There was a parade of obliging females. Office receptionist, girl in the far apartment, stranger in the grocery parking lot. Foster was big, handsome, with a killer smile. Possessed an athlete's grace, and self effacing charm. When they didn't chase, women were inclined to recline. There was one tiny complication.
Foster had already been busted. Before and after the wedding. Multiple times. His wife was forgiving, patient, blind, a doormat. Take your pick. Tolerance was running out, however. If she caught him bird doggin' one more time, she was done. Divorce papers were at the attorneys. Waiting for her signature. Waiting for that last straw.
So Foster got himself a part time job at the music store, where half the crew were attractive females. Spring was heating into Texas Summer. Female customers entered in tight shorts, Daisy Mae tops, sundresses, high heels. Foster didn't stray ... well ... he didn't get caught.
He adopted a beard. Stacey.
For his wife, Foster could declare, "Look, this is my gay girlfriend. We're going out while you work all that overtime. Luv ya."
The missus also recalled Stacey and could relax. Stacey wasn't a threat. Finally, her skirt chasing man wasn't sniffing her best friend's leg.
Within three weeks, Foster's frat boy world tilted sideways. Stacey was the quarterback of the duo, and she steered him towards the sweaty back hairs of Life. They slammed punk clubs and mosh pits, midnight go kart races, industrial and primal concerts. Roller derby was a blast, roaring down roads that had been closed, even better.
Instead of beer kegs, Foster tumbled into a vat of hallucinogens, smoke, and mind fucks. Darkened alley doors yielded a high risk treasure trove.
Foster was comfortable around Stacey, being with her was often better than being with the guys. She wasn't aging into middle class conservatism, like so many of his male buddies. Foster was too young for a mid life crisis, too young for middle age, period. Stacey attacked life with blazing recklessness. She was not one of those people who held back. She never held back.
For months, they partied and tore through the local club scene. High times. If Foster disappeared with other females for a few evenings, Stacey didn't care. Not like they were steady, or even an item.
Stacey might not have cared, but ... After several months, Foster grew increasingly obsessive. Stacey wasn't remotely exclusive, but he started thinking about her. He'd phone the store on his day off, checking on her. If she went out with girlfriends, he sulked. Whether he admitted it or not, Foster's middle class roots were showing. He suffered a one sided bromance. He'd grown possessive.
Jealously sapped the fun out of the friendship. Stacey was annoyed, then impatient. Foster had been amusing; it had been entertaining to revisit steaming pig holes and watch his innocent reaction. The last thing she wanted, however, was one more suspicious, over protective, insecure individual in her life.
After dodging his calls for a few days, she finally confessed she had been seeing someone. That relieved him, he could relate. Until she lied and told him it was a guy.
That info messed up Foster's head, big time. She was fooling around ... on him? He gave notice, quit the store.
Word was, he blundered one more time with his wife.
That time, she had no patience.
Winston was a new hire.
From experience, I knew to avoid new kids for about six weeks. Probation adjustment period. Otherwise, I'd forever view them as boat paddles. Stacey and I both shared an initial low opinion of this dude. He tried too hard, striving to mesh with the staff too quickly. Interrupting conversations, offering unrelated opinions.
Winston was a horror film enthusiast and wannabe filmmaker. He hadn't actually filmed anything, but he loudly detailed genius story-lines. All derivative. I didn't need to hear about his crappy junior high influences. Stacey and I independently waived the six week rule and began hating Winston immediately.
Funny thing happened, though. The guy was genuinely enthusiastic about music. He wasn't the most knowledgeable, but he was diligent and energetic. He weathered the scorn from Stacey and myself without whining. Completed the grunt work The Boss assigned him. John and Pat were already forbearing types, and the rest of the crew grew tolerant.
After a few months, I chatted with Stacey, "I don't feel like hounding him out the store anymore. I think he'll be OK."
"Yeah, I'm the same way. I'm not going to pick on him. Once I started listening to him, he was pretty funny."
Sympathy and understanding. Blah blah blah.
I opened Winston's gaze to a higher strata of bad flicks by loaning him some Asian films, as well as classics such as Meet The Feebles and Dancing Outlaw. By this point, he was taking film courses at the local college, and creating experimental, unwatchable short films.
Soon, he began following Stacey like a stray Beagle. Everyone mocked him. It was Foster Part II, another buddy puppy rerun.
Only Winston was a lost innocent.
We didn't recognize it at the time.
When he ventured off the main path, he wasn't equipped for the crooked difficulties.
Not all souls were able to imbibe the drug cocktail and shrug off the effects. Winston was a drinker. Beer, some hootch. He was ten years younger than Foster had been. The effects of reefer, then pills, was immediate and startling. Like a switch had been flicked, his enthusiasm snuffed out. He affected cynicism, boredom, lethargy. At the store, he was less motivated. Work was drudgery. Worse for his ambitions, he lost interest in all those film projects. He wanted to create something, he still voiced dreams, but his energy had flagged. Winston could no longer start projects, let alone finish anything.
His world revolved around Stacey. Clubs, drugs, partying, trying to play catch up with someone a decade older. Stacey hadn't meant to, but she had become a bad influence on him. She led the life she had for years. She wasn't a babysitter, she wasn't a guiding force.
Yet, she was the guide. Stacey couldn't or wouldn't grasp this. She was an older influence, something between role model - mentor - example.
There was only one Stacey.
Winston tried to copy her lifestyle. He wrecked himself trying.
The descent began here.