Teemo was probably one of the most normal looking people I've ever seen in my life. Brown hair, with the sharp, straight bangs found in yearbook photos of senior boys from small towns who take sophomore girls to prom. Muddy eyes. Average height, small hands. The heels of his tube socks hung out of the back of his standard-issue black restaurant shoes like dirty gray fanny packs. He looked like the kind of person who would probably spill clam chowder on his pants, shrug, and just walk around with clam chowder on his pants until some day, very much in the future, when he would chisel it off with his thumb. Then chew the dried soup out of his thumb nail.
Teemo had another part time job at a Greek restaurant, and a girlfriend leftover from college. I never met the girl. She was one of those women who would be described as "having her shit together," according to rumors and speculation. She lived in Minneapolis. Teemo rented an efficiency basement in Rochester. When he went to visit the girlfriend for a weekend, he returned smelling one apron shy of becoming an associate from Bath & Body Works.
Anyway, the gyros at his restaurant were mediocre.
Teemo and I were a textbook case of sanity compared to the other two men who were hired at the same time. One was a very serious literalist. It goes without saying: He was no fun at all. The other was sweet and deliberate. Too sweet. Too deliberate. The kind of sweet and deliberate that eventually pops off when trying to read a blurry fax, and gets sent to a special camp where he spends afternoons playing balloon volleyball and talking about feelings in the sun room with the other campers. He returned a little bit fragile, but ultimately more likable. So I stopped goading him.
Teemo was droll, hapless, did terrible impersonations, save for his sports-announcer voice, and was so laid back that if you saw him sleeping, you would think: "Finally. Some enthusiasm." We had a mutual appreciation for the vending machine in our lunch room. He was that guy at work, where you would walk in, see him, and sigh with relief. Five minutes later you would be honing an inside joke that would last the next six hours.
One of the first street lessons an 80s child in Rochester learned was that The North Star Bar was the best place to catch hepatitis or a shiv to the kidney. [Side note: urban legend says this is where my grandparents Pista met. I can't remember if that is true or not, but hot damn I hope it is.]
This was a huge one-level bar, oddly bright, and filled with cafeteria-style tables and mismatched chairs. Getting a beer meant wading through a three inch layer of losing pull tabs. Getting to the bathroom meant wading through six feet of black leather and active pool cues. On Tuesdays, the North Star Bar had $2 pitcher night. While my friends and I were at the Smiling Moose a few miles away, eating spicy popcorn chicken in an aesthetically appealing blue bar glow and listening to Big Head Todd on the jukebox, Teemo was sitting alone at what he had nicknamed The N-Star, trading in his tips for Schlitz. Not even bothering to try not to get stabbed.
Eventually Teemo's girlfriend broke up with him, as girls "with their shit together" are bound to do to boys with clam chowder pants, and his car died, as cars do, instinctively, when other areas of one's life shift south. Around this time we all started hanging out at the N-Star on Tuesday nights. I stole a pretty nice pool cue once. Just walked out with it, laid in its very nice case. I'm told.
Teemo spent the next year on foot. Traipsing through rain, snow, sleet and hail in his restaurant shoes. At least the N-Star was on his way home.
It was the night before Princess Linda's wedding, Halloween weekend, 1999. After the groom's dinner, a few of her more beer-curious bridesmaids, including Fannie and I, went to the Smiling Moose. Fannie's crush, a tiny cute bartender named PT, was dressed in drag -- a red wig and a blue dress -- and dancing on the bar. I cheated my way to a prize in a pie-eating contest. We invited a few people over for an afterbar. Teemo and I were the last party people standing at the end of the night.
The well had run dry, except for a bottle of tequila I'd gotten from brother Pista, who was at that time a liquor distributor. This bottle of tequila came with rules: Use it for margaritas, or don't use it for margaritas. Don't drink it after midnight or get it wet. It's hard to remember. We ignored the instructions and twisted off the top. I poured us large glasses, equal parts tequila and some of Fannie's fresh orange juice.
Teemo poured the next round.
"Whatever you do," I slurred to Teemo. "Don't dump the tequila into the orange juice container. Just make them one at a time."
Spiking Fannie's orange juice would be a punishable crime. She's one of those people who doesn't like it when people fuck with her stuff.
When I went in for our third round, the tequila bottle was empty, and the pitcher of orange juice smelled like Lemon Pledge. I slurred some insults at Teemo, then we both passed out: Teemo on the round cushion from a papasan chair. Me in my bed.
The next day Fannie got up to get her hair done. I slept in. I had terribly short hair, and "getting it done" would only mean making it bigger and stiffer. I met up with her at the church, and she was remarkably bright-eyed for a woman who had put her liver through an Ironman Triathlon the previous night, then gotten up at an hour usually reserved for people who try to catch nightcrawlers.
"I feel fine," she said. "I just had some orange juice and totally felt better."
"That orange juice was spiked with tequila," I told her. "You're probably just still drunk."
"Huh," she said. "I thought it tasted funny."
The last time I hung out with Teemo was in the spring of 2007. I was in St. Paul for the weekend, and summoned the different factions of my world -- my cousin Drewcifer, Fannie, Teemo -- to meet up at the Happy Gnome. Teemo couldn't find the bar, and a very drunk and very aggressive woman with dagger nails ripped my cell phone out of my hand, screamed all sorts or "rights" and "lefts" into the phone, then, satisfied, charged me $5 for the information.
I handed it over. Not happily, but with an eye toward making sure that at the end of the night there was more of my blood in my body than staining Selby Avenue. Teemo rolled up in a clunker and we got busy making fun.
Another night, another afterbar. This one in a hotel room, the supplies from a battered paper sack Teemo had in his trunk. The beer had undergone a string of menopausal temperature changes in its short life.
Drewcifer, Teemo and I sat at the desk in the hotel room, pouring beer in our throats and telling stories about spiked tequila and the N-Star Bar. Eventually the young cousin yelled uncle, and stumbled into one of the Queen-sized beds. Teemo and I propped ourselves against some pillows and continued to drink, watching an E! True Hollywood Story on Drew Berrymore, shouting MST2000-like comments at the screen until we were dizzy. Then stopping. We were enthralled.
"I kind of love her," I admitted.
"Me, too," Teemo slurred.
It segued into an E! True Hollywood Story on Chris Rock. Teemo and I cheered.
"Would you two shut the hell up?" My cousin groaned.
When I woke up, Teemo was gone.
I talked to Teemo about a year and a half ago. He was working at a restaurant and had tenuous ties to something that could be considered an international incident if he had followed through with it. He didn't. And he asked me not to write about it on my blog. He lives in his parent's house, I think, while his parents live in their other house.
I'm not exactly sure where he is now, or what he does. I've always suspected that he has a trust fund, but a shitty trust fund that allows him a sub-modest lifestyle that suits him better than the alternative: Commuting by bus to a career set in a cubicle, wearing a shirt void of stains.
If he were to call me right now, we would probably talk about the N-Star bar and the tequila incident. We would try to outdo the other one by remembering the names of high school mascots from Southeastern Minnesota. [Plainview Gophers. Lewiston Altura Cardinals. And our personal favorites: Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms.]