The dark of morning was as still as it always is. My morning writing was done. So was my morning workout. It was time to log in and say “Hi” to my friend. He’s always good to see, with his huge beard and bright smiling eyes. I thought about the line of beard-care products he started and wondered for a moment if he could now ever get rid of his beard while also advertising his line. Probably not. It’s funny how we get stuck to things sometimes.
We caught up some about our lives. I don’t think many of the things causing us challenges since the last time we spoke had actually changed that much. Families, careers, exercise, diet, pastimes all went on like they did so many times before. We even got into some spirituality, which isn’t all that rare for me these days, even with people I’ve known as long as this friend.
The grin he always had through high school was still there. Now, it sort of says, “Hey, you can’t fool me.” In high school it was different. He was two years older, and he had a locker by my sister’s. I remember that grin and the chill up my spine from some of the things he’d yell through it to his friends—repeating words he thought were playful ribbing but struck fear in others because those same words described too closely something we feared about ourselves.
And then years went by with reports of his struggles with driving under the influence, losing his license, and needing rides places. A lot of times he’d just crash where parties were happening rather than ask for a ride home, curling up on a couch or in a corner. And I remember the close quarters of his basement apartment in a town not far from my own where it seemed the world was closing in on him, like he might be stuck there forever.
And I remember the dumb luck that he moved in a few houses down from a friend I was visiting just a few years ago. And when I needed a ride somewhere, the friend I was staying with said that this same friend would be going to the same place and I could get a ride. I did. And since that ride, this friend and I have been in closer touch than ever before. We discovered how much we really had in common, and we share now so many of the same ways we choose to look at life’s challenges.
It’s hard to explain the feeling of hearing “Love you, dude” from someone you once truly feared and later truly pitied. It’s not that it’s strange or weird or even unexpected. It’s more that I get the sense that this was always how it was meant to be, stuck together by something beyond our control, grinning through the dark mornings at one another, and laughing, still, at the children we were, and maybe the children we are.
Love you, dude.
And may it ever be so,
Rev. T. J.