A couple of weeks ago I went to lunch with a friend. A good friend. A close friend. The bail-you-out-of-jail kind of friend. I know for a fact she’s this kind of friend because of that one time when she bailed me out of jail. Not a proud moment for me.
I met her when she was just nineteen. We were at a house party and she was new to the core group of friends that were our hosts. She once told me that she was afraid of me that night we first met. Back then I had a tendency to wear black t-shirts with long shorts and Dr Martens 1460s. My hair was cropped very close to the scalp and a goatee dropped from my chin. She said she thought I was a drug dealer.
I would never have seen her again except she started dating one of my friends. So I would see her on weekends when all of us would get together for parties, barbecues, like that. She wasn’t old enough to drink at bars save for The Office Bar and The Double Down. Cute girls just had to flirt with the bouncer to get in and she was extremely cute. Getting to know her was such fun. She was outgoing, humorous and always added to the positivity in the room. We began hanging out more and more.
Over the years we became very close. We spent so much time together that she’d become my best friend, and I didn’t even realize it. It wasn’t until someone was asking about “my best friend” that I realized how much of an important part of my life she’d become. I responded, “Oh yeah, Mikey’s great!” He said, “Mikey? I meant the girl.” I paused for thought and realized it was true.
It had its bumps, I mean what long term friendship is ever perfect? There was a period of time when my deep caring for her turned to feelings of love. It wasn’t reciprocated. That fucked everything up for all the usual reasons I won’t go into. I’m sure you know what I mean. It was an emotionally tumultuous couple of years for me. Luckily, we both weathered that storm and came out of it still very tight.
Time goes on, ya know. And it’s been ten years now since all that went down. And I’ve always held it in my mind as an unshakable truth that our friendship was solid and would always be that way. Then I came to a realization…when we went to lunch a couple of weeks ago.
It was a Thursday when we met for lunch. We work less than a mile away from each other so getting together for lunch during the work week is easy. We’d made a habit of meeting almost weekly and nearly always on Thursdays. But on this particular Thursday there wasn’t much conversation. In fact, we joked about how neither of us had anything to say to the other. We passed it off as a side effect of staying in touch too often, almost daily via text messages, and concluded that there was no catching up to be done since we communicate often. Perhaps this is true in large part. But the last decade has given us time to become two very different people now.
The glaring truth is: outside of our history together, we have little in common. If one were to compare her leisure time against mine, one would see that there is hardly a trace of crossover. Our interests don’t intersect either. The older I get, the more docile my life has become and the greater part of my activity takes place in my mind, which is in striking contrast to her outdoorsy, on-the-go lifestyle. They could make an action figure out of her.
People come in and out of our lives all the time. The overlap makes life rich and enjoyable. I’m not saying I believe she and I will eventually drift apart completely. I really do think we’ll be friends to the end. Of course the degree will wax and wane. All I’m saying is that right now it feels like it’s waning sharply. And I wish our current friendship was something more similar to what we had back in our heyday together. I miss those times. More specifically, I miss those times with her.
I was surrounded by concrete and automobiles when I awakened. And goddamn, I was cold. Passed out on the concrete floor was no way for a desert rat to sober up on a winter night in this city. I was on the 3rd floor of the parking garage at the Hard Rock Hotel between a white, nondescript sedan that probably belonged to a 60-year-old 5th grade english teacher and an early 2000s silver Honda rice burner, the kind prescribed only to Asian B-Boys.
I got my feet under me and with furrowed brow, did a visual sweep to get my bearings. Checked my cell phone. It was almost 2 a.m. Then I started my walk to the Double Down.
I just turned 50 a few weeks ago.
Here are the four most important things I’ve picked up along the way:
- In the end, all that matters is our connection to other people.
- The full depth of happiness is never reached until it’s shared.
- Live your life in such a way that if anyone were to speak ill of you, no one would believe them.
- Happiness is like fire: it multiplies and gains abundance without diminishing the source.
Of course, none of these are my original revelations. They’re timeless observations articulated by bright minds. But these are the ones that have resonated the most to me. And become part of me.
He told me about three weeks before Christmas. I was kind of caught off guard a little. He’s 51. When he told me, I asked the usual questions: What?! Where is it? How bad is it? How did you find out? Is there any pain? Who have you told? What do we do next? I came up with more questions in response to some of the things he was telling me. Many of the questions he didn’t know the answer to as he was still waiting for blood results and therefore hadn’t yet scheduled a consultation with a surgeon. Much to my surprise, my initial reaction was one of anger. One would think it would be sympathy. But I was angry. “This is one of the finest human beings I’ve even had the pleasure of knowing! The world is better because he’s in it. This is so unfair! Who’s fucking bad decision-making led to this?” But once I calmed down, I came to my senses and settled on something I already knew: Life’s not unfair…it’s just indifferent.
Fast-forward a couple of months.
Mikey had his surgery just over a week ago. They removed a portion of his small intestine. All went as planned. I was very relieved. During the procedure, the surgeon took some samples to biopsy. We’re waiting to hear those results. In the meantime, I’ve prayed multiple times for his complete recovery.
The Thanksgiving weekend is winding down. I was fortunate enough to have a 4-day weekend. Spent Thanksgiving with the family. The family consists of parents, my older sister and myself. That’s the official, blood family. However, Tonya always spends holidays with us. So she’s like family too. Like another sister to me. She’s been my sister’s best friend and a friend to my family for…I don’t know…20 years or so.
Friday was spent mostly on the couch, watching movies, picking at leftovers and napping on and off all day. That day I never left the house. That day my only contact with the outside world was checking my Instagram and Facebook feeds and texting back and forth with Mikey a couple of times to confirm I was coming over to cook on Saturday. I finished the evening with a viewing of Casablanca. One of my all-time favorites.
Saturday morning I grocery shopped for the items I needed for dinner with Mike and his family. Mike invites me over for dinner every other weekend on average. Occasionally I don’t feel like going over. I feel like it takes up too much of my weekend sometimes. I go reluctantly but I never regret going. It’s always satisfying. Mike’s daughter Zoe is my Goddaughter. She’s amazing and I love to spend time with her. She’ll be 14 in just under 4 weeks. I’m so lucky to be able to spend time with her at this age. I assume with the onset of her teen years she’ll be more interested in doing other things rather than spending time with the adults in her life. So far so good though. She’s so cool.
Today, Sunday, I isolated myself again. Not purposefully. It was just the way things turned out. And again, I spent much of the time on the couch watching movies I like, plus a new one. I really enjoy my alone time. I can burn hours away in front of Netflix or bouncing around the internet. Huge chunks of time actually. Then look back on what I’ve accomplished and realize: Wow. I’m at expert at wasting time.
This afternoon, I’d watched a movie that made me cry multiple times. That’s no major feat though, movies and music make me cry easily. Even if someone’s just telling me a sad or heartfelt story, I’ll cry. Not the blubbering uncontrollably kind of cry, but just the tearing up quiet kind. I remember crying over an M&M commercial once. It was heartwarming. I cried when Hiccup’s dad, Stoick, died in How To Train Your Dragon 2. For me, movies have a way of altering my mood. Today’s movie was called If I Stay. It happened to end when the sun was setting. As the credits rolled, I looked out of the windows and the sky was getting darker, still blue at the top but starting to get yellow-orange like sunsets do. I felt a strong melancholy. I hadn’t been out of the house all day, hadn’t talked to a soul or laid eyes on one single person not made up of pixels. The urge was strong to connect with the world, even in a small way. So I put on shoes and a hoodie, grabbed my wallet and keys and took a drive. I drive a Wrangler and the weather has been nice here in LV, nice enough that I only have the doors and soft windows on…the back is completely exposed. The cool air felt so good. So good. The first real live person I saw today was the cashier at the gas station where I bought a Dr. Pepper. My only dialog with a real live person today was, “Is that all for you today?” “Yes.” “$1.07” “Thank you.” It was good enough. It made me feel connected enough.
Then I came home and wrote this entry.
I’m back and trying to rally with a commitment to write every two weeks. Twice a month is a realistic goal for me, I think. I just need to cut way back on the Netflix. It also doesn’t help that I’m as focused as a crow…instantly abandoning whatever I’m doing to run off and investigate the next shiny object.
But what might help is the onset of winter. The decision to stay home is much easier for me when it’s cold outside. I don’t much care for winter. Here in Vegas, where we measure the temperature in Fahrenheit, the summer can hover around 110 degrees for weeks on end. Conversely, our winters are very mild compared to many other parts of our nation. We might get below freezing a few times in a whole season. For someone who’s used to the summer heat, our winters are as cold as I care to experience them.
With the holidays approaching quickly and New Year’s Eve right behind, I think it’s safe to assume that many hundreds of blog posts will be themed around 2015 resolutions. I’ve already promised myself that I won’t take up that as subject matter this year. I recently revisited my 2014 goals, ya know, to feel bad about myself. I had listed five goals. All were very reasonable goals. I checked off two, with a third that was 90% complete but then scuttled because of unforeseen circumstances. I feel I did all that I could to salvage goal #3 so I’m choosing not to beat myself up over that one. I will, as I do every year, refer to my resolutions as goals, so I don’t have to admit making New Year’s Resolutions if I happen to be in a conversation where the cool kids scoff at resolution makers. It’s a defense mechanism.
I do, however, look forward to reading many of your 2015 resolution posts, should any of you decide to share them.
When I think back to my childhood, I only remember doing two things with my father. Not family things, but father-and-son things. Once, when he was on a company softball league, he took me to one of his games. The other time he took me fishing with one of his friends.
He provided the things children needed growing up. We always had food in the fridge and a house to come home to. We had new shoes and clothing when we needed it, school supplies and lunch money. I remember we always had vanilla and one other flavor of ice cream in the freezer. He loved ice cream and so did my sister and I. We had what we needed. No extravagances, but the basics were there.
He wasn’t a bad father. He just didn’t know how to connect with me. I suspect he didn’t connect with my sister either. Luckily she had my mom. I had myself. I remember spending a lot of time playing in the back yard alone with my imagination. As a kid, you don’t know what’s normal or what isn’t. I don’t think I ever felt loneliness back then. I was too young to know loneliness. And besides I wasn’t truly alone–my family was just on the inside of the back door, each into their own thing–doing homework, making dinner, watching the news. I’m no psychologist, but it seems obvious that this is why I tend to be a loner.
I have been an adult for decades. My parents are still around and in good health for people in their 70s. I thank goodness for that. But my father and I still don’t connect. And any time when we happen to be left alone together, even if only for a few minutes, I still find it awkward. I fumble around in my head for subject matter to discuss that’s more personal than the weather yet still guarded enough that he’ll never get an unobstructed view of the entire person I’ve become. I think at this point, so late in our timeline together, we’re both choosing to accept that this is the way it is–this is going to be our dynamic until the end. It’s easier to do nothing and pretend everything’s ok. And in truth, everything is ok. I do love and respect him. I don’t begrudge him for not spending more time with me during my formative years. I did at earlier points in my life, but I outgrew it some time ago. Looking back it just seems a little selfish and a waste of time to hold on to that negativity, especially in light of the fact that I never made a single effort to get his side of the story. I just wish that we were close enough–just enough–for there to be an easy comfortability at times when it’s just he and I. Also, I’m just a little curious about whether my life would’ve been any different had we been closer.
Occasionally when I’m driving at night, I’ll turn my attention away from my immediate surroundings and look toward the city’s edge. Las Vegas has so many lights when you focus on its heart. The Strip is a bonfire in the Nevada desert. But you can trace the edge of the city with your eyes. If you turn your back toward the Strip, the myriad points of light form a horizon. There are always strays; dots of light that stand outside the cluster. And for some reason, those lights interest me. I wonder in my mind: from what source is this tiny light? Yes, a bulb of some sort, of course, but what is its purpose? I always want to believe it’s a porch light. It’s a place someone calls home. It’s a place where the light is on because someone that is home is waiting for someone else to come home. And that scenario creates so many stories.
I’ve imagined myself choosing a light and driving to it, continually focused on it so as not to lose it amongst the others, and eventually finding out its purpose.
A friend emailed the following list to me earlier this week. Some of these are damn funny! Had to share. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did:
English teachers across the country submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published annually, to the amusement of our teachers. Here are last year’s winners:
- Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
- His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
- He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
- She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
- She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
- Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
- He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.
- The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.
- The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
- McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
- From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 PM instead of 7:30.
- Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
- Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 PM traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 PM at a speed of 35 mph.
- They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.
- John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
- He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.
- Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
- Shots rang out as shots are wont to do.
- The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
- The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
- He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
- The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
- It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.
- He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.