For years one of my friends has asked me to write a story in which he was one of the main characters, and while he and I have shared many adventures together there was never a story I could tell without it being just a very simple and short, “I have always considered him a close friend, who I care about dearly.” He and I have never been in a fight together at a wedding. Thankfully there was never an incident between the two of us which concluded with jalapeño juice debilitating me for hours afterwards. Never have he and I accidentally gotten married in a bar, while being overly intoxicated. No, his and my friendship has always been what many people would have considered to be a normal one. We would get together and watch Red Sox games, which is actually how we met, then go out after the game was over and play darts until they made last call at the Edgefield in East Nashville. We would part ways, then get together on the next Friday (or Saturday, depending on work schedule) to watch another game, and continue the cycle. The story I have the extreme pleasure of telling is the story of the best conversation I have ever had (Sorry, Carter), and I’ll always be glad that conversation occurred with my good friend, my brother, Nate (His real name. He deserves all the credit in the world for being a fantastic individual).
Once I made the shotgun decision to leave Nashville and try to start over again in Florida he and I remained close, closer than many of my other friends I have in Nashville (not taking away from any other friendship, but there is an explanation to why this happened later on). We remained close enough, in fact, that when the Red Sox made it to the World Series in 2013, and I was living on the bankrupt side of life, Nate paid for a plane ticket for me to come back to Nashville (even though I was wary of this venture due to a breakup I had recently gone through, which ultimately lead to my involvement in a few political campaigns the following year) in order to watch a few games with some of the best friends, and Sox fans, I have ever met. He had flown me up on Friday, with the Red Sox tied with the St. Louis Cardinals 1-1, in order to surprise another one of our friends for his birthday, and we all were able to watch Game 4 together that Sunday, when the Sox tied it up 2-2, going on to win the next two and take the series. It was a day that made me miss my friends, my family, my life in Nashville. As I was on the plane, getting ready to head back to Florida, I texted a friend of mine in the St. Pete area saying, “I kinda don’t want to come back, best friend.” She, being an understanding person, replied, “You don’t have to, best friend. Go where you are happy…”
I ultimately ended up staying in Florida, which has worked out for me pretty well so far (but the future is a blank slate, so hopefully I continue to make the right decisions), and Nate and I kept in touch the way friends do over the span of hundreds of miles; we would text every so often, and comment on each others Facebook statuses, but the phone calls were essentially non-existent. You blame these habits on being too busy, life getting in the way, or a general lack of time which is mostly a falsity we tell ourselves to make us feel better about not being a good enough friend in order to make time for someone we care about so deeply. It is those moments in the mirror where we have the inability to lie we realize we haven’t been good friends, but instead have allowed our relationships to take a second place to whatever fleeting personal crusade we are waging at the time, no matter how minor, or pointless.
As our lives continued to progress we never drifted apart, which is usually a side effect of growing up nobody ever tells you about as a child when you believe the people you are friends with in high school will be your friends for the rest of your lives, and nothing will ever top the relationship you have with your high school girlfriend. No, instead, he and I remained parallel with each other, each life progressing in different ways, but never losing sight of what I have considered to be one of the best friendships I have ever had, knowing one day he and I would be reunited and the two of us would be able to sit down, watch a Sox game, grab some pizza, and talk as though we hadn’t spent a single minute apart.
Slowly, as time continued to pass, as time has a habit of doing at a faster rate every year, my trips to Nashville continued to come at a much less frequent pace. Eventually it got to the point where I was lucky to get back once a year even if I missed it, and longed to be there on an almost daily basis. It’s just another one of those side effects they refuse to tell you about when you’re growing up and still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and yourself. I knew I would have trouble seeing everyone I wanted to see on my trips, so I attempted to set aside time to make sure I saw as many as possible, hoping against all hope I would be able to find them all in one place or another. This became more and more difficult as I quit drinking and I didn’t enjoy hanging out at bars as much as I once did, but I would work at it, because even though I am a narcissistic, sociopath, I still suffer from an uncontrollable desire to make people happy (or maybe, it’s more the reaction you get when you see someone for the first time after an extended absence is better than any drug I have ever done, which me being me, makes a lot more sense than me coping with any emotion where I am worried about what other people think, or feel). Nate, though, was always one of the ones I would whittle out time for every visit I made.
On my most recent trip back, where I was able to see almost every single person I truly wanted to (the two I did not see, you know who you are, and I personally blame you), I had blocked out enough time to see Nate on multiple days. I knew he had been going through a rough spot since I had last seen him, and I wanted him to know he was an exceptionally important part of my life, even if he and I would go months without so much as a text message between the two of us. No matter how self-absorbed I am, I still understand the value of a good friendship, which is why I will make sure I am always there for those who have been crazy enough to fight through all of my walls, and psychosis, to get to the deeper version of me…the one Sally would be proud of, the one that only a few know, and would refer to as a “great guy.”
Nate and I did what we always did. We went to the same bar and watched the Sox game on Friday (they unfortunately lost to the f*cking Yankees, due to the steroid-tainted 660th home run hit by Alex Rodriguez), and went for some pizza after the game, promising we would see each other again on Sunday before I left the following day. During the game he went around being Nate, doing the duties of a MeetUp group President, making sure everyone who attended the Red Sox MeetUp for the game felt welcomed and glad they made the decision to spend a free Friday with what equates to a room full of strangers watching a baseball game. During which I was able to catch up with a few people I hadn’t seen in years, making fun of them, laughing with them, tearing up with them, and generally missing them the way people make fun of, laugh with, tear up with, and miss each other when the bond between them is something stronger than distance, and time.
Sunday, when he and I got together, I was expecting a normal day, just the two of us hanging out and talking about the same bullshit I have come to expect from conversations with people I haven’t seen in a long time, even though I should have known he would not have allowed for anything so basic to ever occur between the two of us. He sat down next to me at the bar of the restaurant I worked at for years before leaving Nashville and after going through traditional pleasantries he looked down at his hands and said, “So you have friends here in Nashville, and I know you have friends down there, but what is it Florida has that Nashville doesn’t?”
From that sentence the two of us were off. We spanned entire genres of life, from happiness (would moving back for that job hinder your happiness, or improve it?), spirituality (it’s easy to believe in a higher power, it takes a lot of the blame off yourself), different deities (ask me about the unicorn with the cotton candy mane, who farts gummy bears sometime if you ever see me), friendship (we have always been close, from the first time I came to a MeetUp, up to, and including, today), relationships (I think I always knew she and I weren’t meant to be together, it just took me a long time to accept it), to online dating (I found a website that analyzes writing, and if you put in a person’s online profile it will tell you a lot about them. Here, I’ll give it to you: https://watson-um-demo.mybluemix.net/), to realizing there are websites people who spend a lot of time in their own heads should never visit (Can you believe they said I had a problem with authority?!?!?!). With every new sentence more possibilities arose for where the conversation would turn. It was one of those conversations that made me feel alive in a way I had forgotten was possible to feel…I mean while all my clothes were on. Of course, as a person who divulges 90% of his life on the internet I am forced to keep the details of this one private, as I believe there are a few things that need to be kept private in one’s life (but if you want to know about my sex life, please continue reading my stories). The conversation was like a great movie; you knew it had to end eventually, but you could have sat in the theater for another five hours digesting everything on the screen.
And eventually it did end. He had to get ready for work, and classes the next day, I had to make sure I spent time with a few other people before I left town, and it was time for us to part ways for the hundredth time in our lives. We got up from the bar and did the awkward walk to the cars, where we stood, waiting to figure out how to say goodbye, hoping it would become easier the closer we got to our parking space. Typical goodbyes were said, “It was good hanging out,” “Yeah, maybe I’ll come visit you this summer.” “Sox are in Tampa in September.” “Yeah, that could be fun.” Eventually leading to the inevitable, “Alright, brother, I have to get going.”
We hugged goodbye, as everyone in Nashville does, and Nate headed to his car.
“Hey man,” I said. “Let’s try to keep in better touch this time.”
Then he said it. The sentence that made me realize why we were so close, a truth I had always known, but had the ability to finally see.
“That’s the best part about being family,” Nate said. “You can pick up where you left off, as though no time has passed.”
I nodded as he got into his car, turned the engine and pulled away.
It was true. Nate and I are family. I have friends across the globe. All of which I am happy to have met in my lifetime. There are a few people out there who have transcended friendship, breaking through the walls I have put up to keep people at an arms length so I won’t ever feel like I’ve lost anything if we fall out of touch for any reason, and have found their way into a special class I will always consider family. Nate is definitely one of those people. He has been in that class since we met. For those of you out there who believe in fate, destiny, or an all-knowing God who has planned out your life long before you were born would say the explanation falls within those boundaries. I feel as though (and since this is my story I am accepting it as truth) sometimes you meet people who you have the ability to connect with on a level where you never have to be scared about what they may say, or do, because you know from square one they will never say, or do, anything that would ever cause you pain in any way. That is where Nate resides in my life, with a group of people spread out across the world, some of which I will never see again, but if they ever needed me they know I will bend heaven and earth to make it happen. It’s good to have those people in your life. It makes you realize that even when you forget, or when you doubt it to be true, you are still human.
So, thank you, Nate, for…well, everything.