Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Invincible, Invulnerable, Invisible

Just returned from St. Louis, where I spent a wonderful long weekend in the company of my best friend & his family. Heh. "Best friend." What am I...12?!? But, when you've grown & shared experiences with another person who's not your brother for, oh, I guess 33 years now, you get sorta stuck in that pre-teen mindset. This is not to dis the frantic, fantastic relationships with other people whom I've sweat with, and drank with, and...well, shared other fluids with. Ahem. But, if pressed to point a finger at that person who has been my FIGURATIVE brother for as long as I can remember, that digit would come to rest on Eric.

We met the first day of kindergarten. And that's a "no shit" thing to say: I literally met this man in early September (remember when school still started in September, without any laws to require it?), back in the latter years of the Nixon administration.

The Boyz: 1973.

WOW. That sounds like a long time ago, even to ME! By my recollection - and I'm notoriously bad with early memories - I was the shy kid playing by himself, and this NOT-so-shy kid just came up and asked if I wanted to play. How humbly such things of great importance often begin. We went through elementary school together, sharing classes as often as not, and while we were certainly each friends with other folks, there was definitely a Butch & Sundance thing going on with us. My mom says it was always easy to pick me up after school: she'd look for the tallest kid, and I'd be walking right next to him. At first I lived far enough away that even though we went to the same school, we never "hung out" afterwards. But, those years of the late-70s I'm always so nostalgic about found me living in town, and so ensued a magical time of sleepovers and comic book trades and colossal, universe-wrenching battles with our "guys." (It would have been FAR too sissy to call our 8" Mego toys "dolls," and the term "action figure" hadn't been invented yet.)

My folks bought a house together in 1980, and so I finished out junior high and high school a healthy distance away: nothing too great to drive, but those are tender years for a boy, years when the friendships of your kid-hood often fall away. When rivalry for girls and sports stamina often outweigh the memories of battered Star Wars toys gathering dust in a corner of the basement. So what did we do, before we got our licenses? We wrote letters. Yes, two boys separated by 80 miles wrote letters, taping new acquisitions for each other's coin collection to the backside of lined paper torn from school notebooks. Each winter a willing parent would truck one of us over to the other's house for a nice weekend during Christmas Break, and summer usually resulted in another get-together or three. Once I got my license the visits became more frequent, allowing us to continue an evolving friendship: one based on current experience and the creation of new memories. Too often old friends can only rehash the past, but those dippy letters saved us, as did the removal of any sort of same-school rivalry.

Oof. Drunkity-drunk-drunk! 1985.

College, for me, was a time of new friends and experiences, but Eric & I still got together as often as we ever did, even though his approach to college was stop-&-start. We lived together for one precious year, my last as an undergrad, sharing an apartment with his then-fiancée. My memories of that year are as golden as anything I've ever known: smokers all, we'd spend Sundays sitting in the darkened living room, watching movies and spreading a blue haze through the air as first one would light up, then the next, and so forth. He forgave me my dipshit choices of bed mates, and I forgave him the requirement of needing to be shaken awake to open McDonald's while he snored blissfully through his 4 alarms.

Christmas, 1988. Neither of us is enjoying this
as much as it seems. Really.

Our real "down" years happened during his first marriage. His wife was alright, I suppose, but not terribly bright and something of a hick. Eric, while never completing college, is one of the smartest, most canny and world-wise people I know, and this woman seemed to be steering him toward a life that was small and easily contained. When the inevitable divorce happened, the two of us flared bright and we made it a point to hang out once a week in the summer during the mid-90s. These were times of playing blackjack at the nearby casino, and replacing our epic "guy" battles with similarly-long and neverending games of Magic: The Gathering.

When I was presented with the news that he'd knocked up an old high school sweetheart with whom he had restarted a relationship, and was moving down to Missouri...well, I was devastated. We went to a Rush concert in October of 1996 and then, just like that, he was gone. But, as it ever has, the friendship survived, and more: it flourished beyond my wildest expectations. Rather than driving us apart, the greater distance made it so that get-togethers were even MORE highly anticipated, and I've made trips down to see him and his growing family nearly every year. They all make a drive back to Michigan in the summer as well, and the eventual plan is to make one of those trips permanent...something that, like world peace, I pray for but never quite expect.

2002: My best man. Not quite so
dark as we used to be!

There are lots of people in my life whom I love, and an even wider circle of casual friends, coworkers, and acquantances. Most of these people have "been there" for me in one way or another, but the true anchors in my life, those who really KNOW me (because they help define me) are rather few. Eric is one of those anchors: he is the yin to my yang, tall and dark and outgoing, so insanely funny I could never in a million years hope to keep up. He makes me feel invincible, as if no harm can come to me no matter what we're doing. No cigarette could EVER give me lung cancer if I'm smoking around Eric...no 70+ mph drive down the snowy left lane of the freeway could EVER result in a crash as long as he's driving. He supplies me with a feeling of invulnerability, making me strong when I feel weak and filling me with the knowledge that, if such circumstances ever arose, he'd have my back no matter what the odds. When in his presence, I am invisible to whatever Green Man may come calling: worry, stress, and bad luck...they all take a holiday when when Eric is present, knowing that his aura protects me from their sight, just as it did all those years ago when we would "sneak out" at night and hide from cars while pulling harmless pranks around the neighborhood.

Thanks for the good time, my friend. Here's to more to come, my brother.


Blogger Steph said...

You know, in this day and age, nothing warms my heart quite like reading a declaration of unabashed love from a hetero male to his best male friend. Good stuff. :)

11:57 AM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

That is the stuff that makes life worth living. Ode to Eric ROCKS!!

5:00 PM  
Blogger Suze said...

that was beautiful, really.

and i love that short-shorts pic from '85.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Feral Mom said...

I love this post. Thanks for including the vintage photos!

12:44 AM  

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