She Said, Me Said
“How was their vacation?” my wife asks.
I sigh. On the inside. Concealed. Undetectable. “I don’t know.”
“They just spent two months in Mexico.”
“How did you not talk about that?”
I met Adam for coffee. He ordered a large Americano, I had a double Espresso. I said it had been a while, he agreed. We laughed. About something. I can’t remember what it was. We were chatting about the beard he had grown. It suits him. Mine was making me look old. I had shaved it off a couple of weeks ago. It comes and goes every few months. Every time I grow it out there is more salt to the pepper.
We watched a guy struggle with his bike. He was trying to rest it up against a table next to the big window that’s facing the street; the only spot that offered some sort of shelter from the violent downpour. The rain must have surprised him on his leisurely day out. He had nothing but a thin vest to shield his lycra from the elements.
Adam ordered another Americano. I had a second double Espresso. Decaf because it was already going on to three.
It was a nice bike. We thought it was blue. We agreed that, indeed, it was blue. We couldn’t really tell, but the dim lighting the cloudy sky offered made it look blue. Disc brakes, of course. Electronic shifting from what we could tell. And mudguards. I didn’t care much for those. Mudguards kill the aesthetics of a bike. The blue had a weird iridescent shimmer to it. Adam and I discussed that. Custom paint job for sure. No doubt. It must look really cool when the sun hits it. We talked more about bikes. We also discussed people’s shift in their perception of reality during the pandemic. And we touched on other completely related topics I don’t quite remember. This is how we didn’t talk about their vacation.
“It didn’t come up.” I say to her.
She squints, crinkles her nose, and lifts her upper lip while pushing her bottom one upwards to expose just a little bit of the white of her front teeth. Her face almost looks like the face people make when they are disgusted. Or nauseated.
She makes this grimace when I’ve earned her disapproval. She stops adjusting the dish-rag on the oven handle for a moment and turns to me.
“You haven’t seen each other for months.” She pauses, briefly, for dramatic reinforcement.
“What did you talk about then?”
“Nothing really. Just stuff I guess.”
You see, Adam is one of my buddies. My coffee, beer and bike buddy. We talk about philosophy, politics and bikes. Things come up or they don’t. When we don’t see each other we don’t talk at all.
When I send a text it takes him two weeks to reply. I have other guys for texting. I have other guys. Guys for other types of friendships. I guess that’s the point I’m trying to make.
The Whole of The Past
Growing up I always just had friends. Simply friends. The guys I hung out with ticked all the boxes, all the friendship boxes. Matt is one of them. We went to school together. In the afternoons we played basketball. Or rode our bikes. Or pretended to be skateboarders, passing time outside the grocery store with our decks casually tucked against our hips.
And we hung out on the street, with other friends, outside their homes. Doing nothing. Just hang and shoot the shit. For hours.
One time we were lingering outside Matt’s house, making a spit puddle. Matt, Mathew, Daniel, Brian and I. One of us started spitting. Soon we were all taking turns. Spit. Spit. Spit.
Before long our gross little pool of foamy saliva encouraged a curious rivulet of slobber to slowly wind it’s way to the closest gutter. You could see the dark stain it left on the sidewalk for weeks. I don’t know why I remember this. It was glorious.
Friendship used to be simple. We were just friends. I loved my friends.
Friendship was this effortless entity of intertwined facets of camaraderie.
I guess that’s one way to say it.
Friends are Bottom Feeders
I’m older now. Middle-aged old. Things are different now.
Matt, Mathew, Daniel and I are still friends. Brian passed away a couple of years ago.
I don’t like this expression ‘passing away.’
He died. Now he’s dead. That’s it. No more spit puddles. Cancer.
I think he had been drinking too much for too long. But maybe he wasn’t. Maybe it was just last year that he died. I can’t quite remember. I live in a different country now. That’s my excuse for not knowing.
For the last two decades, we only spoke once every year when I went back for our annual barbecue. We weren’t really friends anymore. We used to know everything about each other. Now we just know what we once knew. We laugh about the same jokes. They’re still funny. To us they are. Funny enough. We’re pals now, not friends. Matt, Mathew, Daniel and I are. Brian is fucking dead.
I do miss him sometimes.
That’s how it goes.
Our friendship has become the bottom feeder of my relationship pyramid. All my friendships have. My wife and my children are on top. Responsibilities are too. And if you aren’t me, your parents are probably there too. They all come first. I have them. Friendships are at the bottom. They come last. I choose them.
That’s how it is.
I never used to think about friendship. Never had to. It used to be something that didn’t require any thinking. It just was. It was like my personal emotions convenience store. The shelves were filled with my favourite candy bars, sodas and affection. Smokes and booze and camaraderie. Snacks and trust. Everything for free. Always open.
Friendships are a victim of circumstance. I love saying intellectual shit like that. Especially when I’m with Adam.
What that means? It means you have to work, and you have to take care of your children, your parents, whatever. Stuff like that.
But friends, you choose. You decide to do things for them. Or with them. Or not. You don’t have to. You can just put them off. As one does. So you do.
So I did.
That’s how it goes.
Friendship used to be this one thing. Many things, all in one, combined in one person.
Then it happened. It happened slowly. Steadily. Stealthy. Sneaky.
This is what happened: I grew. I grew older. I grew up. I lived, I worked, I met, I loved, I left, I came, I went, I tried, I failed, I won, I sucked, I thrived, I lost, I did, I didn’t, I am, I am not. I am not the same person anymore. They are not the same person anymore. No one is.
Now friendship is many things. All separate. Broken up into tiny shards of emotional equilibrium. Scattered among buddies, pals, and mates.
I used to just have friends. Now I have niche-friends.
Matt, Mathew and Daniel are my buddyroos. I once had this spontaneous single-malt bar-affair with this guy from Australia. Morgan. We drank. We talked. He called his childhood friends his buddy-roos. I think I like that. Buddyroos.
Adam is my buddy. My coffee, beer and bike buddy. He’s also a couple-buddy. His wife and my wife are friends. The unspoken rule of thumb for couple-buddies is this: if we talk about our wives we don’t really talk about our wives. We keep it shallow. On the surface. No harm done. You never know. Except you do. It’s happened before. Burned once, shy twice. That’s how they say. Anyway, different story. David and Christian are couple-buddies too. So is Gary.
Josh is my pal. I have a few of them. Jason, Bob and Scott are my pals too. We run into each other sometimes. Then we chat. About this and that. Sometimes we text. One liners, memes, jokes. Intimacies like that. Not much more to it.
Stephanie’s husband, Cameron’s partner, Hunter’s dad, and the guy who takes Leila and Aidan to the playground on Saturdays — they’re pals too. They are kid’s-parents-pals or wife’s-friend-pals.
We talk about everything. Big topic small talk. Five sentences or less. Typically. If there is more time I use different words to repeat the same things. Pass the time. Haha. Kids. Sports. Politics. Repeat.
I used to have colleagues. Colleague-confidants. That’s another category: the non-asshole coworker. When you chat with this type of office friend you can trust it’s not going to end up a fucking sticky note on the water cooler. They’re like pals but at work. Stephen was one of them. Good guy. I lost the job. We lost sight. I think I saw he lost his dog. We’re still friends on Facebook.
I see a lot on Facebook. And on Twitter. And Instagram. Those are the main ones. That’s where I see my cyber-pals. There are many. I don’t know how many. I forget. When I see them I remember. Cyber-pals are like fruit flies. They suddenly appear. A like, a comment, a message. Then they vanish. I like back. Or comment. Or message. Not immediately. Not to spark a conversation. But to say ‘Hey, I see you. Good to see you. See you soon.’
I never see them soon. Or ever.
I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. But it’s ok. I don’t mind. I love my buddies, and pals, and mates and all my trusted allies in the sub-groups of these traditional friendship categories. The bottom feeders of my relationship pyramid. I love them all.
They wouldn’t know, but I really love them. I do.
I love the smile Mike cracks when he sees me. I love Matt’s tone when he texts me. I love Bob’s candor when he hands me a beer. I love Hunter’s dad when he laughs at my son’s jokes. I love Stephen for posting things that aren’t asshole things to post. And when I post something that isn’t an asshole thing to post, I love my fruit-fly pals for liking it. I love all of that. All of them.
They wouldn’t know, but I really love them. I do.
They should know that I love them. They should.
I should let them know that I do. I should.
I will let them know that I do.
I don’t make spit-puddles anymore. They died with Brian.
But I make an effort.
I make an effort to keep my friendships alive.
I press like and I comment and I mean it.
I make an effort to keep my friendships close.
I write a message. I write an email. Wholeheartedly.
I make an effort to keep my friendships real.
I pick up the phone. I FaceTime, I Skype. I meet face to face.
I make an effort to make an effort.
I promise to my friends.
I promise to myself.