Best Friends for Dummies
by Sang Lee
He slammed the door, knocked over a fan, and yelled. He had never expressed his anger like this before – at least not in front of me. He kept yelling, slamming more doors and throwing a few things around. He wasn’t mad at me. He was just mad. Furious with himself.
Finally, all his energy spent, he slumped down onto the couch and wept. We had known each other close to 14 years, and this was the first time I had seen him cry.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“No need to be, man.”
His girlfriend held him, consoled him.
A few weeks later I was back at his place. We sat back after a toke and settled into a night of conversation and reflection.
“Okay, so I have this 5th site now where I organize all the other sites.”
“You have five sites now? Dude, you’re gonna have more sites than the porno industry; Google’s servers will implode from the sheer weight of Chuck’s Content.”
“Why do you have a problem with this?” He was getting agitated.
“Dude, since the last time I was here, which was like six days ago, you went from one site to five. And one of them is solely devoted to organizing the other four. As your best friend, I’m allowed to bust your balls about it,” I said laughing.
He laughed too. “Best friend. I keep saying, ‘best friend’ and I’m always afraid that you’re gonna think it’s gay,” he chuckled.
“Well, if you said ‘the bestest of friends,’ then, yeah, maybe.” I counted out the money for the Chinese food guy. “Why would I think that was gay?”
“I don’t know. I just did.”
I knew why he thought it. He thought I was just playing along to spare his feelings. That I had been pretending to be his friend all these years. I knew that because he had told me a week before.
If I had charted out my life – between the ages of 29 and 42 – into colorful slices of pie, the largest single piece would be labeled: Time Hanging with Chuck.
We were best friends. I always thought Chuck knew that. And he did. He had to – his pie-chart looked an awful lot like mine.
Then, something occurred to me. “You have no idea what that means, do you?”
“What? Being best friends?”
“Yeah. You’ve been waving that gun around all this fucking time, and you never even knew how to pull the trigger. You need a copy of Best Friends for Dummies or something, man.”
“Yeah, I really do,” he laughed.
I laughed too.
I laughed because I wanted to tell him what it meant to me. I wanted to tell him that if it was me or him on the Titanic, he got on the lifeboat. I wanted to tell him that if I won the lottery, he’d never have to take a job he didn’t want; he’d never have to worry about being homeless as long as I had one; he’d never have to worry about needing a kidney or a liver, because if mine didn’t match I’d find ones that did.
I wanted him to know that I loved him.
But I laughed, instead. I laughed because that’s what damaged men do. We laugh to avoid expressing what we want to express the most; we hide from the world what we treasure the most. So no one can find them – again.
Chuck had been physically abused when he was a child. I had been molested and ignored. We had taken different paths but we ended up in the same isolated place.
We found each other in the same neighborhood, waved from our respective yards, and made sure we looked out for trespassers when one of us was away. We kept our distance, as good neighbors do, and lent each other some duct tape and DW40 when the need arose.
But lately, we’ve been having conversations over the fence. We’ve been having smokes out on each other’s porches; having a beer out there now and again – no one’s gotten to see the 50” plasma, or the pool table in the finished basement, yet.
He had never cried in front of me before. He had never allowed me to see him when he was nakedly vulnerable. I would never have gotten this close with anyone before I met Chuck. No one else I knew had grown up on the same block.
Maybe, after the snow melts, we’ll have a barbeque.
We’ll get to know each other better and find out we have a lot in common. We’ll have a couple of steaks, shoot the shit, smoke some cigars and play some pool.
Maybe I’ll even show him my comic book collection.
And maybe – when the time is right – we’ll both move the fuck out of this shitty neighborhood… and never look back.
Video Tribute by Charles Bivona
The Tao of Sang Lee