When I was in my ill-begotten early 20’s, before I met Scott, I was kind of a mess. I was drifting and lost and had no prospects for my future. I went from bad relationship to bad relationship, sometimes with genuinely nice guys who were either bad for me or I was bad for them or both. Other times they were not nice guys. Either way, nice or not nice, I always ended up shattered and more lost, more insecure, more sure of my lack of value. The only thing getting me through those breakups was the guy who lived down the hall: my best friend, John.
John and I were housemates in the house I shared with so many others when we were all so young. We met when I was seeing his best friend and somehow we remained friends after the relationship ended. I don’t know how we became so close. Maybe it was because we were both broken and we recognized something in each other. Maybe it was because we both always felt like we didn’t fit in anywhere, so we found a way to fit in with each other. However it happened, his friendship is one of the things I’ve been most grateful for in my life.
Now I look back and I cringe when I think about how solidly he was in the Friend Zone. It was a textbook case: male best friend who was always there for me to cry on and lament that I couldn’t find a nice guy. Like him. When I was sad and lonely, I would sometimes go into his room and crawl into bed with him because I knew he was safe. Whenever I had pieces that needed picking up, he was there.
I like to think I was there for him as much as he was for me, but I know I got the better end of the deal. Still, when he had what he called “dark nights,” I always took care of him as best I could. Dark nights happened when he drank too much. He always drank too much, but sometimes he really drank too much. He could be angry or maudlin, or both. Belligerent or self-pitying, or both. Come the next morning, he had no recollection of what happened the previous night. I knew those incidents bothered him, but not enough to stop drinking. I knew they bothered him, but I was too young and stupid to realize I should try to do something about it.
We had a lot in common other than our brokenness, of course. Our taste in books and movies was in sync, and we were both gamers. We spent a lot of time together just talking or reading in each other’s company. We played GemStone together later on, and he was there when I met Scott in person for the first time. John knew me so well that he knew I was in love with Scott before I did.
When I moved in with Scott, John moved to Florida and we slowly lost touch with each other. I’ve tried to find him off and on over the last few years. I never did. Last Saturday, I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in almost 19 years and one of the first things I asked was did he know how John is. I’ve suspected for some time that the reason I haven’t been able to find John is that he can’t be found, and my friend confirmed it: John died, quite a while ago. He had a heart attack, which came as a shock to everyone. I didn’t ask, but I think it had to have happened when he was in his 30’s.
John had an all too brief life. I wish we’d found a way to reconnect before he died. I hope that he found peace in life, even if he didn’t get to enjoy it for very long.
Cheers, John. I love you.