I woke up this morning and stumbled to my computer in the dark. I’m usually up before the sun. I read an article about towns so desperate for taxes and utilities money they are actually giving lots of land away for free, in exchange for the promise that you will build a house and live there for at least five years. Then I fell asleep on the couch.
I woke up for the second time this morning as Kristen was leaving to go to work. I stumbled back to the computer and had a new friend request on Facebook from Zeller, one of my best friends from middle school, who I haven’t seen since.
In middle school, Zeller and I worked together for four bucks an hour at his dad’s construction company. We would clean up nails the real workers would drop, we’d paint, whatever, we were cheap teenage labor. All cash, off the books, sorry IRS.
Zeller’s dad had a rental apartment in his basement that Zeller and I would commandeer while it was in between tenants and we pretended we were old enough to live on our own. Playing video games, taking the city bus to the mall, ordering in pizzas and keeping 2-liters of soda in coolers on the back porch because we didn’t have a fridge. It was an awesome way to spend summer vacations.
It didn’t hurt that Zeller’s dad also had the Playboy channel. But Zeller’s dad didn’t know that we knew that.
I drove for the first time in Zeller’s dad’s truck. He let me sit in the driver’s seat in the parking lot next to his house. I could barely reach the pedals. I felt like I was driving the Gravedigger monster truck, the engine rumbling my entire body.
Zeller and I used to hang out with our other best friend, Joe, a lot too. Joe’s middle name is Alan, and my middle name is Joseph, so of course we knew it was destiny that we’d be BFFs. Joe taught me how to play basketball and really pushed me to try out for the basketball team at our middle school, even though I was “husky” and really really bad at basketball. I didn’t make the team, but trying out was fun.
Joe also pushed me to ask out this girl I liked, even though I was “husky” and really really bad at talking to girls I liked. She said yes, and that was fun too.
After a few years of sleepovers and spending almost every afternoon together, the three of us went to different high schools. This was before any of us had computers or cell phones, so there were no emails, no updates to follow, no IM convos. We just… stopped being friends.
Looking back, all those paragraphs above feel like someone else’s memories. Our middle school is no longer there, the city shut it down a few years ago. I moved from Wisconsin to Illinois at the start of high school. I don’t even know that middle school Alan any more. That town, the people, the shops, the houses. They’re completely foreign.
I sometimes wonder if that kind of life change can happen again. If one day I’ll find myself looking back on Hank and John and Kristina and Monica, and wondering where these people are and what they’re doing. It doesn’t seem likely, but middle school Alan and middle school Zeller spent way more time together than any other friend and I have since. And we never would have imagined a day when we weren’t hanging out together.
Maybe those kinds of friendships are reserved for adolescence. And maybe those kinds of life changes are too.