A reasonable person – but wait, who is reasonable at 17? Let’s start over.
If you step over a comatose-drunk teenager sprawled on a front porch already in the throes of a major house party at 7:00pm on a warm North Carolina night, it should be reason enough for you to think twice about entering. The ramshackle thin walls thrummed to the overbearing thrash of interchangeable heavy rock music prevalent in the 1980s. Smoke of many kinds tangled under the drop ceiling.
I’m usually critical of actors playing Southerners whose major credential was having flown through Hartsfield-Jackson, and I’m also dubious of the depictions of the falling-down houses where those actors flout their overwrought accents. A real Southern house is like any other house. It's just more likely to have worse paint, better dogs, and colorful candles that come with pictures of Jesus or Elvis or either of the Madonnas on them instead of being forlornly stuck into skinny silver holders.
This party went along swimmingly, in my opinion, until drunk-happy inevitably turned into drunk-angsty. My best friend then, who has the distinction of being the only person I’ve ever known who could function - admittedly not at a high level - while being passed out, had angered some of the locals. I think I might have seen one or two of them before, but they were from a different unpopular crowd than our own unpopular crowd. Just then they were threatening to pound some sense into my friend for a slight he had committed, and I stood up to them. Even more incredible, they didn’t beat both of us silly. We left the living room walking or staggering as our respective conditions dictated, continuing a friendship that lasted for years but not forever.
I’ve often asked myself what happened to our relationship. Marriages, divorces, and careers spun us into separate orbits, but we could still talk. We just don’t. I don’t know why.
There is a Loneliness Index (thanks, Cigna) and it says that six out of 10 Americans are lonely. Elsewhere I’ve read that being chronically lonely has the same health consequences as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. How often do we inflict this misery and malaise, this echoing feeling of being left out, on ourselves? I doubt that many people would admit to that kind of drift being their own doing on a survey, or ever.
A mutual acquaintance would probably let me know if that former best friend had a cataclysmic injury or illness, so I’m relatively sure he’s alright, still married, still a father of three. If he needed me I would be there for him just like I was 40 years ago. I think he would do the same for me. I know we were brash and awkward and wobbly kids then, but who are we now?Maybe the right question isn’t about what happened to our friendship, but about what the hell happened to us.