My best friend doesn’t know how to be selfish. I have to remind him. Get your bike fixed. Take a bath. Schedule that dentist appointment before you turn 25 and go off your parent’s insurance. No, you don’t need to buy flowers for her this second, get more than three hours of sleep first.
My best friend likes to wear vests for every occasion, eats infinite slices of garlic toast, and listens to eight different genres of music a day. He’s never too busy to pick up the phone. He’s seen every superhero movie at least twice. Can identity your Myers-Briggs type within ten minutes of meeting you. Will drive seven southern hours through the night to your home (and sleep deprived, total his car on the way back) to spend Christmas evening together.
The first week of college, time slowed down when we first shook hands, as if my body knew before my mind that this person would be crucial to survival. Then came a drunken Mario party, the first of hundreds of two dollar breakfast specials at Fat Jack’s, wine and poetry nights where I spilled red, sometimes staining pages, and he finished all the drinks I abandoned.
Christianity ran in his blood. Two simple rules; love god, love people. I was a heartless heathen, my chaos broiling in the Florida sun. I showed him marijuana, took him to his first punk concert, convinced him to study philosophy with me. He let me pocket his wooden cross necklace. We spent our days driving circles around Lake Hollingsworth, strolling amongst palm trees (avoiding the oddly aggressive march of Lake Mirror’s swans), holing up in the angular, isolated pockets of the library with piles of books, listening to everything from classical piano to hip hop, diving into the infinite, numinous, existential riddles that so keenly fogged up our vision.
He denies this, but I feared my dark heart had swirled with his good one. We developed alter egos, Felix and Faye, began an ongoing, sometimes written, “fictive” autobiography of intoxicatingly unwise adventures. Smoking hotel rooms, playing with knives, trespassing onto roofs– you name it. We took turns breaking the other’s heart, wrote gunshot poetry and short stories. We took a history class together and I watched him become taken with political speeches. His favorite was Machiavelli– he wasn’t manipulative, just misunderstood.
When we parted ways each summer, it felt unnatural. We wrote each other stacks of letters, from Germany, England, New York, D.C. After college, going through withdrawals, I started a traveling notebook that would rack up thousands of miles in postage stamps. Stories of bike crashes, snow storms, Icelandic travel plans, pearls of nostalgia, raindrops of hope, collected as we unfolded the pages of our hearts.
When my jungle heart was most cold, I ambled alone by the Myakka River, weaving through Florida’s lush and tangled trails– more lost than ever, clutching the same wooden cross I pocketed between my fingers, squeezing, fighting hungry mind and dehydrated visions, hand outreached and scraping an empty future, a turbulent reflection.
The cross didn’t budge under the pressure. It hadn’t since it was made; even if it was to burn, it whispered to me in gold, the symbol would remain— a soundless strength, primitive and powerful. A dense simplicity that points me to a path. Life is a bottomless well. You can fall in and struggle to swim, or draw from it, water the people surrounding you.
I’m still selfish in a lot of ways. You’ll never catch me in a Church unless someone is getting married or recently died. But when the path before me fades, that cross emerges and whispers to look the meaning of love in the eye, share what scraps of bliss you may have.
This is how my best friend has changed my life.