The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear.
— the evil paul mccartney
He was unforgettable. Except for all the stuff I’ve forgotten.
Our life together was a blur. I remember he would buy 30 pounds of chopped ham for a month’s worth of sandwiches. It was usually the only thing we had in the refrigerator. He loved to sing “I can smell your feet a mile away” when I took off my running shoes. Incense and piles of old newspapers. We were best man at each other’s starter weddings. And in a world where I’ve never had friends, he was a dear one. If guys are allowed to say dear. And I’m fairly certain we are not.
I have no idea exactly how we became roommates or for how long. I do have a vague recollection of fierce baby oil wars and an Easter egg that went two months past its expiration date. A shared innocence in the days we thought we could save the world through journalism, although he was under the illusion that one photo was worth a thousand words. This was before the internet, when a thousand words was a big deal.
We were young and stupid, which looking back on life is the best thing you can possibly be. He introduced me to the Rough Mix album and some band called The Beatles; I coaxed him into a one-race running career in basketball shoes; he may or may not have smoked me. We brainstormed headlines the day we lost John Lennon, kicked an unsuspecting rabbit in Big Bend and survived late night rocket rides to accident scenes in the company Mustang. Mostly, we were friends in a way you foolishly take for granted when you’re young.
Newspapers sent us different directions, and then other directions, and then others. I’m not much of a people person, so I lost track, content to see his occasional delirious social media rants in a way that reassures you the other person’s life turned out OK.
And then, there he was again at my brother’s going away party. Frightfully old, even as I remain totally unchanged. Same brutal sense of humor, still insisting photos are the key to journalism. Still him.
It’s been forty years, he said, shaking his head in disbelief. Forty years.
You know you have a friend when you can step back into those smelly running shoes four decades later and it feels the same. So many nights I would come home and just the right album would be playing in a cloudy haze. So many escapades. It was the beginning of our lives, and he never took his foot off the gas pedal. I couldn’t have asked for a better co-conspirator. Standing across from him, I felt like we were back there again. Plus I was eating a ham sandwich.
We swapped stories with the other desperados from the old days, remembering our own little stage show of “Fandango” acted out across the expanses of West Texas. Mostly, I couldn’t stop looking at him. It’s been so, so long, and There He Was. It was great. Except for the brother dying part. Always something.
And finally, short of bringing up the unfortunate Baby Jessica incident, there was nothing left to say but goodbye, so we said it. I watched him walk away, guessing this was the last time I’ll ever see him. But maybe that’s the best way to end the show; pull the curtain and bow out, thinking maybe one encore was enough.
In our own little way, we were Lennon and McCartney, two disparate souls who came together at a crucial time, adding the missing parts in the melodies of our lives. I’m still singing those songs today. Life is just a bolo tie, you know.
If you’re lucky in life, you come across someone who fills a spot in your heart you didn’t even know needed filling. If you’re really lucky, he isn’t afraid to douse an entire apartment in baby oil. Still waiting for our deposit. Who won that fight anyhow?
I suppose this was the last verse. And still. That long and winding road will never disappear, if only in my mind.
He taught me a valuable life lesson. If you come across a bunny sitting on that road’s yellow line, for God’s sake snap a photo before you kick it to see if it’s alive. Just in case.
Forty years. Unforgettable …