“How did you and Sean become so close?”
That question was lobbed my way a few weeks ago; asked by our mutual friend Denise, who once upon a time – long, long ago – knew my best buddy Sean before she knew me.
That’s the funny thing about Facebook. It pulls forth so many people we thought long lost to the ether of time. Once you get past the initial brain dump of everything you’ve been doing in the two decades you spent apart (“And here’s me in 1995 at Great Woods seeing Pearl Jam. I’m the one in flannel. NO – THE OTHER GUY IN FLANNEL!!!) – anyway, with that out of the way, we all just continue from here – most of us existing somewhere in the same station in life. Some married. Some not. So some ONCE. Some with kids. Some without. All of us bound by shared memory and history and now forever wed by technology and the pure fact that through some sort of cosmic alchemy, the likes of which Zuckerberg could only dream of harnessing, all those great people you wish you never had to bid a fond adieu to never have to mosey away ever again so long as the lights stay on, the satellites keep orbiting and we stay connected forever.
Whenever anyone decries the EVILS of Facebook, I bristle. I think it’s a genius invention. I mean – SURE – you probably shouldn’t forego feeding your kids because you have virtual veggies to tend to on your Farmville plantation; but this site – more than that moldy MySpace ever could do – has made that impossible dream a reality. It has welcomed back all those great people you ever whiled away an afternoon engaged in the simple pleasures of great conversation. Over the years, as a new ‘old friend’ popped up on my Friend Invitation feed, I felt that excited charge – so happy to see them back, so wishing they were right there in front of me so I could pull them into a warm embrace and so content in knowing that from this point forth, I could find them anywhere should I have any reason to. Nobody is taking my friends away again. Just try it – FATHER TIME!!!
I’m the type that doesn’t carry grudges nor harbor enemies. Seems pointless. When I find a bad apple, I quickly toss it aside. When I meet a good person, I make fast friends. It just seems the right way to live a life. That said, before technology reunited us all again, there were people who simply drifted away. No pain. No strife. No big blow-out arguments. Time just took over. It’s so crazy to think I have people in my life whom a decade or so ago, I went out to see a movie or had dinner with – said goodbye at the end of that great night – AND THEN NEVER SAW THEM AGAIN. You just never know how crazy busy your life will get. One day becomes ten. One year – a decade.
So that’s the beauty of Facebook for those that want it. It has enabled us to reconnect fractured circles of friends. And in the 5 years that I’ve been a member, I have had so many great reunions – some that have leapt from the screen into real life as we’ve cobbled plans to get together, broke bread and clinked glasses; vowing to never, ever again let time get the best of us.
But that question struck me.
“How did you and Sean become so close?”
I don’t know.
I feel like I’ve known him my entire life – that we’ve always been this close but the question reminded me that before we became friends, we were mere acquaintances. When my friend Denise knew Sean best, he was besties with her High School boyfriend. At that time, she lived down the road from me (I was her paperboy). She was also one grade below me and great friends with my younger sis, Jenna.
Then I took my first major High School job working for the local Papa Gino’s where I worked closely with Sean, Denise, my buddy Jay, etc… and as is often the case among co-workers; no matter which groups we circled in the High School hallways – our cliques blended once we began working together. Depending upon who was working which shift – we would often make a break to the beach (either during those hot Summer days when we all had time off) or after our evening shifts to watch the waves crash and just talk and laugh and let nights yield way too quickly to dawn. We would assemble big group trips to Water Country. We saw every movie on opening weekend. We noshed on midnight Chinese. When parents were away, somebody would assemble a little covert fiesta.
That’s where the seeds were sewn for our friendship BUT Denise was one year younger than me and Sean was one year older. So – when I was a Junior and Sean a Senior, he and I really only interacted in group settings – we weren’t a dynamic duo at that point. Following that year, he headed off to college (first Boston University, later Wichita State to design military jets or chase twisters, then a stint at Bridgewater State and nowadays, Smith College?!?!?!?). During my Senior Year, Denise and I found ourselves occupying nearby lockers. Her former boyfriend had graduated ahead of Sean. They no longer haunted those hallowed halls and with them gone, she and I (and Jay and some others) all became great friends. The dynamic of our circle had shifted slightly.
It was the Summer following my graduation that Sean and I started hanging out a little more often. He was home after completing his Freshman Year and one night we just made plans to go to the movies or something like that. I was one of those people (still am I guess) who becomes friendly with a lot of different groups – so that Summer I spent time pin-balling between disparate peeps. Whoever was up for doing something, I was always game.
Once I headed off to college, Sean and I stayed connected – especially when I came home during my second year and found that my Mom and youngest sister Noelle had relocated to neighboring Weymouth (Jenna was now in the Army so the two of them had downsized and found an apartment big enough for them). I needed a part-time job to pay my portion of the college cost and grabbed a job at the South Weymouth Papa Gino’s – where I met a brand new great group of people – some of whom remain dear friends to this very day. When a position opened up requiring a new pizza chef, I suggested Sean. That put the two of us working similar crews throughout the winter and summer breaks all the way through our college careers. It’s there that he and I really grew close and became true brothers from other mothers.
Denise never saw any of that – and its so easy to forget that with the shared history we have with so many people – there are so many pivotal details that are obscured through the passage of time. It’s got to be completely surreal for someone like Denise to look at Sean and I – decades later – unaware of the seeds sprinkled way back when only to return years later to find a great forest has sprung up. When she last saw us together – we were just two guys who happened to work together. Now – he’s an unofficial Uncle to my kids. What happened in the gulf? So many stories. So little time. Of course, that’s what this Blog is for.
It brings to mind my friendship with Ollie (he’s the second guy from the bottom left in that pic) – or Oliver as I’m apt to call him these days – as it’s what he prefers. I met him at UMASS Amherst somewhere around my Sophomore Year. In the beginning, we were mere acquaintances. He used to hand around with this guy named Steve, who I knew casually in my dorm. The two were minoring in French (I believe) and they could often be heard conversing in that language whenever I was within earshot. (“How do you say F’N IDIOT in French?” – D’oh!!! So, that’s why they always spoke French around me… why I oughta’….”
For a period of time, Ollie and I were brought together by women. See – his girlfriend Paula and the girl I was attempting to court (Shannon), were newfound bests. That led Ollie and I on many a double date and we started to get to know each other a little. For some inexplicable reason, there was a slight chill between us. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say I was frustrated that his relationship was soaring and mine would remain unrequited. The “just friends” variety that every young guy loathes to hear.
Around the same time, I took on leadership of our dorm’s intramural softball team. One day, Ollie had come down to the room I shared with my buddy Rich; with a sure-fire proposal. He was hellbent on joining the team BUT did not want to play Right Field. He was adamant that he should play 3rd Base. We already had a 3rd Baseman so I tried to steer him off that. Of course, I’m sure I was a bit less than ‘diplomatic’ in my response. We got in a bit of an argument and decided to table it for the day – OR – as I told him “You’re not playing F#@king 3rd base!!!” Ehhhhh… Details, shmetails. 🙂
A couple of days went by and Ollie ended up returning from a little uptown pub crawl, determined to resume negotiations. Having imbibed a little social lubricant myself that evening, I was steeped in liquid courage. “I’m playing Third Base.” “Like Hell you are!” “Who put you in charge of the team?” “I did.” “What the Hell is your problem?” “The only problem I have is you?” This is a family website so I’ve excised the string of profanity BUT you should have heard what he called me in FRENCH?!?!?
“Vous êtes une pomme de terre avec le visage d’un cochon d’inde.”
Translate at your own peril.
With that, it was on!!! I lunged at him – smashing him into this great, big pile of computer boxes that I had stacked in the corner of the room. He pushed back and slammed me against the next wall. I finally found a use for the freshman fifteen that refused to graduate and threw all of my weight right back at him, tossing his bony frame against a closet door. All the while, my roommate Rich had gone next door in search of our neighbors – the fighting Irish brothers; Mark and Brian. The two heard Rich’s sob story of a melee and came running as if it were Christmas Morning for Soccer Hooligans. The moment they graced the doorway, they divided and conquered.
Brian grabbed Ollie off of me, kicking and screaming. Mark leveled his body and lunged at me – pushing my frame away from Ollie; crashing us over my coffee table right into the computer desk. As we hit the ground, my CDs and desk lamp rained down upon us. In two seconds flat, Mark and Brian did more damage trying to break up the fight than Ollie and I would have had we waged war all night long.
As Brian pulled Ollie from the room – wrapped in a headlock – Mark extricated me to the Men’s Room, situated one floor up. As he was pulling me away, I could hear Ollie cursing my death in French – or maybe he was just praising Jerry Lewis. As they say in my country – “Same diff.”
From that night on, things were awkward between us for the remainder of the semester. He never did play 3rd Base. And I never did find my lost Ace of Base CD either.
Summer came and we all headed our separate ways. When we returned for Senior Year, a little sabbatical had done our relationship wonders. Ollie and I were graduating Seniors and let bygones be bygones. When Spring arrived, we found ourselves hanging out more often.
One night, he and I and some other guys from the dorm ended up holding court at one of the off-campus bars. We had a famous night – one of those great nights where the laughs flow with equal pace to the beer. I have a penchant for talking with my hands, and managed to clear our table of glassware enough times that the waitress started serving our beer in plastic cups. We were moments away from getting tossed or downgraded to Dixie, when we decided to close shop.
The next morning, Ollie and I met up for breakfast – and bear in mind, this is a college story so by morning I mean ONE in the AFTERNOON. He and I stepped into the dining commons, laughing it up over our shared, blurred reminiscence from the night before. We grabbed trays and hit the buffet line – looking to load up on all the carbs a college student can stomach. As we headed into the busy seating area, we spied Shannon and Paula staring at us – with wry, quizzical looks plastered to their faces. We joined them and started talking with them, all the while they just stared.
Finally Shannon said it – “Do you know what day today is?”
Ollie and I looked at each other – neither one finding purchase in the other. “We give up. What day is it?”
“Yesterday was the one year anniversary of your fight.”
One year from that fateful night, Ollie and I held court in a crowded bar – toasting loudly and often to great friendship, completely oblivious to how far we’d come in such short time. Little did they know then, Ollie would later join Sean’s rank & file by standing alongside me and my other great mates on my wedding day.
For Shannon and Paula; as Denise would later wonder about Sean and I – there is that unseen gap. How did we grow so close?
How do any of us? It’s one of life’s little mysteries – the happy accidents we can’t help but stare at.
I think there are two kinds of great friends. Those whom you remember EXACTLY how you became friends with thanks to some sort of “meet cute” moment forever tattooed to memory; and those where you have no idea when it was that you became friends – it just is what it is – and you’re all the better for it.
Both are so vital; like food, water and oxygen; I couldn’t do without either. My friendships sustain me.
I’m fortunate to lay claim to so many great people in my life but as a guy who grew up with a couple of sisters and not one fellow Y Chromosome to bond with; Sean and Ollie (and Justin and Joe and Mookie)… and so many others – these guys are my Band of Brothers.
When asked how we became close, I have but one answer.
“It just happened”.
Just the way I want it…