I have been thinking a lot about friendship the last couple of days. The memory of an old friend long gone reminded me to think of my friends. When I was a child, I always had a “best” friend. Choosing a favorite friend seems so strange to me now because I compartmentalize my friends now. I have friends to talk about life with, different friends to get drunk with, different friends to spend lunch at work with and even different friends to remember and miss. Just like my peas and potatoes, I don’t mix my drinking friends with my lunch friends
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. Albert Camus (1913 – 1960) (attributed)
Back when I was a kid, though, it was a different story. The most important person in my life was my best friend. I didn’t want her to like anyone but me. It was a jealous love with no room for lunch friends. My best friend roller skated with me, ate lunch with me, talked about life with me and partied with me. There was no room for any others in my life. And if she found room for others, I became insane with jealousy. My best friend changed names many times over my youthful years, sometimes in spite and sometimes because friends just change with age
Later, there became a distinction between girl friends and boy friends. Once I started having boyfriends, I found that I had to make a mental distinction between my best friend that’s a girl and my boyfriend, who obviously would be my best friend that’s a boy. I believed that my boyfriend had to be my best friend, but I still wasn’t willing to give up my “best” friend, whomever she may be this month.
The friend that I’m mourning, however, was neither a best friend nor a boy friend. His name was Calvin Hardcastle. He was tall and thin with dark hair and eyes. I didn’t find him particularly attractive and I doubt he noticed me. During high school, I partied with the jocks and the cheerleaders. The same people who were reluctant to talk to me in the high school halls were perfectly willing to let me see them at their drunken worst. I was a cheerleader’s nerdy friend and Calvin was a football player’s skateboarding friend. We were both outcasts in a sense. We were both on the outskirts of popularity.
After one horrific party, I vowed never to drink at these damn parties again. This group of rowdy football players would have nothing to do with my sudden sobriety. The first party after the “incident,” I found my Diet Coke spiked with alcohol several times. Protest on my part only brought my situation to their attention. Later in the evening, Calvin pulled me aside. “If you don’t want to drink, it’s way easy. All you do is carry around a beer,” he put a red and white Budweiser can in my hand, “and when they’re not looking, you dump a little bit out. That’s what I do. I’d way rather get high than get drunk, but they get all bugged if everyone isn’t drinking. Just pretend to drink.” My eyes grew to the size of platters, “You’re a f**king genius!” I whispered. Why hadn’t I thought of it myself? I’m supposed to be the nerd-girl. I’m supposed to be the one with sense. Instead, I had to get instruction from the stoner skate-punk. That is my first memory of Calvin Hardcastle protecting me.
Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable. Sidney J. Harris
Over the next couple of days, I want to tell you more about Calvin. What a strange friend. I don’t have a picture of him, yet I can remember his appearance vividly. I have no recordings of his voice, yet I can hear him clearly, “I’d way rather get high than get drunk.” I never touched him, but I can almost feel that beer can in my hand. What a strange thing memory is