Tell us the origin story of your best friend.
This is a sad story so it took me awhile to write it today.
I met John in the spring of 1985. His mother purchased the house next to my parents and I saw him in the driveway one day unloading his car – he was home from college for the weekend. I suspect he felt sorry for me at first and talked with me as would any 19-year-old boy to a 15-year-old girl – politely, but nothing more. So I was surprised one day when he asked me if I wanted a job – he was the supervisor of the maintenance crew in the local mall’s food court (hence, coming home every weekend) so he was always looking for reliable workers. I jumped at the chance because it was better money than my job at the local grocery store.
He often drove me home at night and we chatted. I liked how he was really nice to me and when I learned that he was gay, I liked that I didn’t have to be concerned about “being around a boy” as I often was. His mom invited me over to the house to chat and play with the dogs and things that neighbors do. Often on weekends after work, we would watch movies together.
He was lonely, I knew. But I was lonely, too, so I was grateful that he wanted to spend time with me. And our friendship grew. He literally saw everything that was happening in my home so I didn’t have to explain or hide or rationalize.
He was my prom date and we had a terrific time.
We remained close when I left for college – he came to visit me a few times and when I moved around for several years. I called him all of the time. And each time I visited Pittsburgh, we would go to a movie or Denny’s. After I turned 21, he sometimes took me with him to Pegasus or to The Eagle (local gay clubs.) And when I moved back home, he was living in his grandparent’s house around the corner. We spent a lot of time together – he was a newly established vet and I was in grad school. I had no other friends, really. I went to school, worked and hung out with him – we often had Chinese food on Friday nights and watched videos. Or went to the dollar theater. Sometimes in the middle of the week, we’d have lunch at Denny’s and catch a matinée. It was very routine and very comforting. I could tell him anything. We went to each other’s family events and celebrated holidays together and more.
Of course, he is the first person I came out to, of course. He wasn’t the least bit surprised. He introduced me to his lesbian friends. When my cat died, he came to my house and found me curled up under my desk. He helped me move. He met Ledcat.
And he grew more ill with a mysterious disorder that mimicked fibromyalgia. Eventually, he had to stop working and he pulled away. And then he died. At the age of 41. He was just gone.
<insert regrets, self-recrimination, sadness>
When someone dies at the age of 41 and you turn around at age 43 (7 years later) to think about what they taught you, it is a very mixed up feeling. John was a great friend to me. I loved him and I’ll never forget him. I’ll never have another best friend. What more can I say?
One of our annual traditions was a trip to Dairy Queen to have a Pumpkin Pie Blizzard. So every year, that’s one way I pay tribute to John. Laura comes with me. I usually cry. And I go back to trying to be the person he believed I could was. I am fortunate to be FB friends with his sister and nieces so I get to see his two great-nephews and his great-niece in photos – I can see the resemblance. I’m sad they won’t know him because he was an awesome brother and uncle. He was one of the greatest people I ever knew.