We’ve been friends since I was seven years old.
Friends. Never more. Never less.
Growing up we’d sit on our neighbor’s fence, halfway between our two homes, laughing as we hit each other with put downs and comebacks and wiseass comments.
Laughing until my mother shouted from the front door, “Maureen, get yourself off that fence and into this house. I can hear you all the way in the kitchen, acting the ejit.”
He’s known me through braces and beach houses, and I’ve known him through too many of the wrong women. Unlike my female friends, we don’t send cute cards or say sweet things; we punch each other in the arm, shake our heads, and say what’s wrong with you!?
When his marriage broke up and he lost his home, he bought a small fixer-upper with a big yard in another state. He left his corporate job and started his own landscaping business, a one-man operation, so that he could be home with his young daughter.
When the recession hit and green grass wasn’t at the top of his clients’ to-do list, he took a job in the fish department at Shop Rite so he would have health insurance for himself and his daughter. He sold his Honda to pay back the money he borrowed to start his business. He drives around in his landscaping truck; it’s the truck we used to go kayaking and hiking on the Delaware.
Friday night he was behind the fish counter when he looked up and saw a colleague from his corporate days dressed in a suit with his dolled-up wife next to him, coming or going to or from some swanky event. He took his paper deli hat and tilted it down over his face so they wouldn’t recognize him.
I wanted to punch him in the arm and say what’s wrong with you!?
But instead I said “Don’t you ever hide your face.
You’re one of the finest human beings I know.
If you don’t believe me, just ask your daughter.”