Down beneath the majestic view of the trailer park was a more acceptable subdivision. At the top of that subdivision, which was a short walk down the hill from my trailer was an old house. In that old house was a boy my age. His name was Aaron, or Andrew, or Paul or Shane. Either way, he was my best friend. Shortly after arriving in this newest place called home I met Jack, or Matthew or whatever his name is and we hit it off. Well, perhaps it was a convenience thing really since he was using the same shortcut I used to get to school. Walking together to and from school each day and eventually you end up talking to each other and becoming best friends. Isn’t that what happens every day on public transit?
We would talk and share things about our day with each other, but mostly it was the rhythm of life that made this relationship work. The daily routine, the common path followed – the same old thing, which brought us together. He would walk up from his house. I would wait patiently at our dining room table, looking out of the window until I could see the top of his head crest the hill and then I would put on my jacket and boots and prepare myself for his knock at the door. Saying goodbye to my mom for the day we would then turn our attention to climbing the gravel hill behind my trailer and eventually making our way to school. It was a great friendship. We had each other’s backs. We were there for each other. Mutual, loyal support on that daily grind. That daily commute, which took us to places perhaps we did not want to go but at least we had each other. Best friends. It is because of this that what happened next was so very painful.
Winter had come in all of its ugliness. Being in the northern part of this coastal province winter always came in all of its ugliness. First there was 27 feet of snow to contend with. This was followed by -40 degree Celsius weather for what seemed an eternity. Then like a badly choreographed tag-team wrestling event snow and cold would beat the crap out of you for several months before relenting and succumbing to mud and the emergence of bugs, letting you know that spring had arrived.
On a particularly nasty day at the beginning of this winter season a significant amount of snow had already fallen but the wind now had started up and it was pushing the -40 mark. I got up, new to this whole ‘cold’ thing and was getting ready. My mom, who was also fairly new to this cold thing – at least from the perspective of caring for a child in the midst of it, was examining the weather. Back then that meant looking out the window and reading the thermometer, or for a more accurate reading, actually opening up the door and taking a step outside. The verdict was in. It was simply too cold for me to walk to school and my dad had already left for work. I would be staying home today. In that moment I was ecstatic but trying to remain cool and calm with a hint of regret for my mom’s sake. “Oh, that’s too bad”, I said, “Mrs. Johnson was going to be teaching us calligraphy today.”
I sat back down at the dining room table and slowed the pace at which I was eating my cereal. After all, I had a whole morning to waste. While I was lifting a spoon full of goodness to my mouth I noticed out my dining room window a head crest the hill. “Crap”, I thought to myself. It is Allen, or Doug or whatever. It was my best friend, faithfully trudging up the hill toward my trailer. “How could that be?” I thought to myself. “Didn’t his mom love him the same? What on earth could he have done that was so bad that he was still sent to school on a day like this?” I observed him walking closer and closer to the trailer and a frantic look appeared on my face. My mom picked up the cue and headed toward the door. My best friend knocked on the door and my mom answered. I hid behind her in the background but our eyes locked. My mom told him that I would be staying home today because it was too cold. He stared at me with a look of betrayal and deep emotional sadness. I broke my best friend.
It was never quite the same after that fateful day. We grew apart. I suspected that he found a different transit path to take, hooking up with a new best friend along the way. I had lost my best friend. I did not know how to recover from that relationship boo-boo. Fortunately it was only a matter of months before we packed up and left once again down that career road so I could wipe the slate clean and update my observations on what not to do in relationships. But, somehow I don’t think I have ever learned that lesson. The lesson on how to care for your best friend. I have littered best friends in each place I have lived and to this day I find myself best friendless. Apart from my spouse of course but no external friend. It makes me wonder if my path would have been different if I would have put on my winter jacket and stepped out into the cold wintery morning and joined Steve, or Phillip or whatever his name was on our morning commute. What new worlds would I have discovered and what new skills would I have acquired? Perhaps, at the very least, I would have remembered his name.