His name was Zack.
We were really good friends when I was probably 6 and lived in Germany. Gosh, Zack and I were really good friends. We would hang out in school, which used to be a Nazi hospital but they changed it to a school, and then we would also hang out a lot after school. We would go to the “poop platz”, this area everyone would take their dogs to poop, as opposed to letting the dogs just poop all over the place, and we would hang out there and break bottles and things.
We were really good friends.
Then, one day, Zack and I got into an argument about a game of dodge ball. One thing led to another and he punched me in the head. So I, of course, punched him in his dick, then his head, and then he kicked me in the stomach and face, a lot. He was a year older than me and we were not friends after that for a while; like perhaps a whole month.
Roger was another friend of mine in Germany. We were friends when I was seven or eight I think. Roger was not standard issue and he used to steal electronics from people and take them apart in his room. He did this often and some people thought he had issues. Well, he and I were pretty good friends, despite our collective pathological problems, until this one time he decided to elbow me in my gut, really hard, during a game at school. It totally knocked the wind out of me and I collapsed. He thought that was funny. I spent all afternoon thinking about punching him in his teeth. So, after school I followed him while he was walking home.
“Hey, Roger.” When he turned around I had put about five feet of quality runway between he and I and managed to get a very decent crow-hop in. My golden hay-maker whipped around but good and I nailed him right in his braces. Holy shit, to this day I clearly remember how incredible that felt. I clocked him as hard as I could then I did an immediate about face and walked off.
I was really on cloud nine at that time. But later Roger brought his Mom over to my house and they complained to my mother.
I lost my buzz. I also was no longer friends with Roger.
Later on, in North Carolina, my best-friend’s name was John. Geez, he and I were good friends. We did everything, everything that mattered anyway, together. One time we bought a ton of cheap fireworks from this toothless hobo driving an old pick up truck, which smelled like piss, selling watermelons and fireworks out of the back. Well, we bought a bunch of them and lashed them all together, put them in a paper bag, lit it on fire and threw it into a 7/11.
We had all kinds of fun together like that. It seemed it would never end.
The end came when one afternoon John got angry with my little brother and shoved him into a wall in John’s garage. Even though I helped him get ice on his face afterward, after I belted him in the nose, when I would call his house his Mom told me “Well, he is still kinda sore about the whole thing.”
You can tell I learned a lot real early about how quickly friends can just not be friends anymore.
As I got older, although there was less and less of the vanishing of friends due to violence, the vanishing continued none the less.
As we all got older friendships seemed even more important but became even less stable. Any imaginary slight could totally destroy what you thought was a sure thing.
“Did you get your hair cut?”
“I mean did you get it cut like that on purpose or did they fuck it up?”
I really was asking; I couldn’t tell.
And just like that we aren’t talking anymore.
“Hey bro, how long has your Mom been pregnant?”
“Dude, my Mom’s not pregnant.”
“Oh shit, really? I just meant she looks like it.”
I actually thought she was pregnant.
Another one bites the dust.
Things just got worse once girls got involved. I suppose they got worse because everyone loves girls so much. Well, except for the guys who love other guys, they don’t love girls but then again it seemed like even those guys were really into the girls there for a while. The point is that girls made everyone far more sensitive and they themselves, the girls I mean and I was surprised too, actually had feelings and got sensitive about things too. It’s an enigma inside a quagmire wrapped in a hyper-color t-shirt; you don’t get it and neither do I. That understanding of a lack of understanding didn’t stop people from letting friendships go to the dogs based on really small stuff.
So I figured out that people come and go. I figured that out early. It doesn’t really help though, this knowledge, as seasons pass and years roll by.
The Military seemed different somehow, and perhaps it was.
There is no place with a more densely packed collection of lunatics and maniacs than the Marine Corps Infantry. There’s a great line in Ocean’s 11 where Danny’s ex-wife played by Julia Roberts says “You know what your problem is? You’ve met too many people like you.”
That was the Marine’s for me. Violence and random wanton destruction no longer derailed friendships; these cemented them. And where else and under what circumstances could you one day be running through the dessert putting rounds down range while things exploded next to you, and the next day be laying in your rack, literally all day, drinking gin and juice listening to RadioHead and Social Distortion albums?
I left the military pretty ingloriously but for years I stayed in touch with many of these people. Since then, some of them have died, some just disappeared but others are still basically around. But something isn’t the same.
In the end it hasn’t seemed too different than everything else and here I come to the point.
As I get older it seems harder and harder not only to make new friends but to keep the ones I already have.
Articles are written about this. Apparently millions of seemingly well off, well to do men in their 30’s and 40’s simply have no friends.
Not only is it difficult but awkward. As mentioned in the NY Times article, meeting or even maintaining friendships in my late 30’s is less about “Hey, you look dumb, lets wrestle,” and much more about “I understand you’re sensitive about the following long list of topics so I will completely avoid them and only discuss the meaningless nonsense, a list of perhaps 3 things, which offends absolutely nobody, nor challenges any idea or concept held by you, or anyone, regardless of how idiotic it is. Can we set a play date now?” Several years ago I didn’t give a shit about meeting new people, I mean men, because it was not an issue. I met guys all the time; some I clicked with and others I did not. Some face punched me and we had bro-mance, others liked the same dirty jokes and were cool visiting me in jail. It was easy come easy go. Now, I feel myself getting nervous when I meet a guy who is not a complete fuckwit. Yes, I actually get nervous. Why? Because meeting a new man who I think I might get along with and have something in common with is such an incredible rarity.
I know at this point in my life that doing things out doors or in a dojo/gym with other men; physical, challenging and sometimes dangerous things, has been a cornerstone of all but 3 of my male-male friendships in the last twenty years. So, why can’t I just whip up some new buddies who are still interested in the things I am? And where have the people gone who used to be interested in them?
A long time friend, a female, recently messaged me the following:
I also started trying to date again…. that is a completely other drama… but let me tell you… there are some seriously FUCKED up gaijin men over the age of 40 here. O.M.G.
Yeah, I completely get it and understand. What’s more, I actually empathize with you on what I thought would have been a purely female (homo) issue a few years ago.
As my Facebook friends list grows and grows the list of people I actually feel excited to see gets shorter and shorter. I don’t like this.
Perhaps it’s all me.
After all, my early models for the construction and maintenance of friendships was clearly not based on sharing and gold medals for everyone. But presumably, guys around my age, neither were theirs. So, fucking what gives?
Why is it so damn hard to meet a decent man in this city?
Proceed with Grindr jokes in the Comments.