GCSPrank Is Here

For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Thoughtless Act

He walked into my room and made fun of my surname, targeting my dad’s Air Force name tag. For some reason, I knew he was being friendly, not obnoxious. Though sometimes, with Bill you could barely tell the difference.

It’s not that he was mean. It’s just that between brain and broadcasting, Bill would simply bypass anything remotely resembling a filter and simply say what popped into mind. Forever after, the word “cringe” became a visceral part of my vocabulary.

Bill would show up in a restaurant at one minute to closing time and expect service, for, after all, it really wasn’t closing time yet, right? He’d mention someone’s distinctive-yet-best-ignored feature as if it were the weather, like the time he asked a woman with very long toenails if they were thorns or a woman with small breasts if she liked being flat-chested. He belonged to both the Black Student Union and some other group opposed to such unions, enjoying the contrast both cards created in his wallet and on people’s faces. And he’d press a question if, once asked, it had been politely ignored until it was rudely ignored and then he’d ask it again.

But Bill had another side. As a friend, he’d be there, come Hell or high water. He could be obtuse about some things (so could I), but if he knew you needed help, he was an unconditional ally. And his word was pure gold: if he agreed to it, he was committed.

For three years we spent at least a day or two a week hanging out. During the summers, we’d spend entire days just skimming from one activity to another, from dawn to dawn, take a nap, then get up to keep going. I must have hit 500,000 tennis balls and 200,000 racquetballs at him. We probably competed for weeks—weeks I tell you—at video games. We ate about 450 pizzas together, traveled twice across the desolate length of the State of Mississippi and added maybe 5,000 miles more in our trips together.

Hell, he even stored stuff I forgot when I left. He still has it, 22 years later. For you see, when I left Oxford on that gray January morning, the trunk of my car and back seat packed with the memories I’d lose later that year, I didn’t say goodbye to Bill. I got in my car, turned the key and drove away. Not once did I look back.

Last year Bill and I shook hands again and eventually he brought up that distant day. Of course he would. I sidestepped it quickly as the pain gripped my heart in a way I’d hoped would never return.

Bill didn’t deserve that from me. It was a thoughtless act and I’m sorry. And for last year, when your generosity was not answered with my usual equality, I apologize, too. I should have told you my marriage was dying. It is moribund now. I hope our friendship isn’t.


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