Friday, February 17, 2006

Look Here, Princess 

2000 was a great year for me. I started writing a book. I started doing some things I shouldn't have. I got a job. I graduated. I moved into a place. I had lasik surgery. I got a car. I got a dog. I got a girlfriend. We had a lot of fun. Everything began.

If I could take one thing back, it would be that I stood up as best man in a wedding for a guy I was very good friends with as kids. It's easy for me to look back on this now with regret, but there was plenty of reason for me to stand up then. We were good friends for many years. We thought we'd be seeing a lot of each other since I had moved back into the area. It made sense.

That is, it made sense until one night over a beer, he told me how he got a blow job from some random chick a few weeks prior. I knew he and his then-fiance had been fighting a lot. The fighting was quite annoying and revealing. She seemed overly controlling and whiny. His responses always seemed too angry for the context. But there's a difference between fighting and letting some other girl go down on you. That's hard to be an accident.

And if it -- by wild chance -- was an accident, I know it was no accident, weeks later, at his bachelor party, when he tried as hard as he could, even as drunk as he was, to get in bed with some complete random girls in the campsite next to us.

I'm not much one to rail about a drug habit. I don't care to comment much on one's religion or politics, occupational choices, lifelong pursuits or private practices. But something about infidelity rubs me the wrong way. It's my glaring red blotch of paint on the canvas, I guess. The film cliche is "It just happened." But that's just crap. Decisions are made. Thought is involved.

I remember trying to subtlely make this point to this guy -- I know he's never going to come here, which is why I'm writing it, but let's call him Rick, anyway. I tried to tell Rick that maybe he wasn't ready for marriage yet. He didn't really take to this idea, which was fascinating and horrifying at the same time. He didn't date much until mid-high school, but once he started, he couldn't stop. He was a chronic relationship guy. HAD to be attached. Couldn't handle single life. The consequence to that was he never had a day of adult freedom or fun. So with marriage staring him down, he quaked. But the killer for me -- the thing that just haunts me -- is the threat of the unknown, the idea of him being on his own, freaked him out so much that he stuck with this fiance he hated.

Looking back on it, I know I wouldn't stand up for him if I had to make the same decision. Sure, the friendship would be lost -- but it's lost now. Rick's wife didn't like me or my then-girlfriend, and he told me once -- as if in passing (we were on our way to a baseball game) -- that, "I've tried to talk to her, but she feels like she's tried enough and that she's through trying with you guys. But I did marry her, so I have to respect that." I don't think he realized he was shutting the door at that point, but that was the last time I saw him. Later that night he made some comments, like always, about how we should get together, blah, blah, blah. But what would be the point? He never called, and when we moved, I threw out his number.

So in retrospect there was nothing to lose by stepping out of the best man role. But for all I had going on that year, I also had this loss of confidence, this idea that it would just be the right thing to go along with everything and be a good friend. He, in fact, had recently helped me out of my own jam, and I didn't want to be the guy to make the hard decisions. But sometimes somebody has to be the dick. After a while of prodding him about the blowjob from the random girl, he said to me -- in pretty harsh tone -- that, "It didn't happen. That didn't happen. Just forget it." Does a castle come with that make-believe world, I wondered.

So I gave this speech that didn't mention his wife, and everybody thought it was weird, except for me. Now he lives one county west of me, and I sometimes wonder what he does over there. He doesn't seem to belong in Waukesha, with all its upper crust and new development. But I guess maybe he's settled in, like I have. Our choices are made, and the only one I could take back is now almost six years old. It might as well be a country away.

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