You Damn, Dirty Apes

The very first weekend I moved to Minneapolis, I met my friend Brian.

We met on a hot June Saturday at the Gay Pride Festival. Brian was surrounded by a half-dozen admirers – a fan club, really – and I thought, “Wow, I wonder how long you’d have to live here to have that many suitors?” Turns out he moved to Minneapolis the exact same day I had:   Friday. Ever since I have known him, people want to be around him to bask.

We became best friends.

The only thing that made this friendship sweeter was the inclusion of Chris, a friend of Brian’s who became a friend of mine. Chris writes thank you notes after everything. From him I learned I could stand to be kinder to others, because Chris was always kinder. For several years the three of us were inseparable. If only one of us went out to a bar, acquaintances would invariably ask, “Where are the other two?”

We created a world of inside jokes, shortcut conversations, and I thought nothing of seeing these men five times a week. We shared the dirt, the hurt, the mundane details about trips to the post office and stray observations which occur sitting at street lights. Brian and I developed a system for getting out of awkward bar conversations: when backed into a corner, we reasoned, just tilt your head upwards and scream, “CAW! CAW!” It was our bat signal. The first time he actually did it, I was a little surprised.

In 2001 after a big fight outside a movie theater, I stormed away from them, outraged over some unforgivable slight (which I can no longer quite remember) because I shouldn’t have to take crap from people who are my family. I vaguely remember that my interpretation of the movie differed from theirs and I did not feel respected. Given that the movie was the Planet of The Apes remake, my reaction seemed extreme even to me.

It took me hours to understand why I was furious.

Chris and Brian were my Minnesota family.

I had heard the words “family of choice” and understood it well enough, I guess. But after our big Planet of The Apes Fight, I finally got what those words represented. Unfortunately, I never have life realizations while I am sipping ice tea or strumming my guitar. Maybe because the guitar has sat in the same spot for seven years, unplayed. No, my life realizations come right in the middle of my being an asshole or lying on the living room floor surrounded by three dozen Oreo cookies with the centers scraped off.

I have a younger brother and nobody compares to him. I have awesome parents and sisters I love, so I wasn’t really shopping for a Minnesota family. But it was too late by that point: Chris and Brian were in my heart in this permanent kind of way. My brothers. I did not understand this until that ridiculous fight.

Last night, the three of us dined together to celebrate Brian’s next grand adventure:   he’s moving to San Francisco.

Dinner was delightful yet twinged with a little sadness, not only because Brian is moving. We three have drifted apart over the intervening years. We don’t call each other first to say, “You’re not going to believe this…”

I have spent a lot of time pondering how we slipped. I have sought the advice of friends, warrior brothers, and talked to a therapist about it once. I can point to a number of critical moments, missed opportunities to fix something, address the distance. I wasn’t always the friend I should have been.
Insert platitudes: people grow apart. Take different life paths. I’m not the same person I was when we met and neither are they. It’s unrealistic to think we’d hang out five days a week with lawns to mow and lovers, nurturing careers and answering emails.

One more platitude: it hurts.

I understand why Charlton Heston broke down at the end of the original movie. Sure he was pissed that he didn’t make it back in time to experience the 1970s. But eventually, I think he’d get used to the banana cream pies, banana steak dinners, banana-flavored dental floss, and banana sushi. He’d eventually settle down with a primate of his own. Maybe Dr. Zaius had a daughter?

But it hurts when the world changes on you and something beautiful you counted on for strength is irrevocably gone.

Last night through dinner, we ate off each others’ plates, interrupted stories but always circled back to hear the rest later. We pointed out hotness in the wait staff and admonished each other to QUIT POINTING when one of us was being obvious. Our anecdotes for each other required more back story as catch up, and in some spots more glossing over, because it’s hard to tell everything. You really had to be there to get the full impact.

Nevertheless, these two have permanently earned the right to call me with their one phone call to say, “Bring bail money and do not ask questions.” For the rest of their lives I am their get-out-of-jail-free card. Perhaps they are the brothers I would call in similar circumstances. (I’m sure some friends have put aside a little bail money for my inevitable incarceration. Whatever the charges, I’m sure I will be completely innocent.)

Chris drove us to the restaurant and on the way home he and I had a sweet, sad conversation acknowledging that time in our lives when we were inseparable, and how that time is not now.

I came up the front steps last night feeling grief.

I did not feel boo-hoo crying sad; this felt like the grief of age.

For me, this grief seems to come through loving people who are not in my life every damn day. Maybe it’s nobody’s fault. Some days, I wish Mom would yell up the stairs, “Get crackin’ up there.” I’d even welcome my younger sister pounding on my bathroom door to remind me OTHER PEOPLE HAVE TO GET READY FOR SCHOOL, TOO. I miss a lot of people. Some days I celebrate how lucky I am to have friends who I love. Some days I grieve how people invariably move to new planets.

Some days the Statue of Liberty is full of sand.

Chris waited until I was inside the house before he flashed his headlights and drove away. He always waits to make sure you’re safely inside. That’s the kind of man he is.

3 Responses to “You Damn, Dirty Apes”

  1. Dave Richardson Says:

    Nostalgia is a double edge sword. I feel like I want things to be how they used to be, but know I have to move on and have great new memories to be nostalgic about.
    Losing friends is hard.
    Be glad that you can call them up still. You don’t need to see them every day of the week, but it’s nice to know that they are still available when you need them.

    …now where is my cake?

  2. David Bird Says:

    Beautiful post, Edmond, a delight to read, thank you.

  3. Edmond Manning » Blog Archive » Valentines Says:

    [...] But I get it: your heart gets broken in this world. I’ve been in love and it did not last. I’ve experienced friendships that end and it just fucking hurts. My childhood hero is in a hospital bed unable to turn over. Still, I’d rather bawl my eyes out than miss love’s vulnerable gift. So, I guess I’ll give Valentines Day another chance next year. [...]

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