I don’t know if you realize when you are 12 that friendships end.
When I was a boy my best friend was Henry. In my mind, every summer we spent together over the years has melded into one long endless mythical season. Henry had neat black hair. My hair was blah-brown and poorly behaved. Henry was fit and trim. I . . . was not. Henry was at ease with other people, even girls. I was at ease with a very short list of people — namely, Henry. We shared an imagination and sense of adventure. I loved Henry. He was my brother. I would never have said this when I was 12.
I don’t know how, but Henry and I filled every second of long, hot southern California summers with never-ending childhood adventures that involved Marvel comics, Missile Command, the 7-11, Battlestar Galactica, Cherry Slurpees, swimming, make-your-own-rules baseball, Kool-Aid, bologna sandwiches, army men, Stratego, Oingo Boingo, recording ourselves on cassette tapes, vibrating electric football, Otter Pops, James Bond, fireworks, tree-climbing, MPC Star Wars model kits, KROQ, Starlog, and endless games of pretend in which we raced across the galaxy, or fought every WWII battle, or triumphed over KGB agents with clever gadgets disguised as ordinary pens or watches.
The nights were made for Odyssey2 marathons. There is no better feeling in the world than lying on your belly next to your shadow-twin, shoulders leaned together, elbows dug into the shag carpet, eyes dry and itching from staring at the TV screen all night, fingers cramped around the joystick of your favorite video game, and knowing — knowing — that the boy next you will be there forever and the games will never end.
I did the worse thing a boy can ever do to his friend.
I moved away.
Not my choice, of course. In the days before texting, twittering, facebooking, facetiming and skyping, it wasn’t easy to stay in touch. He came to visit my new house once. We tried to call each other. In a surprisingly short amount of time, we were no longer a part of each other’s lives.
It’s a long road to adulthood. Sometimes when you look back down the road, you no longer can see the place where you started.
And neither can you see the face of the friend you left behind.