We used to have a code: I’d ask him “Hey Tom, you want to vandalize the graveyard tonight?”, this obscure line from an episode of Married…with Children.
If he responded with, “No, Jeff, that would be wrong” (the next line from the episode), that meant he’d agree to throw rocks into a little stream under an overpass during our grade 7 lunch break. When we were finished eating in the cafeteria, we’d walk to the stream with the remains of the hour, dressed in burgundy tie and pine blazer, heaving any appropriately sized rocks into the water. It was our goal to block the flow of the stream one day.
It was a fruitless goal, of course, so much like everything we did back then, when nothing we did ever seemed to matter. A goal we’d never hope to accomplish.
A way of saying, “I hope these days never end. I hope I never grow up, and I’m never too old to throw rocks with a good friend.”
Sometimes we’d throw what was left of our lunches into the stream, and be rewarded with the glimpse of a solitary fish breaking the surface of the water and snatching a morsel.
By the time we returned to class, the sheen on my brogues would be replaced by a fine layer of dust from walking around in the gravel. I’d wear that dust proudly, because no one ever knew how it got there, a secret code between him and me.
Sometimes I check up on Tommy. Not that he knows. I wonder if we could be friends again. We lead two different lives, but that’s never stopped me from being friends with someone. Part of me is scared that he’s never changed, never grown out from the elementary school Tom I used to know — something all too common in my experience — and I’d just rather not know. It’s enough for me not to contact him.
But I still root for him, not because we used to be such good friends, but because I know that if he can make it, so can I.