No Happy Nonsense

Through the Line

January 6th, 2024 | Friendships

5.3 Minute Read

I was on my computer playing a video game. Some kind of MMO that either looked a lot like Lord of the Rings or I somehow had a screen overlay that was literally playing Lord of the Rings with like a 50% opacity over whatever game I was playing. There was something Ringsy about it, either way. I was sending messages to one of my best friends from high school. He wasn't playing the game, he was responding via text on his phone. I'm not sure of how this worked from a technological standpoint; me typing in game-chat and he receiving and then sending via SMS. But it happened, and we talked.

He brought up this park in the middle of the woods that neither of us had ever been to before. It had a lot of parts of other parks that I had been to, though. Wooden benches lined the front entrance, a small doorway in the center. Trees all around, big pines or firs or spruces, I'm not sure. I was never great at identifying evergreen trees, I just like how they all look. We had a real tall one at the home where I grew up. 50+ feet high, never swaying, never faltering. Big strong tree in the middle of our yard, raining down pine cones every year.

I went to the park that I've never been to, because I've been to the places that combine to make it whole. I chatted back with my friend, never leaving the comfort of my chair and computer screen. He said something about the game I was playing, as if he could see what was happening on my screen. I found this helpful instead of odd.

Another time, a different time, I was out running at my old elementary school. It has big fields around the building on the sides and in the back. I rounded a corner and got to a downslope and I saw that same friend of mine, running with a person I had never seen before. I called out, but neither of them heard me. I think the random guy heard me, but pretended not to. I sped up, chased them down. My old friend saw me and gave me a thumbs up. The other man evaporated into smoke. The two of us kept running, never breaking stride. We were now enrolled in some kind of adventure race where you have to find little flags in the woods or something, I'm not sure.

"Are the Nationals playing tonight?" we used to ask each other. It was code for "are we hanging out tonight?" without people we didn't want to hang out with realizing what we were talking about. Funny that, people used to hear you talk about hanging out with your friend and just be all like "oh you're hanging out tonight at Dave's house? Sweet, what time should I get there?" Weird how that could happen often enough that you'd speak in code to avoid it. I don't talk to any of those people involved any longer. Neither the friends who spoke in code nor the frenemies who tried to insert themselves into our lives.

Something on the game I was playing happened and I got a call from my friend about it. "Long time, dude," he said to me when I answered. I didn't have anything to say. He just told me he was doing alright and wanted to catch up, but that he couldn't and he knew I'd understand. I kept nodding my head in response even though he couldn't see it.

"It's okay, man" he kept saying. Over and over as I just sat there watching and/or playing Lord of the Rings. It was the same thing I said to him twenty years ago, dressed in dark suits. I hate wearing dark suits. I reckon everyone does.

I woke up and tried to thank him, tell him he was a good friend. But there was no way to magically talk to him from a game to a phone, and even if there was, the Nationals aren't playing tonight, and I don't think they ever will again.

Filed Under: Fiction


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