I pulled open the garage door on my storage unit in east Denver, smelling the dust that had accumulated during the two months since I’d last been inside. Jayson had moved out of a 350-square-foot apartment in Capitol Hill and moved all his stuff into my then-half-empty storage unit, filling in the space around my old Subaru wagon.
On the back window of the Subaru, he’d scrawled a note in dust a couple days before he’d left for a six-month stint teaching Bikram yoga in Jakarta:
HOPE YOU’RE PACKING 4 INDONESIA
Plus he’d placed a piece of paper under the rear windshield wiper—the paper was 12 years old, pulled out of a printer at an Applebee’s restaurant where we worked in college. It had my phone number on it so he could call me and we could go drink beers together and get in trouble, which we did. We both grew up at our own pace, and we don’t drink beer together anymore or get in much trouble. We’re both address-less, sharing a storage unit, and Jayson’s taught yoga on five continents in the past year. The two of us pop in and out of Denver sporadically, the center of our weary universe the guest bedroom at our friend Nick’s house near City Park—out of three guys who have been friends since 2000, one of us is thankfully somewhat stable and happy to put up with his two old pals still out wandering around in their 30s.
Sometimes I think I’m lucky to have friends like Nick and Jayson, but I think lucky is the wrong way to say it. I think maybe we just know how to take care of each other. In our triangular friendship, I remember lots of cups of coffee, bowls of pho, checks picked up, car-seat conversations, mountaintops, trail runs, bike rides, and at least two moves of couches up stairwells that would have likely ended less rock-solid relationships. I think Nick doesn’t take enough vacations, he probably thinks I’m horribly irresponsible with money, Jayson is appalled at what Nick and I eat, and Nick and I laugh together in wonder at Jayson’s next move around the world, wondering if he’ll figure it out this year, but not caring if he does.
I e-mail Jayson photos of his mail that comes to my mailbox, Nick only half-jokingly calls the guest bedroom in his house as “Jayson’s room,” and Jayson and I can’t wait until Nick finally gets married so we can co-deliver The Wedding Toast of the Century, which will probably end in a headlock in front of everyone. I’ll drop everything to get a cup of coffee with most of my friends, but Nick and Jayson have dibs on one of my kidneys if the need arises. Or my mountain bike.
A couple weeks ago, I saw a headline on the cover of a magazine that read “How To Friend Someone In Real Life.” I thought what you probably would think: Wow. Really?
We can blame it on Facebook, or blame it on being too busy, but it’s mostly because we’re starting to suck at making or being friends anymore, in any real sense. In a generation, we went from little people who made friends based on simple things like riding bikes and baseball cards to big people who are too “busy” to meet someone for lunch if it’s not planned out a month in advance, or too shy or lazy to actually ask someone to pick a time and place to hang out.
An old friend told me that in the last years before he quit drinking, he used to see this one guy at the same bar all the time. Every time they talked, the guy would say, “Trevor, you and me, we gotta go fishing sometime.” Trevor would say, Yeah, we should go fishing. The next time they saw each other, he would say the same thing: we really gotta go fishing sometime.
But they never went. Trevor told me, “I always wanted to say, ‘How about I meet you here again tomorrow night and we’ll talk about it again? Because it’s never going to happen.’” Neither one of them would commit to getting together outside the bar.
Do we really want to go fishing with each other, or do we just think it would hypothetically be fun if we could ever manage to get around to making plans? Because it’s pretty easy. Here’s the two-step process:
- Hey Bob, do you like drinking coffee/eating restaurant food/rock climbing/mountain biking/something else I like? If yes, then
- What are you doing Tuesday after work? Let’s go Tuesday.
In a scene in Good Will Hunting, Skyler gives Will her phone number and suggests that they could get together sometime for coffee. Will says, Yeah, or we could get together and eat a bunch of caramels, because when you think about it, it’s as arbitrary as drinking coffee.
Which it is. Almost every friend activity is. Drinking beers together, trail running, riding bikes, eating tacos—it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re just changing the backdrop of a conversation, which is the building block of a friendship. Enough of those, and then you can move on to borrowing money and asking people to help you haul a couch up six flights of stairs.