Deeper Than Fantasy Football: A Man And His Friends
Two nights ago, I had a dream. Actually, it was a nightmare, and not one of those where when you wake up you’re relieved it’s over and you just fall back asleep because all is well or at least normal. This nightmare had me up for a good couple of hours after it was over, and remains swirling in my head days later to the point where I’m writing about it now.
In the nightmare, I lose one of my best friends. I don’t lose him to a tragic accident, no one dies. We are both very much alive but our friendship is frayed and I ask him if there’s a problem. He says he can’t be my friend anymore. I ask him why and he says not to worry about it, then he walks away. I go looking for him, we’re in the city, in some random neighborhood with a strip of bars, and I’m going from place to place trying to find him to talk everything out. In the middle of my search a woman, whose face I still remember but doesn’t belong to anyone I know in real life, stops me and says, “Are you looking for your friend?”
“Yes,” I say.
“He’s gone, don’t look for him anymore.”
At this point I get really mad with this woman I don’t know. “Why,” I ask.
“Because I told him you don’t want to be friends with him anymore,” she says.
From the top of my lungs I start yelling at this woman, going into a tirade asking her why she would say such a thing.
Then I woke up.
Anyone who knows me knows my friends mean everything to me and I know this is something everyone says, but the men I’m talking about have been my friends anywhere between 10-20 years. To imagine a life without them is to see a nightmare come true, something I know a little bit about since my group of friends lost one of our own in a car accident.
There were many moments we cried the weekend of his funeral (of which I documented on this blog if you search in the archives), and I remember the moment I cried the hardest was at the funeral. I also remember the exact reason why the tears were coming down uncontrollably. Certainly it was the loss of our friend but what came over me was also the overwhelming fear that I would have to go through this again.
There was a time in my life where I thought my friends and I were untouchable. We were going to live forever and forever live as friends. Cocky, I know, but who was going to stop us? Only the work of God alone could do such a thing. But as I get older, I am beginning to see how life takes its hold on all of us and what was a no brainer can sometimes be a challenge.
People change, certainly my friends and I have, but through it all we’ve rolled with each others punches. Along the way, we’ve even exchanged some (punches that is), only to laugh about it later. For years I believed guys will be guys and my guys are no different. We’re going to piss each other off, we’re going to get upset with each other, but never will we let it get the best of our friendship.
But what I’m realizing is male friendships may be strong but they’re not perfect by any means, and I’m beginning to see that not only with my friends but within myself. I have an unconditional love for my friends, but I can’t say I’ve always done the right thing and I can’t say they’ve always done the right thing to me or to one another. One of the greatest misconceptions about men is that we are somehow above doing each other wrong, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact is we’re just as capable of not doing the right thing to one another as we are to say, a woman. So the question is, when that happens, what do you do? If you can answer this question easily, you’re a smarter man than I.
A lot of men don’t want to argue with their friends about something other than shotgun rules, fantasy football, and what is Jay-Z’s best album. Outside of those subjects, we don’t say much. We don’t want to talk about money, get all up in our chest about women, or anything else we consider to be deeply personal. It’s an unspoken agreement between men to keep conversations drama free, so when drama does come up, we do our best to avoid it in hopes time will blow it all over.
But I’m beginning to think differently about that approach. There was an incident recently between my friends and I where I owed them some money they spotted me. Times were hard for me, they knew this, but they still politely asked when they could expect the money and I avoided the question. It was uncomfortable for me to tell them it wasn’t going to be anytime soon, and when I did answer them, I over-promised in hopes of buying more time.
Eventually, both of them confronted me on it separately, and in separate conversations I explained to them and shared with them more than I cared to about my situation. They weren’t forcing me to pay them back and they made that clear. But they both said they were pressing because I wasn’t responding to them at all like they were a bill collector. As they reminded me, they were my boys, and there wasn’t going to be repercussions if I didn’t have the money, but just be honest. All minds clear.
Still, I was embarrassed now for a different reason. Now it wasn’t about the money. My shame came from shying away from the guys I trusted most when I should have known better.
I kind of knew how they felt. When one of my close friends back home had a baby, I didn’t find out until the baby was born. I waited a good year before I said anything, but eventually I did have to ask my boy why he never told me and how that made me feel as a friend who is so close he was telling his daughter to call me Uncle Jozen. He told me his reasons. All minds clear.
Not so long ago one of my boys and I were trying to have a difficult conversation over the phone, I told him casually to “Shut up” as I often do when I’m tired of hearing someone. This friend knew I had a tendency to do that, but this time, telling him to shut up was the last thing I should have said. He went off to the point where I’m pretty sure we would have fought had the conversation occurred in person. I haven’t said those words to him since, not to avoid a fight, because that might not be avoided for other reasons we can’t call right now, but because I saw (or heard) exactly how much that upset him every other time I said it to him, and out of respect I won’t say it again. All minds clear.
There was another time with another one of my boys where I received some unsettling news about out friend. To say I was upset wouldn’t be accurate. My feelings were hurt, full stop, and I told him this. He apologized, we cleared things up, but it still shook me largely because it made me realize that if you’re friends with a person long enough you have to realize your friends aren’t perfect.
When these moments occur, do we do what we’ve always done and let them go because as men we don’t want the drama? Or do we do whatever it takes to clear our minds — end the imaginary arguments we’re having in our head and say exactly how we feel even if it’s considered out of character for us to do so as men or the consequences of it are a good ol’ fashion fisticuffs.
I really don’t know the answer. What I do know now more than ever is as I get older, relationships with women aren’t the only thing I have to work at, it’s also the relationship I have with my boys. It’s not always going to be easy — being friends with my closest friends — but I just had a nightmare where the option chosen was to not be friends at all, and it upset me so much, that I’m always going to choose to work it out, no matter how difficult it is.