In response to The New York Times article “650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.”
461. “Do You Have a Best Friend?”
If I could, I would make an edifice to friendship: a big round stone carved like an emoji, with a hundred different faces, each of the men and women who have changed my life, each with a silly or stern face depending on their personality. Some would be made out of gems, others bottle caps, and still others out of moss.
The best friend question is awkward for me, which is why I picked it. I remember once my computer teacher in middle school assigning us a power point project about “your life,” of course, to be presented in class. The ones who went first set the tone for the rest of us — they had included a slide titled “my friends” and everyone played copy cat. The presenters gleamed to list their friends, most of whom were in that class, one by one. I felt tense as hell, knowing I couldn’t bring myself to do the same, knowing I hadn’t been called anyone’s friend yet. Then Josh went up, and from his friends list read my name. I’ll never forget. It is good to be recognized. So, yeah, that’s what this whole essay is about. Not a giant stone edifice, but a blip in cyberspace, spiraling inward, about a best friend I have.
Friedrich Matthew Gartner, you. The best friend. Our last trip together trudged along drunk waters and landed on the sober realization that life must surprise us, but before that, perhaps only darkness. But today, you feel woke to me, even after all of that. Have you found yourself yet where fate has cast you? Never mind. Did you know that you are chasing your dream as I write this? (So am I; it’s the same dream.) I want to remind you of so many things, of all the same things you remind me of. You are my link to my childhood. You are my life advice hotline. You told me once over the phone, “When I think of Ivan I think of you taking a right turn where everyone goes left; I think of you sitting in a cafe and writing the first ten things that come to your mind.” With you I would, Fritz. With you I would. Your humor and word play are unstoppable. Pampas Fritas? Rainbow Yoshi? [Insert obscene word] Juice? Jesus. Your advice always leads. “Call her over.” “Send her a question mark.” “Don’t.” Works every time. Right now my phone has a message or two from you, and I can’t wait to get this silly ass essay out of the way so I can respond to you. Why didn’t we ever go on that trip together, through the US? We found separate roads to travel, I suppose. Well, and I guess they will take us back to one another soon. Because all roads lead to Rome, and our Rome is home.
When I think of Fritz I think of you sitting down to watch Animal Planet with a gin and tonic; I think of you walking a dog, Elephunk in your ears, turning right at the end of the street and seeing something worth taking a photo of. And then you do. You do.