In a perfect world friendships would last forever. Those special bonds formed by time and circumstance would overcome all odds, allowing the moments that you spent together to remain as vital and important as they were on that first occasion you met. I’m not talking about the casual acquaintances you bump into every day, the kid who asks you a million questions and wants even more answers after a show or the girl who hung around for three weeks one summer before the wind of change sent you in opposite directions. No, I’m referring to the people you grew up with, spent your evenings talking about nothing in particular with and those who left their mark, burned into your soul for infinity. But it’s not perfect and I don’t that anything is. They bloom like a flower, displaying their radiance, then decay, drying in the warm air of a humid afternoon, before crumbling to dust and disappearing, vanishing to leave only stale memories.
When you’re young, you think those times are going to last an eternity, an endless season dragging out in front of you, and have no idea how precious a commodity your buddies really are. The trips to the zoo when you try to find an animal that’s even stranger than the one your friend has picked out, the days spent at the beach building forts from the assorted detritus lying on the shoreline or the times when you did nothing much, but had a blast anyway. Fate steps in and gives you a harsh prod in the ribs, illustrating a few of the ground rules. Better employment prospects and divorce cause families to move and all the well-meant promises of written communication are forgotten as soon as the cartoons come on. Education decrees that you should belong to a certain social group, impressing your new friends by bullying the old whilst strung out on a resounding guilt trip. Whatever the outcome, the final curtain is lowered and the most you can manage is a vague nod to the people whose names have already slipped away.
As with all things, your new friends open new doors for you to explore, infant memories become clouded over, the cobwebs gather and they are left to that part of your memory where everything festers, grows mould, remaining unused and neglected. Being cool is the new religion, anything that can harm it avoided, varying degrees of lethargy separating you from the person you used to be. I remember being told that my school years would be the best time of my life – the same thing was also said to me when I went to University, parental advice manual, page fifty seven. Guess what? It’s a lie, and every adult who tells a child this blatant untruth should have their mouth washed out with industrial cleaning fluid. Life is hard enough for a teenager, dealing with rampant hormones, awkward attempts at seducing the opposite sex ( or the same one, depending on the advancement of individual maturity), making sure you’re not seen with the “wrong crowd” and somehow trying to blend into the background and avoid becoming a victim, without having to wear a perpetual fucking smile. Grin and bear it?. Fuck no. What’s to come is even worse. Worse? How can anything be worse than the hell on earth that the developing years thrust upon you?. Somehow you manage to survive with a handful of friends, the pressing issues of partying, drinking and fucking destroying any ideas of independence that might have arisen. The local hangouts become the clubs, bars and pubs that you feel comfortable in, settling for inebriation and fantasy over drudgery. Friendship gives you a convenient hiding place, a respite from life. If you can’t exaggerate about your conquests and drinking ability with your mates, who can you feel good about yourself with? The only time you visit the school yard is when you need somewhere to crack open a six pack, a venue in which to talk about how great it was in the old days, an all knowing philosopher at age nineteen. These are the guys you swear allegiance to, there won’t be a single thing that will come between you. This is the way it’s always going to be and it doesn’t get much better than this does it?. Let the good times roll.
Of course, bullshit pacts between old friends never last. It’s beer talk, a time filler as dusk approaches heralding the witching hour. A way of holding on to something that’s already slipping away. It’s nobody’s fault, priorities change as the world turns, passing you by. The question of money and it’s privileges becomes one of paramount importance, selling out to gain the credibility and respect that accompany a wallet filled with portraits of dead people and a new sports car. Pucker up and get ready to kiss whatever ass you need to, get ahead, climb to the top and crack the whip whenever the urge dictates. No time for the trivial issues, hanging out and enjoying yourself with the potential competition. Wave them farewell until there’s only a couple of you left, toasting the glory of the old days at age twenty two. Relationships raise their ugly heads and suddenly you’d rather spend your time with your girl, man, whatever, than drinking with your buddies. They’re your friends, but which one of them is going to fulfil your carnal desires? Rationalisation, the first step of impending adulthood. Before you know it, you’re grown up. Ready to start a family and send your kids out to repeat the whole process. Sorry people that’s the name of the game and Lady Luck never shines on the average folk. C’est La Vie.
Tim Mass Movement
‘Later Days…’ originally appeared in ‘What Would Gary Gygax Do?’ which is available for purchase from iTunes , Kobo and Amazon here