I was riding in the car with my friend Puck in San Francisco on the way to dinner at a new spot called Nopalito. It had been a full week. I was travelling on a shoestring budget during a choppy time back in Texas. A period where both my own and my partner (Eddie)’s careers were experiencing new challenges. It took all we had to meet the demands but we did it.
As the cool Bay Area wind whizzed by up and down the San Francisco streets my friend told me a story about a couple who were friends of he and his partner. The couple had recently gone through some hardships and one of the guys was buckling under the pressure. I can’t recall the actual details that were shared but suffice it to say he was not very pleasant to be around. Puck told me that he decided to end that friendship to protect the feelings of his boyfriend. I believe he told them at some point the door would be open but only if real change had occurred and he would be certain that his own boyfriend would be free of any complications that might arise.
Dinner was wonderful. The food superb. The wine delicious. By the time we were finished; the table was full of recollections and memories of decades since passed. You see, Puck and I had met through one of my most early friends named Oberon.
Oberon was the single most outrageous Cuban man I had ever had the luck to call a friend. He smoked pot like a fiend catcalling guys with a booming voice and a wry smile while driving haphazardly in a van that seemed to be on the verge of exploding at any moment. Puck and Oberon met, fell in love and then moved in together. The years passed and we all grew to become close friends,sharing adventures, failures and many many stories.
One year Oberon decided to move back to Florida to be with his family and recover from a bankruptcy process. His last words to me as I dropped him off at the airport was “take care of Puck.”
I never saw Oberon again.
Years passed. Eddie and I watched Puck as he grew from a boy to a man in our city. He transitioned into the gym from skateboarding culture effortlessly. Meeting the kinds of gay folk who push steroids and growth hormone. Becoming like them. However… he read constantly and had a passion for music that was unique and beautiful. Anyway, that’s my recollection.
The year was 1997. We decided to take a road trip to visit Eddie’s friend Michael in Chicago. We all had a fantastic time, as we were all in our late 20’s. Puck met an older gentleman who happened to have a very successful art career with great connections. They shared similar bodybuilding interests and had much in common. Soon after we got back, Puck decided to move to Chicago.
It was with all the love in my heart that we saw him off on his new adventure. And he did great. We watched as he moved further and further across the country with various boyfriends and jobs along the way.
So it was with a little surprising that he engaged me in a contract job for an opportunity on a web development job. Being a stronger back end developer than a front end person in the field was a challenge but in the end we delivered a functioning product that looked like his designs. I lost money however on that endeavor due to the 1099 tax form and my own inexperience with contractor life at that point. It also reminded me of a friend who lives in Cleveland who always cautioned against working with friends. Saying “contracting with friends ends relationships.”
But back to Nopalito in San Francisco. I was to interview with his boyfriend’s company the next day so I turned in early. It was exciting but I suspected that it would not work out as Eddie and I were already stretched living in a highrise in downtown Dallas and working on some goals we had at the time. I already knew the job would not pay enough as I had gotten both direct info from the interviewers and then inside information from both Puck and his partner. In the end it was a job I could not fill as it would have cost more to live in the Bay Area than I was making. Then there would have been Eddie’s career as well. Nice work if you can get it in other words.
It’s funny remembering the conversation Puck & I had about his friends he had to cut ties with. That’s what ultimately happened with us. Evidently the years had taken a toll on me and my normal coping mechanisms were not keeping pace with the demands being placed upon me. So I buckled. Puck and I had some heated words one night over email. I was not as eloquent as I would have normally been. Truth be told… I buckled. I felt used and betrayed for not so clear reasons. It took me a long time to sort that out. In the end, however, it was the end.
Poignant as ever he had one last request. He wanted an early piece of art he made while still in undergrad. A bronze casting of hearts. During his exodus to Chigao he left this piece in our Hunter Avenue basement. We rediscovered them during or cataclysmic move to Clintonville… but that’s another chapter. Regardless, it took me years to send them on an indirect route back to him but I finally let them go. I suppose I finally let him go.
It’s always with gratitude that I think of Puck. For the time we spent together as we grew and changed with many of our young peers. We were part of loosely formed tribe of folks who were on various parts of the edge, building the best lives we knew how to imagine.
Friendship is one of life’s great accomplishments we can manage. There are all sorts of reasons mine failed. Much of them lie in my own shortcomings as a man under pressure doing everything possible to make it in a new state under a dragon of a boss.
I was happy to send the artwork home to him. I’m happy that we were friends. And my last request of him though some form of cosmic vibration is that I want him to be happy and keep his friendships like the precious things they are. Because sometimes, the absence can feel like a death.
Even still, it’s the memory of all the time together that I celebrate now. It was … a great adventure.
And like life itself… what is friendship if not an adventure?