Tales From My Youth: Becoming My Friend

I’ve talked about my friend Josh in this series before in The Track Day Detour entry. Josh and I were friends throughout high school and after but our friendship was founded on a singular event.

Josh and his family lived in the area when we were in elementary school but Josh and I were not close back then. We were among the first classes in our school to grow too large for a single classroom and would often be split into 2 groups. Josh and I were rarely in the same room with the same teacher. We knew who the other was but we weren’t really given much of an opportunity to get to know the other like our other friends. His family moved away for a few years and Josh attended another school before moving back to the area during my freshman year of high school.

Josh and I both played football but still hadn’t spent much time around one another upon his return to the area. His family had something of a reputation of being troublemakers and I was more of a scholar. The reality was that Josh was the youngest of five kids and his older siblings had been a bit rough. Did they fight because people mocked them for having less financial means that their classmates? Did they fight out of some sense of desire for conflict? Was it some form of rebellion due to conditions in their home lives? I don’t know but they liked to fight and it had earned them a reputation for it.

Josh felt their reputation extended to him and that nobody would mess with him because if they did then they would have to contend with his brothers, who were no longer in school. I, on the other hand, was a freshman the same year that my brother and cousin were both seniors. This meant that I had gone into the year expecting to be constantly inundated with pranks and the other ritualistic initiations that had been depicted as common for freshman from seniors but I had expected mine to be worse due to the more personal connection I had with many of them compared to my contemporaries. 

For the most part, the early part of the school year and football season saw Josh and I having very little interaction. Our paths rarely crossed and when they did there was no friction or anything between us. We were teammates but not really much more than that.

That all changed one afternoon during practice.

The day had seen a fair amount of rain and it was still raining when we arrived to the locker room for practice. The coaches chose to do a simple indoor workout that day due to the inclement weather outside. Some of us hit the weights. Josh and I grabbed the jump ropes. There was a rotation through the stations to ensure that everyone did everything but as it turned out Josh and I both chose to start in the same area.

We started jumping and after a few jumps our ropes made contact, forcing both of us to stop. Josh grew irrationally irate at the disruption and started hollering at me. I apologized for the accidental contact and we returned to our activity only for the ropes to become tangled again only a few seconds later. It was a tight area that we were forced to exercise in and the chance of ropes hitting was great but that wasn’t good enough for Josh.

He threw down his rope and charged in my direction. He was yelling, cussing, and threatening me as he approached. I just stood there, unsure of why he was so upset and unsure if he really meant what he was saying. Of course, I never got the chance to see how serious he was because he was stopped before he got to me.

Some of the seniors working out nearby intervened. They stepped between us and told Josh to back off. He continued his verbal assault over the minor contact between our ropes but he was adequately warned that if he laid a hand on me that he would have to deal with them. It seemed that rather than being my tormentors, the seniors on the football team were my protectors. My brother didn’t play football but it seemed that his friends felt the need to look out for me when he couldn’t. It was one thing for them to mess with me but apparently it was something completely different for someone else to do the same.

Josh threatened the seniors with the wrath of his brothers but they only laughed at him. They outnumbered his two brothers and seemed unfazed by the mention of their names. In the face of overwhelming opposition, Josh quickly decided that it was better to be my friend than my enemy. He apologized for his outburst and that was the one and only time that Josh and I ever had unkind words. From that moment forward we were glued to the hip it seemed. We spent a lot of time together. In fact, it was through my friendship with Josh that I met my wife. Had it not been for his unruly behavior in the locker room on that rainy day in 1991 then I likely would have never met the cute blonde who I would later call my wife and the mother of my children.

In the years since high school Josh and I have drifted apart. Our lives took very different turns and we now lead different lifestyles. I was told that Josh has made changes to his life to get things back on track but our paths have not crossed again in several years. We were “friends” on social media for a while but during a turbulent relationship, Josh’s significant other routinely deleted his friends and many of us grew tired of the steady stream of requests to be friends with him only to be deleted days later. Nowadays, requests from Josh sit in limbo on our profiles, always waiting to be accepted but never being accepted.

I do hope the best for Josh. We spent a lot of time together throughout our high school and post high school years. We were co-workers at a job, teammates, classmates, and friends. I hated to see his life take the course it did and I remain hopeful that his life will find stability. I will always look back on the time we spent doing things with fond memories but it will forever be the memory of how our friendship started that stands out the most among our many memories together.

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