“Well, it’s because you’re ugly,” I said, walking off.
“Don’t forget stupid,” he called after me.
“How could I?” I called back, turning around and almost walking into a waitress.
Nine years later, we were completing the Cornetto Trilogy.
We were older now. He was thinner; I had gone a slight bit in the other direction. I have more gray in the hair; he still doesn’t have any hair. But nine years after we went to see Shaun of the Dead, we were killing time and guzzling water in the restaurant/bowling alley at the AMC theater in River East before The World’s End, the third in the Edgar Wright-Simon Pegg-Nick Frost trilogy of genre spoof British comedies.
I haven’t seen him a lot lately. He’s got a family. A wife and two great boys. A house in the Indiana-side suburbs. A commute, a new role in the old company and a dog that’s much more sane than his last dog was.
I’ve been through eight jobs and nine apartments since we met.
We hug when we meet. He’s about a foot taller than I am and covered in tattoos. I wore a T-shirt I thought he might find funny. His boys call me Uncle Paul.
We used to watch movies a lot. Before the kids and dog and rapid-fire succession of apartments. After work, we and maybe one or two more of the crew would go to a razzle-dazzle blockbuster or a side-split comedy. We would haul our work-weary selves in front of the screen for a few hours of cracking jokes at bad movies and sitting rapt for good ones.
He’s about 14 years older than me, I should mention. 14 years ahead of me.
We got to the theater early, about two hours early. We cracked jokes, of course. We griped about weather and talked about what the movie would bring. We gossiped about old friends. Who got fired. Who was moving where. Who we hadn’t talked to. Weird, hilarious things his kids said.
“They’re like a bruised piece of really awesome fruit,” he said. “They’re a little damaged, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them.”
We talked about our health. We talked about kids and families and futures. We talked about careers. He was worried his move to management is killing his friendships. I was concerned (am concerned) that I’m blogging my way to nowhere, that jobs nine, 10, 11 are just around the corner in my endlessly temporary life.
He’s worried about being trapped by his circumstances. I’m worried I never will.
We talked about the same thin sadness that seems to slip between us and the world at times. We talked about the appetizers and a cineplex where they have table service right in the theater and crap we posted on Facebook.
“There are some good bands coming to Riot Fest,” he said.
“The Violent Femmes are coming,” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “And there are also some good bands coming to Riot Fest.”
I felt a sense of loss when it was time for the movie. We had talked for nearly two hours.