Hello, I am… an old friend

willi

Driving to a concert, I believe, in Willi’s old boat of a car.

The text messages came from out of nowhere, it seemed. But really, they came from my good friend, Willi. We hadn’t talked for a long time until he started sending me pictures of his new house. I didn’t even know he was looking for a house.

The pictures showed an increasingly more violent campaign against the deep red wood paneling in Willi’s living room. Eventually, he and some friends tore every piece of it off the walls. I discerned this from a photo of walls stripped to the framing. The accompanying text read, I kinda like the exposed look.

And if you knew Willi, you’d know what the photos meant. You see, he has the knack for getting people to help. He has a magnetic, albeit goofy as all get out, personality, the kind of guy who’s just fun to be around.

He asked if I had any time to work, which frustrated me. Not that he asked, but that I didn’t. Still, a few weeks later, I was finishing drywall that some of his other friends hung.

You might say Willi is my great friend, one of my best friends. But like I said, we didn’t talk for a while, though not because of a falling out. Life conspired against us. I went to school, stopped going to church. He got married and had a baby.

Before I started the job, I stopped by his house to check it out. It was Indian summer, after a football game while I was reporting those. Being a sports reporter, writing about athletes, is one of the least athletic types of journalism. You mainly sit. In the car. In the press box. At the coffee shop, or some other place with wifi, to send the story. I’d sat for a half hour on my way back from Martinsville, and when I pulled into his driveway, I felt grumpy, tired. Old.

But I went inside and saw him, the same smiling round face and bright blue eyes.

I always hear about friends who can pick up right where they left off, even after years apart. Seeing Willi felt like reaching into the past, like reloading a saved game. All the data up to that point breezed through my memory, from the moment we met to that night of cranky sports reporting. Now when I drive south on 37, I remember riding in Willi’s ginormous Blazer to Bloomington. We talked, laughed, and because it only picked up a few radio stations (all on the AM dial) listened to mariachi music.

Me and Willi, so close nothing could some between us. Except John, Josh, and Bob.

Me and Willi, so close nothing could some between us. Except John, Josh, and Bob.

I think that friendships have a definite start and end. So unless you cut ties, your friendship keeps going on, marching arm-in-arm with you or trailing on the outskirts of your life. Whether you recognize, or nourish, your friendships, they still continue to be there.

I’m a bad friend. I’m flaky. I don’t follow through when invited to parties and avoid making concrete plans to get dinner or coffee. But I’m thankful to have a friend like Willi, who understands this.

Willi knows how annoying I am, after all, we shared an apartment for a while. Even so, he tried to convince me to move into the spare room at his new house, and I don’t think the proposition was as financially motivated as he let on. Either way, I’m happy I met him, and that I continue to meet him. Again and again.

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