You're Supposed to Be My Friend - 1990s (mp3)
On this, the day of our 500th post for Bottom of the Glass, I hit the road to the place where this blog started. I am bound for a bachelor party in New Orleans. The man at the center of the event is the subject of my musings today.
"Do you know where I can get a sweeper?"
"A sweeper. Know where I can get one?"
Oh, you mean like a broom? Yeah, here. Borrow ours.
"No. No. Not a broom. A sweeper."
What the... I have no idea what you're talking about.
"A... a sweeper. A fucking sweeper. Fuck." (walks away, scratching head)
Don was from Toledo, Ohio. He called vacuum cleaners "sweepers," and he called cokes "pop," and he loved music bordering on death metal and magazines that focused on high-end cars and high-end stereos.
He was a year younger than my roommate and I. For a while it seemed like the only things we had in common were our strong desire to get better at drinking vast amounts of alcohol and our unwavering fan support of UNC's sports teams. But in a dorm removed from the main section of campus, where every opportunity for friendship was cherished, we all got along well enough to know not to throw it away.
Don earned the name "Aardvark" because one night, after far too much to drink, he arose like a zombie from being totally passed out at almost 4 a.m., took a fire extinguisher from our floor's lobby, and emptied it up and down the entire dorm. Ten floors in our dorm. Aardvarks are nocturnal, solitary, and capable of doing serious destructive damage to ant hills and college dormitories. Seemed like the perfect nickname.
That year, many a weeknight found Don and one other friend, Long Island Erin, hanging out in our room watching movies. We'd sit, books opened in front of us, Top Gun or Days of Thunder playing on the screen in the background. Movies like those were perfect, because we all knew them and could just look up to watch our favorite parts, but could also ignore it and get stuff done.
Among many of the drunken debates in which my group of friends would engage, none was as frequent as the debate about Girls, Friendship and Loyalty.
At its crux was this question: Is it acceptable for a friend to hit on your girlfriend?
From that one question stemmed many secondary questions. All of them kick-started multiple-hour Hardball-esque sessions with lines drawn and psychological philosophical bullshit being slung all over the place. Usually with some Dylan or Zeppelin quotes thrown in for extra heft.
On one end of the opinion were Jason and Teflon. No girl was worth the sacrifice of a friendship. No girl was off limits. If you liked her, or lusted her, you went after her, even if it was your best friend's girlfriend. If she left her best friend for you, then she wasn't really all that good for your best friend anyway. Hell, you were practically doing your friend a favor if you could take his girlfriend from him.
I, of course, was the polar opposite. If a friend of yours even expressed sincere interest in a girl, you pulled back. If you were zeroing in on a girl, your friends helped you out when they could and got out of the way when they couldn't help. If you stole your best friend's girl, you weren't really a best friend. You were a disloyal piece of donkey crap that should be flushed away.
This debate was frequently put to the test in the social experiment that is a small-town college campus.
To be fair, I was also something of a serial crushmonger in my younger days. If a girl was cute, or smart, or clever, or sassy, or athletic, the odds were pretty darn good I would officially claim my interest in her to my friends. Were my friends to have to avoid every girl I claimed to like, they would be left with roughly 100 available females on a campus of 20,000+ students.
But then there was Erin. Not Long Island Erin who came to our room and watched Top Gun all the time, but a different Erin. Artist Erin. I'd met Artist Erin in the fall and had slowly cultivated a friendship with her. I would stop by her room in the early afternoons and watch "Guiding Light" with her and her roommate Alicia. It was their guilty pleasure. I merely sat and watched them watch the show.
Artist Erin was beautiful and soft-spoken and gentle. She seemed very Snow White to me. Everything that was kind and sweet about the world. Chipmunks and deer and skunks would walk into the open meadows and sing to her when she was around.
One night in late January or early February, the regular four of us were sitting in my room watching a movie and doing homework. Our group of friends were hosting a dorm party (no easy feat on a dry campus), and I confessed my secret plot to woo Artist Erin. I was going to wait until we were both a few beers into the experience and then invite her to see a poem I'd written for class down the hall in my room. (Please stop laughing. Thanks. -- b) While she was reading, I was going to play the song "Good Things" by the BoDeans, which at the time was just about the most heartwrenching kick-ass song I'd ever heard. Between the poem and the song, she was going to realize she was madly and deeply attracted to me. We would eventually get married and celebrate our two very artsy careers as a loving couple.
Party comes. Artist Erin shows. Plan in motion.
Except for Don. Don and Erin hit it off at the party. Two hours in, they're nowhere to be found. I find out the next day that Don and Erin went down to our room. He played "Good Things" for her and showed her the poem I'd written. She liked the song and poem so much they made out until the sun rose, although they were polite enough to move to his room after they'd listened to the song a few dozen times. (To this day, I insist that my devious plots to impress females work much better in the hands of others. I'm Cyrano deBarge. Or something like that.)
The Aardvark was one of my groomsmen in 1996. In May, I will be one of his. We shared a room in a 2-bedroom apartment the last two years I was in Chapel Hill. The level of trust I have in that solitary nocturnal mammal is rarefied.
Jason and Teflon might have been a-holes for taking their stance on friendship and females. But of the five friends in my wedding party five years later, Don stole Erin, another stole my prom date, and a third nailed my ex-girlfriend. The other two groomsmen... I either made out with a girls they were crushing on or died tryin'.
None of those friendships hardly even skipped a beat.