Friday, November 09, 2007

I've been looking so long at these pictures of you...

Bear with me, this is a long one.

Those you know me well know that I'm notoriously bad at keeping in touch. I just never seem to find the time to call, or email, or write. These days, with my 14 hour work days and all, I've had barely enough time to leave sarcastic Myspace/facebook messages for people. This is all very hard for me especially since I value my friendships above nearly all else.

On Wednesday I found out some terrible news about someone I don't call or email nearly as much as I should. One of my old roommates from college, Jason, is sick again. Again. Fuck. Again. Cancer. Again. Jason's fight is far from over. And if there is anything that gives me comfort it's knowing that Jason has a lot of fight in him. Cancer is fucking with the wrong person. Not even I could win a fight with Jason.

Unfair does not even begin to scratch the surface of how cruel .

Jason and I have always had a, (what's the best way to say this?), complicated relationship. Jason might be one of the more aggravating, frustrating, anal retentive, psychotic, hyper organized, obnoxious people I know. He's certainly the only person that I've ever seriously thought about punching (multiple times). I wanted to push him down the stairs one time, too. But we lived together- across the hall from me and as roommates- for four years. All of college. Strange, right? See, where all of my friends had stories about their roommies moving out after a quarter, ditching out on bills, moving in with their boyfriends, roommates that dropped out of college-- I had a completely different experience. We were a team. Five of us. Myself, Jon, Pat, Austin, and Jason. Five people that, in just about any other context, probably would've never spoken to each other. We were all friends because we were thrown into that social experiment called college and lived to tell about it. Together. Every party. Every exam. Every hangover, every 2am trip to Country Kitchen to study. Every breakup. Every success, failure, near miss, depression, celebration, fight and late night conversation. All of it. Every single important moment of my college life involved these four guys. I don't know if there is a way to put in words just how much emotion I have wrapped up in these guys. (If I expand my thoughts to my entire group of friends from college, I nearly have a seizure of emotion.)

Jason can (and has) made me crazy but we stayed friends because for everything about Jason that makes me crazy, Jason is a Friend (capital F) of the first-order. Intensely loyal. Stands by his friends and listens like no other. And he makes me laugh like few other people can. And I don't say that lightly. Everything that's great about Jason overcomes any qualms I've ever had with him.

When I heard that Jason was sick again, my first thought was to find pictures. It's all I can do. Literally.
The thing no one ever talks about is how helpless it is for one of your dearest friends to be sick. You're trapped. You can't say "It'll be ok" because you don't know that it will be. I can't hug him because he's on the other side of the country now. I can't get on a plane and rush to see him because I have no money. I can't defend him from cancer. I can't fix the problem. I'm useless. I'm supposed to be his friend and I can't do a goddamn thing to truly help him. All I can say is "I love you" over and over and over again and hope that he understands everything I'm thinking-- emotions that the English language doesn't seem to have developed words for yet.
But a picture. Yes! A picture. That will bring back that wave of nostalgia. When everything was ok. When the worst problem that we had was Jason micromanaging my life as my boss at the student newspaper, me not doing my dishes or deleting my messages from the answering machine.
And certainly after four years of bar-hopping, and party going, and party-throwing, and living together there would be a whole album of Jason and I and the rest of the guys. Search as I might, I can't really find any. I need this picture. A concrete image of when we were all together and when everything was ok. The only thing I can find is the picture posted at the beginning of this post. I was hoping for something that didn't look so dour.

There was supposed to be a picture of the five of us that were were going to have a photographer friend take. It never happened because we all started fighting with each other as college came to a close. We all went our separate ways and I thought I would never speak to Jason again. I hoped I would never speak to Jason again. Then Jason got sick and I grew up and realized how much I really did care about him. I suppose, in a disgusting way, Jason's illness snapped me back to the real world. It forced us to not be petty.

That's the real point here.

Nothing in our lives is certain. Literally nothing. Jason runs more in a week than I do in a year. If you were to tell me in college that he would get cancer three times I would've laughed so hard I'd piss my pants and throw up at the same time. We could walk out the door and get hit by a bus. We could catch any number of diseases, get struck by lightning, bitten by a poisonous spider, die from a carbon monoxide leak or get blown up by terrorists. (and I'm a Democrat-- so saying that is difficult.) Our time on Earth is uncertain and is made meaningful by the relationships that we have. Don't hesitate to tell your friends that you love them. Even if it's a guy and you're a guy and you're not gay and he's not gay. Even if it seems weird or uncomfortable. Don't let fights go on for more than an hour. Don't be petty. Don't spend time hating yourself or your friends. Time is too precious.

One thing I do know is this: Do yourself a favor, and take pictures, or become friends with someone who takes lots. You never know when someone you love will be on the other side of the country in the fight of their life struggling with something and the only thing you'll be able to do is find an old picture of them and tell them that you love them.

I love you, Jason. Cancer may take away a lot of things, but it will never take away your friends.

(sorry to Austin and Jon, I just don' t have a picture of the five of us. Thanks Allison for taking pictures every step of the way)

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