My friend Eric Smith finally left for the MTC, and he'll be arriving in Washington, D.C./southern Virginia shortly thereafter. I didn't plan on it being an emotional farewell, but the last day we were hanging out, I found myself approaching his house very slowly. "If I walk slower," I thought, "maybe...maybe he won't leave as soon." We had dinner, went to see a movie, then dropped me off at my apartment. He gave me his longboard, saying, "You need this more than I do." I said, "Eric...I can't take this. Any time I ride it, I'll think of ya, and then I'll crash into something." He laughed, and then the last thing he said to me was: "Matthew, you are my best friend in the whole world, do you know that? If you can, see that you go on that mission." I nodded, then proceeded to go upstairs, watch a chick flick, and feel depressed for two days. I guess emotions don't get planned.
But assigning me as his best friend only reminded me of another friend, Ammon. He's sixteen, turning seventeen in a month. My twentieth birthday is a month and two days after. I befriended him after he moved into the old house of one of my best friends. We got tight pretty quick, and he started calling me his best friend in the world. Thick as thieves, we were. Then, he got a girlfriend. He gave her all the attention in the world, and planned on marriage and having her wait for him after his mission.
And late at night, I would get in fights with my pillows and scream over it. How could he just move into town, and at a whim fall in love? Just like that? My same-gender attractions drove me to insane jealousy. I cared way too much about him. It's not that I was attracted to him. I was jealous of his ability to love. I saw him happy and blissful every time he brought up his girlfriend, and whenever I looked at myself and saw my empty life - without passion or love - I would go green like a light.
Pretty soon, the tension got us into a fight. We didn't speak to each other for almost a month. After we called it cool, we got into another fight a month later. He was angry I wasn't on a mission, and I was angry he was being sixteen. We didn't talk to each other for three and a half months. We started jamming in a band with a couple of friends. Then we got into another fight about him being immature, and me being different. We didn't talk for almost two months. Then, he broke up with his girlfriend. His depression got us talking again, and finally a few nights ago we hung out for the first time since last spring. Eventually, his parents told me I had to go.
As I left, I reflected on the useless hate I let into my life. And, you know? Most of that hate, I came to find, was aimed at myself. I felt like a failure because my friends were all left or leaving on missions, and I was sitting in my apartment going at it with porn every night. I care too much about everything and everyone but me. And I never get anything back. My heart is too big, I decided. It's not strong, and it's not smart. But it's big. I have a lot of love to give...I do. I just don't know where to put it. I finally got sick of myself. I went out Friday night, and bought a pack of cigarettes. I figured, what the heck, I've been trying to do self-improvement all my life. Maybe it's time to try self-destruction. I took Eric's longboard and skated way out to the city limits, where there are abandoned fields and a cold lake. I sat down, lit one up, and put my lips around the filter.
And that's when I realized....that I have no idea how to smoke a cigarette. And what's more, I was too scared to try.
Which further infuriated me. That I was too chicken to smoke, too chicken to go on a mission, too chicken to change my life. But I wasn't too chicken to walk half a mile to get my wallet so I can buy porn, or not too chicken to jack off in front of a P.E. teacher, or not too chicken to slit at my wrists and cut up my arms with a razor. I looked up at the sky, blasting "Love Reign O'er Me" by The Who, and I screamed: "IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?!!" ...Reaching up for a hand, any hand, is not an unfamiliar motif for me right now.
Sunday night, I called Ammon to see how he was holding up. He said he was okay, then told me, "Matthew...I'm really sorry...but we can't hang out ever again. My parents chewed me out the other night when you were here. The thing is, they don't want me to associate with a 19-year-old who is not on a mission."
I guess that's what I get for my big heart.