The International Writers Magazine: Friends

Friendship and the Difficulties of School
David Tavernier

hen I first saw Daniel Larson walking along with a crowd of friends trailing behind him, smiling and talking in the sunshine outside the gym at Oakland Tech, I knew from then on that this was a smart dude. And of course, being the competitive dude that I was, I was bound to find myself trying to outsmart him.

And from there on, a series of conversations began between us, about life, about history, about... of all things, Star Trek: Next Generation. He became a good friend and remains so to this day. Although, there was one time the competitive aspect of our friendship completely dissapeared.

We were both in our second or third year of college. I was home from U.C. Davis, and he was home from U.C. Santa Cruz. The both of us somehow got together again. Maybe I found his old phone number lying on a table somewhere and gave him a call.
"What's up Daniel, long time no see?" I say into the receiver.
"Actually David, you called at just the right time."
"Yeah. I'm about to be heading out to Alameda beach. Wanna come?"
"Sure man."
"Okay, I'll drop by your house at about a quarter to seven."

His beaten up Chevy pulls up in front, and I hear a car horn and close up my game of Warcraft III. The sun is setting in the golden Oakland sky, and I dash down the blue porch steps and hop into the open car door.
We set out driving, and ride down fifty first street, toward the highway, only the two lights on Shafter and Fifty First street holding us back on our way.
"See this David," he say, knocking on the frame of the car. "Pure steel."
"Holy Christ."
"This car may not be able to drive, David, but, you see, but, if I get into a car crash with even that SUV over there, I will knock the heck out of it!"
"I fail to see why you would want to do that..."
"Just for hypothetical purposes, that's all."
We blaze past the SUV and down the open freeway, hot summer air blowing through the windows and ruffling our hair.
"Here we are, Alameda beach," we get out of the car and out onto the beach.
"You use the bathroom," I say, "I'll change here in the car."

We get down to the beach together and start swimming. The water is salty and polluted.
"Alameda beach isn't exactly the greatest place to swim David."
"So I gathered," I reply, spitting out water and breathing hard.
"But what can you say, it's all we got down here."
I start kicking harder and say, "You know I used to always be afraid of swimming in water like this."
"What do you mean?"
"Dark, murky, can't see the bottom. God knows what's underneath. Sting rays, sharks, man of war..."
"You've got a wild imagination. This is Alameda beach, David. There's nothing living down there."
"Yeah, I suppose I do have a wild imagination."
"I was a bitch Daniel."
"Making fun of everyone. Acting tough out on the playground. That time I threw the apple back at Stephen and hit him in the balls. Skateboarding with Mike Craig. It was all a show. I was afraid as hell of Tech, the guns, the violence, the fires in the trash cans, those days when we'd all get called out to stand around in the yard while the police would come in and check for bombs."
"I think we all were David. It's just... you can't... there's nothing you can do about it."
"Don't go! That's what you can do."
"Don't go to school? I don't know about you but I had no choice."
"And now that I think about it. It feels like neither did I..."
"You want to hit a movie?" Daniel asks.

So we drive over to Emeryville, the AMC 16, Bay Street, and plunk down ten bucks apiece for Collateral. And we get out into the dark air and start walking toward Daniel's car.
"Well, what'd you think of the movie?" I asked.
"You know what David?"
"What Daniel."
"That Tom Cruise was really tearing it up in that movie. Man! I wanted to be just like him."
"What, an assassin?"
"That's not the point."
"Well you're right that he was kicking butt... even though he was a murderer."
"Yeah! Just like Tom Cruise. What a tough mofo."
"I guess you got a point there... even if the career was a vile one."
"Yeah," Daniel finishes the conversation seriously, and then he starts up his old steel Chevy.
John lives across the street, and has always lived across the street. My dad met his dad, and then we started playing together, and have been playing ever since. His brother Edward would sometimes join us, but, as we all know, two is company and three is a crowd, so sometimes fights would get started between us boys. We had water gun fights in the summer. One summer when we were having construction done on our house we had a water balloon fight on the scaffolding, tossing water-baloons up and down at each other. And Edward almost died, almost flew clear off the scaffolding, except for that his foot caught haphazardly onto one of the cross bars and he hung there dangling in the air screaming for help.
John would show up every morning to walk to school together, and we'd have breakfast watching Sonic the Hedgehog, or Doug, or the Exo-Squad, a cartoon show about humans moving house onto mars itself. He'd grown up with some sort of hearing problem, so he couldn't read well. And he never talked about school but was always in some happy place inside his own mind, laughing at all his funny memories, of which he has thousands and thousands, and could sit telling stories of his own for years. His father, Richard, is a Vietnam veteran, and I still get spooked out whenever John talks about playing shooting video games and his dad running and ducking behind the couch. Flashbacks, he used to tell me, and I'd feel a spooky electricity run through the air.
"So what about college John, go back to school?"
"No, no."
"You seemed like you like it back in the day. I mean you used to always be talking about Laney."
"I got too much into politics!" John reprimanded himself and seemingly went deep inside to a place he didn't like very much. "But you should've seen how I turned this one polysci class into a Kindergarten," he laughed, and I laughed along with him.
"You're a grea political speaker dude. Remember that one time, when we're buying that little green book for my dad's birthday, and we meet those guys in the back of that occult shop."
"Yeah, yeah, I remember."
"Dude you just started talking and it was like they were mesmerized. They couldn't stop listening no matter what. Just like you were a hypnotist or something."
"People do say I should go into politics."
"So why don't you?"
"Yeah, I should."
"But first you gotta get yourself a job on a political campaign or something. Work as a little man, and then take yourself to the top."
"Everyone always wants to get to the top..."
"You never did well on tests in school?"
"I liked filling in all the banks with weird random answers and pissing off the teachers. That'd show 'em," John smiled real big.
"Haha. I think that may have been the better way..."
"Well you got a talent for learning. Man I wish I could learn a language like Japanese. I tried learning Spanish once but the words just wouldn't stick. As soon as I learned 'em, I forgot 'em."
"But if you kept on practicing... you'd learn it. Don't you think?" I tried to encourage.
"You know, sometimes things just don't work out."
"No, I suppose not..." I shrugged. "Unless you want to learn some Japanese," I say, smiling.
"No! You tried to teach me that in Japan but that didn't work either."
"Comon, just repeat after me. Ohayou gozaimasu. Good morning."
"None of that! None of that! Just give it a rest would you."
We pass by a family fishing all together.
"So what, do you got a girl yet?"
"Do you?"
"No, but I'm looking. I've got a million unfinished love stories anyway. My heart is ribbons. I'm already on my fourth or fifth broken one."
"Judy, and..."
"And Marilynn, and a million others... but what about that girl down at the Moroccan restaurant? What's her name."
"Yeah, Julie. Have you asked her out yet?"
"I don't know. I'm just not that kind of dude, messing with a girl at work."
"It ain't messing. It's love dude."
"Yeah. You just gotta wait for it. You'll be out there, and then you'll be feeling it, like some sort of heavy attraction in the air. But the thing is, you gotta wait for that right moment. Just when she's ready and you're ready. It's the desire to wait that's the key. Otherwise you'll be bugging her all the time, either that or you'll end up high and dry, wondering where she went. Just wait for it."
"There'll be something that relates the two of you. Maybe you always get off at the same time, and maybe there'll be one night when she's kind of lingering and she wants someone to walk to the bus stop. Or maybe there'll be something really exciting in your personal life, outside of work, like some concert or something you're dying to see. Just, when you feel it, go with it, and don't doubt yourself. Just go."
John gets to thinking for a while, but then he twists up his face and says, "Now that's all well and good for fantasizing and things like that but what about Alice?"
"What about her? You had your moments."
"Oh no. Oh no, she was a terrible memory I wish I could forget."
"She did you wrong. She was just... mean."
"She'd try to tell me that I needed some reason not to want to go out with her anymore. Like there'd have to be something more than just not feeling it."
"You don't need to listen to that crap."
"I'm just telling you what she did."
"I know, but man, I'm just trying to tell you that there's always hope for new love after a broken heart. You've just got to get Alice off your mind, and pay attention to Julie. The time will come, man, just wait for it. There's always a right place, and a right time."
"I think I've had enough of your Tai Chi mumbo jumbo..."

The two of us wander off from each other and begin walking back toward the car. I wonder where K and Ruben are, and if they even ever left the car to begin with. Maybe they'd just sat there the whole time chatting about that new Saint's Row video game that was coming out soon and was supposed to top even the old Grand Theft Auto, reigning champion of horror and gore on the streets.

Tai Chi mumbo jumbo... I'd spent an entire year studying that mumbo jumbo and had felt some of the craziest sensations, as if I had been traveling through space and touching the tips of the fingers of some extra terrestrial living on another planet, reaching out to greet me. But it was true, I thought, true enough as I knew John and I were heading to the same neighborhood even though our conversation had fallen flat. All life was connected by an energy field that you could feel as thick as if it were soup after practicing Tai Chi for an hour.

As we plodded together down the beach, I looked out at the sea, and then at the hills, covered in trees. And I realized that I came from here, there and everywhere. From the wheat in the fields, from the fruit in the trees, from the plankton on the ocean face. As I walked I understood just how wonderful a creature a human being truly is.

© David Tavernier October 2006

Good and Bad
David Tavernier

More Fiction


© Hackwriters 1999-2006 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.