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Things I Miss About My Imprisoned Best Friend

I'll probably never see my best friend again.

We met as third-graders at a church youth group. I hated him at first because he was taller than me, which meant he stood first in line for our Awana team. But it was music nerd love at first sight when he pulled a Run-DMC tape out of his pocket.

We were inseparable for about 15 years. He passed me my first joint. We slept in basements, on couches and in cars together. The night he cried because I was killing myself with drugs and alcohol was the night I decided to get clean. We lived together for so long without ever having girlfriends that my mother was convinced we were a gay couple.

I was the best man at his wedding. I there when his son was born. He stayed at my house the night his marriage fell apart. He sent me the only letters I got while in treatment. He always had an open door for me, no matter what mess I got myself into. He provided me with the stable living environment that I needed to finally get my shit together.

He is in prison for what is, essentially, a life sentence. He confessed to a terrible crime for which he was given a 25-year sentence, without the possibility of parole. He'll get out of prison eventually, but the best part of his life is gone.

My feelings towards his crime and punishment are complex, confusing and painful. A heartbreaking wave of anger, disappointment and compassion washes over me every time I think about it. Our lives have been so inextricably intertwined for almost 30 years that a part of me feels like I've lost the best part of my life too.

I haven't had the courage to talk to him since he was arrested. I've looked up his Department of Corrections photo a hundred times in the years that he's been gone, looking for some answer to why this all happened, trying to see the things I didn't see then. But I am a coward; I can't tell him to his face how I feel about what he did and what it means to me that he is gone.

So here, then, are the things I miss most about my imprisoned best friend:

1. Applehead and Dummy.

We shared the universal language of best friends. Made up entirely of inside jokes, and stuck in a moment in time (1989), the shorthand shit we said to each other sounded like gibberish to everyone else. We held conversations composed entirely of Beastie Boys lyrics, Sanford and Son quotes and old nicknames. I miss being able to tell someone that the place was a total Lewis Ave, and having them understand what I was talking about.

2. Death Magnetic.

The strongest bond we had was music. We discussed music for hours, for years, for decades. We had shared divergent tastes; he introduced me to so much of the music I love now: Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Butthole Surfers, Portishead. I hate that I can't call him up to bullshit when I discover a new band or an old favorite comes out with a new album. My love for the culture of music has definitely weakened since he's been gone.

3. Concert Standby.

I don't hang out with anyone anymore who loves the same shitty butt-rock that I do. I have a really hard time finding someone to go to a Motorhead show with me. My brother will go but he's got better shit to do than fly halfway across the country to see Down on a Wednesday night. But my man was always there; I could always count on him to go with me - the band, venue or the day of the week didn't matter. It's fitting that the last thing I remember doing with him was going to see a Metallica show in Milwaukee. On our way to the show, we calculated that we'd been going to Metallica concerts together for 19 years.

4. My Wife.

It breaks my heart that he only ever got to meet the girlfriends that didn't work out. I want him to be able to see that I finally found what I was looking for, and that all those years I cried on his shoulder about yet another break-up weren't for naught.

5. Shaheh Jones.

A close friend of ours passed and neither one of us was at the funeral. That sucks.

6. iLife.

He was a dedicated technophile; he was the first person I knew with a cell phone, a home computer and Internet access. I learned how to send an e-mail, set a digital watch and make a mixtape from him. I am still way behind on how to do gadget stuff because I grew up letting him set up all the electronics and technology. I would have loved to see the look on his face when he played with an iPhone or the Wii for the first time.

7. Fact Checker.

I miss having someone around who knows the truth about where I've been and what I've done and called me on it when I strayed. I have lots of people whom I've spent years and years with but no one knows my history as first-hand as he did. And as I am wont to hyperbole and "confused recollection," it was always nice to have someone say, "You know, Andrew, there was only guy who beat you up, not nine."

8. Bullshit Artist.

I miss having someone who knows the truth about where I've been and what I've done and encourages my bullshitting about it. And as I am wont to hyperbole and "excited recollection," it was always reassuring to have someone back me up on a bullshit story. "Yeah, Andrew totally fought off nine guys. I was there and it was awesome." He understood the delicate balance of when to let me bullshit and when to make me tell the truth.

9. Black President.

So much has changed in the world since the day we huffed amyl nitrates for hours and watched the Berlin Wall fall. Talking to him always put our journey through history and time in the right perspective for me. It is much harder for me to explain the wonder of a GPS/e-mail/Facebook/Pandora-enabled iPhone to someone I didn't play "Lemonade Stand" with on an 8-bit computer.

10. Knowing What His Life is Like.

One of the hardest questions I have to answer now is, "What's ___ Up to?" The answer is, I don't know.


Comments welcome.


Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says
* Work Weirdos
* Things I Miss About Chicago
* 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
* Their Chicago
* Cities I've Slept In
* My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
* Why Milwaukee Rules
* Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
* The Beer Goggle Recordings
* A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists
* Life's Little Victories
* The Worst Jobs I've Ever Had
* Jobs For The Zombie Apocalypse
* Lemme Get A Bite Of That
* Lists I'll Never Write

* Fan Note: Me & Metallica


Posted on March 29, 2010

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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