What does it mean to be a friend? I mean a true friend. I think friendship may be deeper than an amorous relationship because of the strata beneath it all. That, of course, is debatable but I feel it is true. I realized lately that everything is finite. Everything ends and you have two options: 1. Lament about it, wallow in your pen of despair like a sow or 2. Enjoy that ride until the wheels fall off. I used to do the former and now I choose the latter.
It began last week. The sun had given way to an inky, cold blackness. It had been days since the sun had come out and it was taking its toll on most people around here. Everyone seemed irritable and filled with melancholy. Cabin fever, I suppose. So, I arrive in my parking lot and look up to my apartment and I think, “uh-oh”. I look at my roommates window and see a bright, fluorescent light in the corner of the window and that usually means one thing: Depression.
I go upstairs and burst through his door, as usual because I find it hilarious to ninja scare him on a regular basis, then I see him slowly turn his head to me and I see it in his eyes. A deep sadness that I only recall seeing once on him and that was years ago. I remember asking him what was wrong and he told me simply that he was having work problems. I guess to understand the issue there you have to understand the man. He is a person who holds certificates and degrees. He measures success by admiration and recognition from his peers in his field, this, I believe, creates that incredible motivation he has in his career. Now, those around him have been tearing away at that foundation by claiming incompetence on his part and it is taking its toll. That infinite sadness. When what you know and hold true, a rock to grasp on to, is being attacked by your peers relentlessly, it is discouraging.
I tell him to get happy again, yell it actually because for some reason we find yelling in this place therapeutic and hilarious. I say/ yell, “Your sad light is blinding me by the way!”
“Yeah, you don’t want to look right at it,” he laughs.
Oh, that sad light. It is about eight inches high and has a bulb in it that would blind Superman. He used to tan a lot whenever he got depressed. Not enough where he would look Jersey Shore-esque but enough to hold back the sadness. So, when that stopped working or got too expensive, his mother bought him the “Happy Light”, as it says on the front. It is meant to replicate the effects of the sun which actually does work much like an anti-depressent but only when it’s closer to the earth during spring and summer. I can honestly say I have never seen him jumping on his bed, giggling and his shadow cast on the wall by his “Happy Light”. It’s always him sitting in the quiet with the light on and looking into the deep abyss of his sadness. If you didn’t really know him, you would be severely frightened by the look. Thus, sad light.
So, I try and cheer him up. I go by the motto of my hero Roger Rabbit, “I’ll do anything as long as it’s funny.” This is over a series of days. I would leave to cloud covered skies and come home to faux sun. I tried to make him laugh, which usually worked but his smile would quickly fade and I could hear him sigh long breaths away as he walked outside of my door.
We go out Saturday and celebrate the day everyone is Irish. It’s fun but we overindulge on spirits a bit much. The next day we wake up and I am hungover and my room is a disaster, he is hungover and has a migraine, so we do what a rational individual would do. We get Barbecue. We also rent “All Superheroes Must Die” and watch the first 20 minutes of it, then we ejected it as if it were about to self destruct from being so terrible. We went and got smoothies and joked around. We watched happy movies. The type where there is only a little hiccup of a problem with a happy ending. Things like Blades of Glory, Eurotrip and Grind. Some classics. It was fun and entertaining but still, at the end of the day, I hear him sigh just outside my door.
Sunday I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. The little amounts of sleep I did get just weren’t enough. I ended up waking at about 6:40 am and stayed up until I went to work but I did so reluctantly. Work was a blur of fatigue and melancholy as the temperatures never got above freezing and the sky was overcast and grey. It was the kind of cold that you couldn’t shake even when you went back indoors.
When I get home I feel agitated. I think about writing a blog, no. I think about playing a video game, no. I think about reading, no. I think about watching a movie, no. I stand in the middle of my room and am just shuffling. I am tired but can’t sleep. A great excuse of a Zombie. Nothing would satiate this feeling of impenetrable boredom. My roommate opens up his door and I walk in. He is writing a paper and still has that deep look in his eyes. I walk over to his desk and fumble around the cord until I find the switch and turn on the sad light. I remember looking at it and it was dim.
“So, does this thing look dimmer when you’re sad because I swear it was brighter before,” I say.
“It takes a minute to work,” he says.
He is right. It finally warms up and it is incredibly bright. I sit in the chair with poor posture and we talk for a bit. He tells me about his work problems and I talk about my melancholy. I accuse him of infecting me with his sadness and he says, “A broken man can only take so much…”
It sounds terribly sad but when you are so restless, dark humor becomes incredibly funny.
“Damn thing doesn’t work,” I say.
“You have to use it every day for a week to get the levels right,” he says.
“So this is doing nothing right now,” I ask in an elevated voice and click the sad light off. We eventually go to the movie store and crack jokes as we make fun of movies along the new release wall. I had to look ridiculous. I had my dress shirt untucked, my sweater on top of that, still wearing my tie and then I had house shoes on. I looked glorious, I am sure. I rented “Pitch Perfect” and was talked into donating to a charity by a blue eyed, freckle faced beautiful woman. We get home and, as we walk towards the house, I look up.
“That’s awesome! Look, you can see where the low hanging clouds from today are breaking up and you can see the stars,” I say, head tilted vertically to enjoy the stars.
He cracks a joke about me not being sad anymore and we go upstairs. I go to my room and he takes a shower but for the first time in a long time I don’t hear him sigh.
What does it mean to be a friend? Is it about having a blast or is it more symbiotic. The lows and the highs. That ability to to be completely open with someone without worry of being judged. True, unabashed honesty.
We have known each other almost 12 years and I still wonder when we will run out of stuff to say.
I woke up today and the sun is out in full force and I write this and I know that I still don’t know what it means to be a friend and I am excited that there is still that unknown out there.