Sunday, June 1, 2014

Act One, Scene Three "New Friends"

This is Part 3 in a multi-part blog post.  If you've stumbled across the page without reading Part 1, click the link below to go to Part 1.

As summer drew to a close, Max prepared to head to school at Ohio University in Athens with his older sister, Michele.  I felt apprehensive.  Ironically, I, now, didn’t want this preacher’s kid that I had sworn I was not going to like, or be friends with, to go.  I would be staying in my hometown at the local tech school that I had been attending.  I began to look for ways that I could stay connected to Jason and, through him, the other people that I had met.

As circumstances would have it, things would sort of take care of themselves.  It ended up that Max was still going to be working at the gas station on weekends.  It put a little bit of money in his pocket, and I think his parents liked the idea of him not being in the “party” atmosphere of O.U. every weekend. In order to stay more connected, I also figured that I could plan a few trips down to visit him and Michele.  They would be renting a house; so, I could crash with them while I was down there.

Since my classes ended on Thursdays, and weekends on most college campuses started on Thursdays, that seemed like the most logical night to come down, given that Max would be right back up on Saturday to work.  If I didn’t have to work that night, I would head down after my last class on Thursday.  As soon as I would arrive, we would head to the liquor store with Michele or their other roommate, Steve, who was also old enough to buy alcohol.

Given that Max and I were both 19, it just made more sense and less complicated for us to do all or most of our drinking at the house.  We would load up on beer or liquor there and then head uptown to see what was going on at the bars.  Max loved to shoot pool.  He would sometimes shoot a game or two.  Occasionally, Michele would be able to get us a couple of drinks or shots from the bar to fuel our buzz.  We generally went for shots so that they wouldn’t be in our hands long enough for anyone to realize we were drinking underage.

This would continue throughout the school year.  Occasionally, Max would request a weekend off from work so that he could focus on a test or a project for school.  When this happened, I would make plans to get some alcohol and hang out with some of my high school friends.  I was trying to make sure that I balanced myself between the two sets of friends.  For the guy who felt like a social outcast for most of his life, making sure that he split himself between two sets of friends was a nice situation to be in, but it made it difficult at times if I felt I was neglecting one group or the other.

Sometimes, one or both of Max’s brothers would accompany me down.  They were very divergent in personality.  Maurio was more of a “take action” type that was always up for whatever was going on and always wanted to be at the center of the action.  Marco was more reserved and analytical, sometimes even a bit critical.  He was the brake to Maurio’s gas.

I would sometimes still hang out with the whole group of Max’s friends on Sunday nights.  I was often at his parents’ house for various things such as holiday picnics and other things.  I was becoming more and more a part of the group.  Still, other than an occasional comment, not much was said about me going to church.  All in all, they were just really nice people, and I enjoyed being around them.  

Towards the end of the school year, Max began dating one of the girls that attended the church.  She was a few years younger than he was, and her name was Amber.  Amber’s dad did construction, and Max decided that he was going to go to work for him doing general labor.  It would pay him a lot more money.  He could save what he earned during the summer to carry him through the school year.  He put in his notice at the gas station, and he said that he would be leaving at the end of the school year.

Well, I saw that as another layer of separation in our friendship, and I didn’t want that.  Again, I began thinking through ways that we could stay connected.  Of course, I could still go visit him in Athens once he went back to school.  We could still go out to the bars and stuff, but Max was talking more and more about stopping drinking.  Amber didn’t like that he drank, and she was becoming more and more of a voice in his life.  Besides, even if I could still go visit him in the fall, what was I going to do right then.  He wasn’t going to be working with me all summer.  Where was I supposed to hang out with him?

Then, it hit me.  There was the church.  I still wasn’t sold on the whole religion thing, but, I’d gone to church as a child.  That hadn’t killed me.  I could go once a week or so.  It didn’t mean that I had to believe what they believed.  I didn’t have to believe anything at all.  I was just going to sit in a building once a week, and then, I’d go hang out with my friends.  What could possibly happen?

© Joshua Culbertson 2014

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