“I broke my ankle”, L. said in one of the first texts I got. As witty as I always try to be, I replied “Bummer, I just wanted to ask you to join me running a little track on Monday”. “Running? You? With that leg of yours? I want to see that before I believe it”. So I sent him a picture of me, arriving at the finish of a six mile (ten kilometers) run. But then, I realised, it has been more than eight years, we spoke.
Eight years went by. Last time I spoke to L. was in 2013. I’ve mentioned L. in one of my other stories as “my other friend”. I don’t want to publish his name, so I just call him L. The last time, I saw L. was when he visited me and my wife, while we were living in a rented house, in a city about 14 miles from where we live now.
The shared house
That house was built to a group of elderly people, but when the houses were finished, only half of the group was able to move. So, the landlord decided to find new tenants — and I was one of them. The houses were built in a circle, and in the middle of it was a shared building, containing a bathroom and a bedroom. Every tenant could book the shared building for about $10.00 a night. So, when L. decided to travel from Holland to Denmark, and stay here a few nights, he easily could sleep in the shared building. In my opinion, then, I should be able to provide for him, so I suggested to my wife, we just would pay for the house. My wife asked why we should do that — if he should sleep at a hotel, he also should pay for himself. I didn’t agree. So I just gave L. a couple of bucks, so he could pay us, and we could pay the rent. Lying to my wife obviously wasn’t a problem for me, then.
I do not remember much of L. from that visit. That is not his fault. It has nothing to do with the fact, he was using his medication, and felt a bit dull — however, that is one of the few things I remember. The fact that I don’t remember much of the visit, is because I was living a double life.
L. isn’t my childhood friend, however it feels like I’ve been knowing him all my life. I think I must’ve been 18, when I met L. for the first time. Actually, I met him through another friend, who I met through a former classmate, who wanted to buy a computer in my company (sounds very twisty, doesn’t it?). And neither of them are my friends now. Not that they are my enemies, or something like that. We simply lost contact. But somehow, L. and I have been good friends since I was an adolescent.
I was against drugs, but enabling didn’t seem to be a problem to me
As I told before, L. wanted to reconnect after we had our debacle as a result of a bad holiday in France. And ever since, I have seen L. as a very good friend. However, we had our controverses. L. was very happy about smoking pot, which I despised. Even though I was a pro-smoker (yes, I find it difficult to admit that), I never wanted to smoke pot. I tried once, and found it disgusting, and never touched a joint again. Long live hypocrisy.
The year after our catestrophal holiday to France, I convinced L. to take on a trip to Denmark with me. I remember, we were about 35 miles before the German-Danish boarder, when he suddenly took something out of his bag, and said: “Look, Albert, what I got here!” And he showed me four marijuhana joints. I was astonished, negatively, and nearly shouted: “Are you crazy? That is totally forbidden in Denmark”. As you might know, it is not really forbidden in Holland. Fortunately, we weren’t caught. He smoked his pot all by himself, if I remember well. At least, I didn’t smoked it. But as long as I remember, L. was very happy about drugs. But enabling it wasn’t something of my concern. I didn’t care, obviously.
The most lame advice anyone can get
In the meanwhile, I moved to Denmark. The distance between Holland and Denmark didn’t make it easier to maintain regularly contact, so we only had contact by phone, mail, text and very rarily in real life. I can’t say I was there for him when he and his fiancée split up. I even wasn’t able to support him properly when one of his friends died while sleeping in his house. And I wasn’t there for him, when he began to take stronger stuff than marijuhana. I didn’t see him gliding down the slide of doom. He told me something about being hospitalized and getting meds, but they were making him dull, so he wasn’t very keen with it. But somehow, I wasn’t the friend I actually should be, because I didn’t want to interfere, help, support, and listen. Perhaps because I always thought L. was much more clever than I was: he had finished VWO (the highest level at high school in Holland), which I aimed for, too, but I ended up at the LEAO (one of the lowest levels). L. had a great job as a highly qualified IT engineer, I was just trying to build up my little computer selling point. So, I felt, I wasn’t in the position to talk to L. about his addiction. Even not when he visited me in 2013, and he expressed his considerations on stopping with the meds, since they made him dull. I just said: “You must do what is the best for you”. The most lame advice anyone can get.
Not very long after he visited me in Denmark, I lost contact. No answers on my texts, no replies to my emails, and even if I rang him, there was no reaction: the phone was disconnected. I googled him, and he seemed to have left all the social media. I found a website of a realtor, with pictures of his house: all empty, and the house for sale.
I called his parents, because I was a bit concerned. His dad told me: L. is in prison. “What the f*** do you mean? In prison? What’s he done?” Whether his father was truthful or not, I never found out. But, according to his dad, L. had attacked him with an axe, set fire to cars, and made a lot of other crazy stuff (whatever that means).
Actually, I didn’t believe his father. The relationship between L. and his dad always had been troubled. But R., L.’s dad, told me he loved L. and was proud of him, despite what he had done.
R. and I kept contact a few months, but suddenly R. stopped replying. So I went to Google again, and somehow I found an e-mail address of M., L.’s baby sister. And I began writing to her. And that gave me a bit more nuanced picture of the situation. I never got an explicit story of what happened, but I learned, that L. was in a clinic, ordered by a judge. He had some severe brain damages as a result of drug abuse, and he probably never will be normal again. Normal as in “like he used to be, before he got addicted”. But with time and good care, his situation might be copable, M. said. I kept a little contact with M. Mostly around L.’s birthday when I just sent a little greeting to him. Not sure he ever got the greeting, but that isn’t important. All I wanted is L. in future could think of me as the friend, who never left. Egoistic, I know, but I always wanted him to know, some day, I never forgot him. Like in “Old and wise” of The Alan Parson’s Project
And someday in the midst of time
When they asked me if I knew you
I’d smile and say you were a friend of mine
And the sadness would be lifted from my eyes
A week ago, I suddenly got an e-mail from M. She asked about my phone number on which I could receive text messages. I only give my number to family and very good friends. So, no doubt, L. should have my number. And then, a few days ago, I got a text message from L. When I asked him how he was doing, he told me he broke his ankle. We’ve been sending a handful of messages back and forth. It’s not going fast. That isn’t necessary either. Even though we have a lot to talk about. But that will come. But I am very happy, I am having direct contact to L. I have been missing my friend. And from now on, I will be there for him.
I realized, L. hasn’t been a part of my life in some time. In the last 8, 9 years, I’ve been experiencing a lot. When we lost contact, I was disabled. I was using crutches and a wheelchair. I had a special parking license for disabled people. I was cheating on my wife. I was smoking. I was a Christian. I was lying to myself and to the world. I was an asshole. That is the Albert, L. knows.
To L. and the rest of the world
L., I love you, you are my friend. If you need me, I’ll be there to listen, to support you, to comfort you.
To the rest of the world: The rest of the story about L. and me isn’t very interesting, at least not for others. But in one of my next articles, I will write about the things in my life, L. has been missing out.