Best Men

I almost had my heart broken and I didn't even see it coming. My best friend, Tim, is getting married. The man that made a bone mountain of chicken wings with me while playing Baldur's Gate 'til dawn is going to be someone's husband. I'm glad no one has ever paid me to predict the future, cause I would have blown this one hard. Truth is, Tim is a genuinely unselfish creative genius and deserves Helen of Troy. And he has his; there is some justice in the world.

I got a call a few weeks back with the big news. The words hit me like a soccer ball in the stomach. How could something inevitable be so shocking? They've been living together for a year and dating (uninterruptedly, mind you) for a several more. This is what people do. Still, I couldn't get my head around it. Struggling to stow my deeply rooted feelings against marriage, I congratulated him like you're supposed to do. Doubt, concern, and disbelief were kicking over tables in my head.

Then he said, "I want you to be my best man." It was as if he froze a shaken snow globe. Calm and peace had quietly begun dusting off the tablecloths and picking up the dinnerware. Soon there was no sign of my mental tantrum. Inexplicably I was on board. "Yes," I said. "Absolutely. I'd be honored." And I meant it.

It's amazing how much easier it is to love something when you participate. Everything looks shitty from the sidelines; the game is a lost cause and every play a train wreck. Grass feels better under your feet. It feels better than the bench. Next year I am going to help marry my best friend. I get to wear a uniform and everything. Whatever my feelings toward marriage are, I will always be able to get behind an epic celebration of my friends. I'm already working on my toast.

Soon after our phone call, an idea hit me that would have terrified me had I thought of it before. What if Tim hadn't asked me to be his best man? Thankfully the question is now moot, but it got me thinking. Had he asked any of the half-dozen other qualified men in his life, I couldn't hold it against him. There were men who were in his life before me and those who are more relevant to his life now. Two thousand miles separate us for God's sake. Not being asked to be his best man would have crushed me; I never would have recovered. Staring up at the man standing next to Tim, sitting in those god-awful unpadded chairs, I would have lost it.

As boys we try to make our fathers proud. As young men, our friends are family. Tim has scolded me as a father and hugged me like a mother. Tim is my brother. He's part of my little broken family. I'm proud to have grown into the kind of man that Tim would ask to be his best man. It makes me feel like I've done something right in my life. No matter what I've done wrong, I did this thing right. It fills me with a sense of worth and belonging.    

He asked me, and I said yes. He chose me to stand by his side as he embarks on his adventure. He chose me. Tim, I'll stand by your side until the end. To cry with you in tragedy and to celebrate with you in triumph, we will grow old together.

I love you, Buddy.