Alphabetically, D is close to H

"You Will Hate This Tape" VI-III
One of my childhood heroes and best friends is a singer/songwriter. We played in our first band together.  He taught me how to play bass and made me my first mix-tapes. They had hand-drawn covers and used Xs instead of periods. They were where I discovered punk rock and ended my radio-listening days.

Now I see him once every couple years, but when I was sixteen he forgot my birthday. Forgot is a strong word. For him to forget I would have had to tell him when my birthday was. This was pre-Facebook. Hell, he didn't even own a computer. No one knew when my birthday was. At our band practice, I brought him a piece of my birthday cake out of the fridge. This memory really sticks with me. Even after all these years, it's still vivid.

I shamed him. It was young and cruel, and seemingly inexplicable. He was one of maybe five people who liked me. I guess I had always wanted someone to throw me a surprise birthday party and he disappointed an expectation that had no business being hoisted on him. Ten years later I still feel bad about this. It puts a pit in my stomach.

Teen years were rough on me. I suffered the teen years without tranquilizing comfort of alcohol. Wanted to make it on my own; the results were mixed. I imagine it was shit like the birthday stunt that put off my friend heralded our inevitable falling out.

Losing him was devastating and drawn out. The harder I tried, the more he pulled away. The more I tailored who I was to impress him, the less he wanted to be around me. He liked me for me and the more I tried to pretend to be like him, the less he liked me; that is, the cheap version of him.

It's been over ten years since I played in bands with him. I moved away from our hometown and live halfway across the country. And yet,  every year on my birthday, he calls me. Never forgets. In fact, he is one of the only ones who does. I almost cry every time. The rest of the year I listen to his songs and it reminds me that we owe our friends our best. The man that I am now isn't recognizable without him. I owed him better. When I put them on, it's not the great songs with intensely personal and brilliant lyrics I hear--which they are-- but my friend. And I imagine he's singing to me.

I don't know if I could have handled being a teenager in any other way. I did what I did, but his yearly calls help harden the concrete promise I've made to never lose another friend to my own insecurities and bullshit. You have to lose things to learn things. And I've lost plenty.

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