Tim turns 24 in less than a week. I’ve spent the past three years driving him up the wall.
Last Friday was déjà vu for all parties involved. We were at Tim’s house waiting for our friends to arrive and making small talk. Tim had poured himself a glass of bourbon, and I kept myself busy scrolling through his Spotify playlists, adding rap songs he’d hate. I knew he’d hate them because I asked him how he felt about each song, and, after being told that he disliked them, I added them onto the party playlist. Tim got his buzz on and I pretended to be doing no harm.
“Well, to be honest,” uttered Tim while presenting his argument for why Liverpool’s transfer targer, Adam Lallana, wasn’t worth the thirty million-pound fee. I swiveled around in the office chair I sat in and faced him, standing there with his eyes closed, a glass in his right hand and his left index finger rubbing his temple. I could tell he knew what was coming from the way he kept his jaws clenched. A tight-lipped smile spread across my face.
“What, you were lying to me this entire time up to this point?” I tried my best to not let my teeth show, but I wasn’t doing a good job. I snorted.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Hans.” Hook, line, and sinker. “You know damn well what I meant.” Tim takes personal offense that I point out the idiosyncrasies of English idioms, especially when he’s using them. Tim argues that they make spoken language more colorful. I argue that they’re stupid fillers.
“That it’s a stupid filler?”
“One: no. Two: I know what you’re doing. You’re baiting me into one of your bullshit arguments again, and I’m not havin’ it. Because at the end of the day—“
“At the end of my day, I like to lay down, rub one out, and drift off into dreamless sleep.”
Tim shook his head, knocked it back along with the glass of bourbon, and sat down in a creaky, wooden chair next him. I began to laugh.
“I thoroughly regret the decision to let you onto Manchestnutstreet United,” he sighed and proceeded to pour me a glass.
Tim captained Manchestnutstreet United, our co-ed intramural soccer team. I joined freshman year when my co-worker at the dorm cafe mentioned that I played soccer to one of her sorority sisters who was on Manchestnutstreet. I got the call-up shortly after, which meant being CC’d onto Tim’s weekly e-mails.
“First, a very warm welcome indeed to our two new teammates, Hans and Carlie. May you be less bad than we are,” read the first of Tim’s e-mails. “Congrats on being undefeated thus far guys!”
Three sentences in, I was sold. We met in front of the Franklin Statue on College Green as he had instructed in the e-mail.
Tim has gained around twenty pounds of muscle since the first time I met him, but his awkward gait has never changed throughout the years. Tim, arriving fashionably late and swinging his gangly limbs like he was still figuring out how to walk, greeted everyone with a big smile, white shorts, and a Dartmouth long-sleeved t-shirt. I learned later that his mom is a Big Green alumnus.
“Hey, man. You’re Hans, right?” He stuck his hand out. I shifted my gaze from his feet, which I thought were pretty small, to his unshaved, scraggily bearded face and introduced myself. “Let’s get going, shall we? Sorry I was late, you all know I’m usually good at being on time.”
Actually, Tim is late to everything. Despite having introduced me to Fadó, the rowdy, poorly lit Irish pub on 15th and Locust where I became a Liverpool fan, Tim arrives at least five minutes late on match days. The three most common texts I receive from Tim are, in no particular order, “what r you up to,” “ye,” and “hey im running late save me a seat.” If he specifies how late he will be, I take that number and multiply it by two and a half – the result is how late he really is. This is known as Tim’s 1st Law.
Tim’s 2nd Law stipulates that, the more soccer there is, the better everything becomes. We’ve played at least thirty games together, and we’ve watched somewhere around that number of matches as well. He’s gone through three cleats since I’ve known him, but I’ve had the same one for the past three years. We’ve played on intramural teams like Manchestnutstreet United and John Terry’s Mistresses, as well as on countless pick-up teams, but we’ve always rooted for the Merseyside Reds inside the cozy Irish pub downtown.
Even Tim’s upcoming birthday plans revolve around soccer. I received a message on Facebook from Tim several days ago.
“we’re going to watch england italy. that’s a demand. a birthday demand,” read the message, “because i’m a motherfucking princess.”
The times soccer wasn’t directly or indirectly involved in our friendship can be counted on one hand. The one that sticks out the most was when Tim visited Berlin while I was studying abroad last summer. It was one of the stops of his post-graduation Euro trip.
“Remember Berlin?” I asked Tim. He had slumped in his chair enjoying his second glass. Our friends were late, but we were used to it.
“Remember it? Yeah, I remember it.” Tim stretched his arms out in front of him, flexing his shoulders under his faded, navy blue t-shirt. He chuckled, “Berlin – noch ein mal, bitte!”
The first night Tim arrived in Berlin, we went out to Alexanderplatz with my classmates. Alexanderplatz, the former capital of East Germany, lacked the grungy hipness of Kreuzberg, but that didn’t mean there weren’t shady clubs and Jäger-serving bars playing house music into the morning. We came back to my dorm smelling of booze and wearing wristbands from various establishments.
“Oh, fuck,” I mumbled, “the bed, dude. It’s fuckin’ small as fuck.” Tim swayed, keeping his eyes fixed on the bed. After a couple of seconds of standing around, what I had said registered in his head.
“How, uh, shit,” he garbled.
“How about I sleep on the floor? You know, just put the blanket down and–”
“No, no, we’re not putting my damn blankets on the damn floor, fuck that shit.” I began to strip down into my boxers. “Just, I’ll, like, lie down on one edge, and you can lie down on the other edge, and we’ll just sleep like that.” Tim grunted, and I got on the bed. After fumbling out of his clothes, Tim laid down next to me, our backs facing each other. Birds could be heard outside, muted from the trickling rain that would continue through that night. I began to snicker.
“Tha fuck’s so funny,” Tim groaned. “I’m gonna be hungover after this shit. Let me sleep.” I flipped over to face Tim’s back.
“Heeeey, sexy lady,” I said in as deep of a voice as I could muster without breaking out into laughter, “Am I gon’ havta be tha big spoon… or tha lil’ spoon tonight?” There was a brief silence in the room.
“Remind me,” Tim began, although I could detect the smile in his voice, “to never… sleep in the same fucking bed as you, ever.” We laughed for half a minute, finally fell asleep, and Tim woke up with a bad hangover. It was those moments – of trying, and failing, to pick up girls from Hamburg; of asking for Waffen, weapons,instead of Waffeln, waffles,at a café; of getting lost in the city at five in the morning with no map and only döners in ours hands – that cracked us up on a daily basis for the duration of the ten days Tim was in Berlin.
Back at Tim’s house where we sat, still alone, Tim bobbled his head around, probably thinking about the Berlin Mauer, the U-Bahn rides, and those college girls from Hamburg.
I watched him put his glass of bourbon down, one hand on his own crotch as all men are prone to do, and scratch the stubble on his chin. He noticed that I was staring, and asked what I was thinking. The doorbell rang, and I shrugged it off and told him it was nothing in particular. Tim got up to let our friends in.
I was thinking, Tim, that people come and go, but rarely do they stay. My best friend from home gradually stopped talking to me right around winter break, and I’m not even mad because I know friendships don’t always last forever. I move, you move, I might get a crazy girlfriend, you’ll end up having wonderful children, and we might just be left with crummy memories of how beautiful everything was in college. Things change, and we change.
I heard Tim greet our friends by referring to them as wankers. The door slammed shut, but they continued to banter in front of the entrance.
And I hope we stay in touch, but maybe we won’t. And I hope I’ll be at your wedding to hit on your relatives, but this sentence may become sad and pathetic in five years. Life’s weird, man. Weirder than trying to squeeze two dudes onto a single-sized bed in a rank, Berlin Wohnheim.
The floors of the house creaked as they all approached.
You’re almost 24. Twenty-fucking-four. I got to harass you for three of those precious twenty-four years. Shouldn’t I get a lifetime achievement award for that?
Tim, carrying a thirty-pack of National Bohemian in his hands, walked in with our friends into the living room.
Good luck working at IBM. You’re now an international business machine. Which makes you a WASP-y version of the Terminator, I think.
“Are ye ready, ye fookin’ wankstain?” Tim asked, walking up to where I sat.
I think about our friendship – a lot. My thoughts are usually a jumbled-up mess.
I laughed and asked what drinking game we were playing tonight, even though I didn’t really care what we played.
So let me start with, “Thanks.” And let me finish with, “Your feet are tiny.”