It has been a while. I haven’t felt this nervous and excited in years, I haven’t been together with the whole group in years, and I haven’t been back to the south this year. It’s a shame it takes a 20 year reunion to get all of us back together in the same physical place. I don’t know if it would have happened if Terry didn’t die too, it got all of us talking to each other again about the funeral. I guess her mom emailed Martin and Pat about going.
I love the six hour car ride to Raleigh. Between my current and past home there is mostly open road with nothing to look at. I usually nap or read a book. With events coming up my mind is racing thinking about “the old days” of the old crew, the Stefanos. I couldn’t concentrate on a book and I couldn’t sleep so I figured I would write in the car. I made it my new year’s resolution to journal every day, I’ve sucked at it so far. But back to the old days.
Even back in the beginning we looked at the current day as if we were in a future utopia. We called it Suttontown. We often recapped our times and would finish by saying “we had some good times in Suttontown”.
I never liked Terry and have a hard time pretending to care about this whole death situation. She objectively played a large role in my college years, but only because Pat was obsessed with her and her mom let us get drunk before we turned 21. She called me fat, made fun of me for not having more money, and only let me come over because of Pat. Fuck her, but..oh man..gone to soon. I suppose I need to start rehearsing. I really played up the respect at my last funeral, but it seemed like a lot of people were ok in jeans. I hope it’s one of those kinds of events.
I’m excited not just to see everyone, but to catch up on the past 20 years. As much as I couldn’t stand Terry, she wasn’t alone in ridiculing me. I played lacrosse with Tyler and Martin and they both called me “CT” short for chunky titties. Martin wouldn’t let a day go by without letting me know how stupid I was and would even crack an occasional epileptic joke. Tyler was just as stupid but he got laid, so he used that to hold over my head. That and he would drop frequent reminders of parties and new products he was getting, or I guess I should say that his dad would buy for him. Rob and Pat were both always decent people and still are. They just did not reciprocate the friendship in a way I thought equal. Everything was on their terms. Go to their house, do the things they want. Now I was recently promoted to DIrector of Strategy, I have an MBA from a top school, I lost all of the weight, and god damnit I have a hot wife. It may be vain, but I want to rub it in a little on how wrong they all were.
Despite the stresses I had a great time hanging out with all of them. I took the nicknames and ridicule in stride and would give it back when the time struck. Really, the best times were your typical bro-downs with a bunch of guys with no money, not on a college campus, and few friends outside of each other. Most often we would go to Terry’s house and get drunk. But we would also go to Tyler and Pat’s houses and just stay up all night and watch movies and eat snacks like we were 13 year olds. Oftentimes we would be assisted by Tyler’s prescription adderall — that was when things got really fun. Years later in polite conversation about the prescription drug epidemic, coworkers would bring up how they don’t know what the big deal is about adderall. I couldn’t help but to respond “it’s fucking awesome”.
Tyler, Pat, and I still have a chat going online but responses are sporadic and the conversations are never serious. Since the last election Tyler has deleted and readded me several times on social media. He came out and told me he thinks it is because I am making fun of him with Mae. I denied it and ripped into him about how I have better things to do. We apologized to each other and made up. The truth is Mae and I make fun of him all the time whether or not he is going to allow me to look at his profile or not. I do feel bad for it going so bad and I genuinely hate that I do this, but I don’t take serious things seriously, why would I take my friend’s misspelled conspiracy theories seriously? The truth is that I don’t know how to talk about it without making fun of him because I have never had a serious conversation about another person’s life. A better person might do an intervention or ask him what’s going on. I was not raised that way. I wouldn’t treat my own family that way.
There was a time when Tyler and I got along great and I would say he had better prospects than me. He was good looking, stylish, and was early enough in his college career that he could tell people he was going to major in engineering without having to prove knowledge, people just believed he must be smart if he is majoring in engineering! He had a great truck that plays very well in the south. It is on lift, big tires, always clean. Terry didn’t like him much either and he didn’t like Terry. However, there was some kind of mutual respect in that they each knew how to party and they each had that essential element that all 20 year olds desire, the ability to attract the opposite sex. At 20 this is what makes people accept you whether they actually like you or not, it is the card into the cool club.
I mostly blame Tyler for his own incompetence. In school he never worked. He stayed in community college with something like 20 credits for 8 years with the hope of eventually transferring. He got a job at the same hardware store as me and was fired after a couple of months for constantly screwing up and refusing to do things he didn’t like to do. Then he stayed unemployed for a while until he landed a job with his uncle doing construction. Talking to Tyler you would think he just got a job engineering with how good he said he was. It was a seasonal job and he didn’t keep it. He mentioned how the other guys complained about him and made fun of him and he would complain about them for not understanding him. Once his parents retired he stayed living with them and moved with them to the beach. He has a steady job now at a seafood market where he does general work. He seems to like it, although I don’t believe the pay is very good.
He talks about work a lot in the chat and Pat and I mostly respond with “cool” or “amazing” or some kind of sexual pun. That is really all Pat says to anything. He was always the de facto center of the group, but never really “the leader” of the group. He has a great house to meet at with lots of resources to have a fun night. He was a good looking guy and easy going so he got along with a lot of people and girls always liked him. He never really said anything though, he was never really that funny, smart, charismatic or even dependable. Just a nice, good looking guy with resources and a few common interests. He was obsessed with Terry when we were young. She was terrible to him and we were all almost positive she cheated on him. She offered him something other girls often do not, especially southern 20 year olds, she was willing to take control.
He grew up a lot but has kept those same tendencies. His mom made him join the Air Force when college was looking like a bust so he did. He met a girl and got married. She is a strong woman and is able to take the lead in the relationship which is exactly what he needed. For years they just traveled and did outdoor activities on her dime while he was taking online classes part time. Now he has a kid and the travel has stopped but the outdoor activities continue. He finished school and has something like a career job and he doesn’t like it. They are talking about having a second kid, homeschooling them both with him as the full time teacher, and travelling around. They are looking at becoming American Gypsies. This is a mindset I admire, can’t wrap my head around, and pity all at once. I love the idea of throwing out the rule book and living the life you want to live. I am sorry to see the lack of ambition and long term thinking because I feel like there will come a time when he wonders “what if”.
Rob is the most fun to hang out with now and probably the one I have the most respect for. He is also very frustrating. He shows a lot of promise in his managerial experience, his strategic thinking, and his ambition. However he falls short on execution on these in his life. He thinks short term. He would take a semester off to work then not work to go to school, but never both at the same time. He eventually dropped out because he was making decent money as a commercial kitchen chef. The issue is, it was decent money for his age and experience. He didn’t think what that lifestyle would be like at 50 or how far he could advance. He bought a brand new Mustang as an investment when we were 22 and kept his truck too. He thought it would be a collectors item, the truth is he is a car guy and he liked it. The last time I went to visit he showed me the two cars he just bought. He went in to buy one that he needed but thought he should get one for his wife too. This is all while in debt.
He is smart though. He has a strong business acumen without formal education. Many with a formal education have a weak business acumen. He is also the only one I still see a few times a year. When Mae and I go to Raleigh, we visit his house and play board games with him and his wife. He is good at them, something about watching a guy explain directions of a board game they have never played is one of the more impressive traits I have seen in a man. He may not be building a nuclear bomb or leading a team down the field with 2:00 to go, but it is an impressive feat of leadership.
The one I am most looking forward to seeing is Martin. Martin came from a very poor family with three brothers and sisters and he was embarrassed by them. You either hated or loved him. He lived with both Pat, myself, Terry, and a whole collection of others while we were in high school and college. He was wild to say the least. He had casual sex with many girls, partied often, knew a lot of people, and was one of the more charismatic 20 year olds one could imagine. He lived with Terry while Pat was dating her and in deep love with her. Martin and Pat were extremely close friends at the time too. We were all pretty sure Terry and Martin were having sex during this period of time but it could not be proven and we did not want to speak about it. Maybe we were wrong, but there was certainly a tension.
Martin eventually burned all of his bridges. He was kicked out of all of the houses he lived in, had bad breakups with the girls he slept with, and caused riffs within our circle of friends in which he brought together. The bridges were burned over time with different people so I don’t know exactly how it happened. I know I couldn’t take it anymore when we worked together at the hardware store. He would never brag, but he would let me know that he makes more than me, he thinks that cute girl is flirting with him, our boss just gave him a promotion. I would prefer bragging honestly, that way I have the right to be mad and he could be honest about what his endgame was.
Tyler always hated him. He always saw Martin as a threat and would say “I can get way more girls than Martin”. He called him all kinds of names, he was keen on calling him a faggot which even back then was not okay to do. Martin made fun of Tyler relentlessly for being stupid. I didn’t feel bad for Tyler at the time because he took some of the harassment away from me and honestly, I was not any smarter. They had no problem hanging out with each other though. They were both part of the same club, they could both attract the opposite sex so they had something to offer each other. They likely stopped talking once Pat joined the Air Force.
Rob always hated Martin too. Rob was fat like me, but smarter than all of us. He kept mostly to himself and did his own thing so he was not made fun of too much. He hated Martin because he was flashy and loud. It was the opposite of Rob’s lifestyle. Rob and Martin both came from poor, southern families. Rob embraced it, Martin ran from it.
Looking back I see that Martin hated his situation and he wanted out of it. He did it by any means necessary and he often just took it too far which is not surprising for a 20 year old. I kind of respect his hustle in retrospect. It was annoying, he was a dick, and he took things too far. The thing is, when you don’t know how to behave around people who seem to have it together there is a tendency to attack. I honestly believe he saw us as having it together because of our home lives. He was trying to live a higher quality life, people were there to help, he wanted better and he wanted us to be there and help. We all wanted better, to make it. We all wanted to be together. We just didn’t know that we wanted different versions of the Suttontown utopia.