Tuesday, April 22, 2003

A Surly Beginning

I wrote this almost exactly a year ago, but I still like it.

The scruffy, red-goateed kid looked quite comfortable upon his perch, a thick iron bar set in front of a side entrance to my high school like a giant blue horseshoe sticking up out of the cement. I had presumed the placement of the bar was to prevent any vehicles that might lose control in the adjacent parking lot from crashing in through the doors. I had less idea as to what purpose the corduroy-clad sophomore upon it might serve.
I sat in my usual lunching spot, a small patch of shade outside the door that was already dwindling as the sun crept ever-higher. The diligent sun was a firm reminder that the precious 35 minutes of freedom and sustenance I enjoyed in the middle of my daily sentence of droll scholastic study was dwindling away. The sun also served to chip away at my shade patch, forcing me closer and closer towards the outward-swinging door. At some point, I would be forced either to enter its swinging radius and risk being struck as soon as the next student with an early release anxiously hurtled through the door to freedom, or brave the delicious-but-deadly sunshine. It was autumn in Arizona, but the only thing dropping was my tolerance level for other people. The daily battle against sun-stroke and physical bodily harm was typical of a school day. If one were to suggest to me that I go inside and eat to avoid these things, I would coldly assure them that I was aware of this solution, but doing so would bring a far greater accompaniment of problems.
The stress involved in enjoying a quiet repast can be considerable.
All of these conditions made me wary about the stranger invading my little corner of habit and routine. I resolved to avoid eye-contact and pretend to be completely engrossed in my cafeteria-supplied lunch, which consisted of some ambiguous breaded meat, limp french fries, and an equally questionable fruit cup. The unkempt youngster hovering ominously above had no such discipline of etiquette. He ejaculated a cheery "Hello!", and thus began my torment.
I do not recall the exact content of our conversation. It dealt mostly with trivial matters from which I gleaned nothing of the boy's past or political leanings. I did not offer my name, nor he his. I was irritated by the apparent ease and familiarity in his voice. I found it somewhat offensive. I would certainly never take such liberty in assuming such a �buddy-o-pal� tone with a complete stranger. I spoke as levelly and as formally as my growing dislike of the boy would allow. I wolfed down the last of my fries, then gulped down the fruit cup like a shot of unsalted tequila. Finding the napkins inadequate at cleaning off the grainy ketchup remaining on my fingers, I muttered something about going to wash my hands and excused myself. Safely in the restroom, I rejoiced in my undisturbed quiet for all of 30 seconds until a bell resounded through the school, heralding the eminent return to the drudgery of academia.
These events took place almost four years ago. From the rocky ground of our first meeting a friendship grew, and surprisingly, has flourished to this day. He is still an un-refined boy, as I believe he will always be even if in man-form. This characteristic, at first highly irritating, went hand-in-hand with my own refusal to accept any responsibility whatsoever for anything. We were also both involved in theatre at the Mountain Pointe and excelled in improvisational comedy. Around our junior year we also began drinking heavily. All of these factors helped congeal our friendship into a quivering goo that has withstood the test of time, although it does tend to get runny whenever it gets above room temperature.
We have worked together on shows. We have constructed ghetto robots. Countless liquor bottles have met an untimely demise at our hands. Along with Alan Schuler, we have been declared Best Comic Trio. We have seen each other naked (far too) many times. We had been unofficial roommates back when I had my apartment and he was over so often he became universally known as, "the couch guy." I know him as Matt Summerfield, aka "Surly" due to his bouts of assholicness. I laugh at this nickname, since I will always remember how friendly he was the first time I met him, and how I foolishly risked not making a great friend by being overly "surly" myself. It would have been a tragic loss, although I do not think either of our livers would have greatly missed the other. But I can honestly say that I will take that scruffy, no-good Matt Summerfield over any healthy, fully-functioning organ. As long as it isn't one of the vital ones, of course.