I am in Colorado, watching my oldest friend die.
We were fifteen when we met, at an eastern boarding school. We were quickly best friends who talked about everything. We had feelings and opened up about them. Perhaps other kids at that school were telling their secrets to someone, but I never saw any evidence of it. We talked about girls and sports and girls and our families and girls and where we were going to go to college, what we wanted and what we were afraid of.
In college, during summer vacations, we worked grinding jobs in New York City, we went to France and rode around on underpowered Mobylettes, we took our first canoe trip down the Allagash in northern Maine.
We’ve had a thousand adventures since. We traveled to Greece, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Barry quit his teaching job and started to build houses in Boulder, and from him I learned construction, and later built houses myself. We canoed the Green River (three times), the Colorado, the Rio Grande, the Pecos, the North Platte, the White, the Belle Fouche and that perfect little river, the Niobrara. A few paragraphs like this cannot begin to cover our history. We’ve known each other for 55 years, and now he is dying.
When he goes, a huge piece of my life will feel inaccessible. The years of my adolescence, especially, because the only one who really knew me then was Barry. My parents knew something—but they are now both dead. My brother was four years younger and in a different world. Barry is the one I shared those vulnerable years with, he was the one I talked to. Year after year, every time we got together we talked about Deerfield Academy and what it was like to go through adolescence there, a passage that overwhelmed us, but which seemed to be a topic no one ever addressed: the near-insanity of desire and confusion, our attraction to girls who who seemed foreign to us, exalted, devastating in their beauty and power. Only Barry knows me from those years, and without him to talk to a whole piece of my life will fall off a cliff.
His ashes will be buried in a small Colorado cemetery, and the rest of us will try to go on with our lives.