He walked into the bar at the Magnolia Hotel in Omaha Nebraska and I hadn’t seen him since 1992. He was my best friend for a year. And then I was the first to quit our pursuit. I left the seminary in December and he left at the end of the year and like combat casualties, we avoided the battlefields: we left the friendship and we left The Church.
One awkward reunion in 1992. A supper shared of trivial conversations and avoided topics and all buffered by our dinner companion: my brother. And then silence.
But I missed him and finding out my heart was broken made it necessary to see him and say a hello and a goodbye. And so he walked into the bar at the Magnolia Hotel and I stopped the tears from skiing down my cheeks and I stood and met him. I smelled the cigarette as soon as my arms reached around him for a hug. I pulled back and said, “You sonofabitch! You started me on Camels!” I remembered. We laughed. And then I said, “I’m tempted to lick your face. I so miss nicotine!” He laughed as we walked to the stools. “Jesus Christ Trost, you haven’t changed a bit!” The ice was broken; we could be our us.
Drinks. Foods. Banter. Caught up with catching up. And then substance. “So are you still Catholic?” Real. Raw. “With a capital R,” I said. “Are you?” “A small c,” he replied. And then the kind of conversation I crave. All about honor and manhood and goodness and careless and sins and souls and God and failures. And I sat back in the chair and I started to cry. No one but God knew I cried. But, I cried.
I’ve wasted so many of my last moments having conversations about nothings and lesses and commons and chatter. Why have I become so content living without content? Why have I allowed myself to skim?
And I’m not talking about “fellowship.” I hate shit like that. People sitting around congratulating themselves on accepting their failures. “I’ve realized I’m flawed but I’ve offered it up to Jesus!” Oh Christ. Bullshit. Challenge to change & amend or shut up. Theology is not about acceptance; it’s about ascension. Baptismal water is for cleansing not floating.
I loved seeing him. He didn’t disappoint me. He reminded me. He reminded me of my theological passion. He reminded me of my uncompromising values. He reminded me that the man I was remains and the memory of who I became will be my legacy. A good weekend.
I have no ending here. Maybe there isn’t an ending. I’m seeing everything so finite now. Maybe life isn’t a noun. Maybe death is a verb. I’ll think about it and ask my friend for his opinion.