None of my close friends from high school left Georgia for college. I can still see Ira's arm undulating like a sine wave out of the window of his early '90s, light blue Honda. I was driving behind him in an '87 Cutlass, probably leaving IHOP or Waffle House or wherever suburban boys go in the last days of summer. It would be the last time I saw him and our group of friends before leaving for Philadelphia, and the moment felt large. I felt tiny in that cushy, grey felt driver's seat.
Someone special was supposed to see me off the next morning, but she never came. I sat in the passenger seat as my father headed up I-85, and I cried a certain cry that has rarely come out since. With seven years of hindsight, I don't think it was exactly about her. I was putting a lot of faith in a new place, and there was no way to know what would happen. I had an idea of Philadelphia, of college, and that idea was supposed to be bigger than her, bigger than home. This was growing up.
Throughout my years in college, I would be back for breaks, back for a few summers. I didn't speak to my friends from home much while I was away, but I knew they were there. They would know what day I was coming back, and we'd all get together at IHOP of Waffle House or wherever suburban boys go when they have words to say. I always ordered sweet tea.
Before I left for Japan, I spent a few months back in Atlanta. Friends had graduated, gotten jobs, and were living their lives. Two good friends were now roommates, and I spent much of my time at their apartment. We were 18 again.
I expected nothing different when I came back from Japan.
My friend Lauren recently asked if I thought someone's significant other should also be his/her best friend. I definitely think so, but I also think there are intangibles that come from having another close friend of the same gender.
I mention this because every close male friend I have in Georgia got into a serious, committed relationship while I was in Japan. I couldn't be happier for them, but I could be less bored. I could feel more necessary. So is this growing up?
For the sake of brevity, I'll limit this to the curious case of Architect Ira. This man has it all. Seeing as he is an architect, he works a lot. He also lives with his girlfriend. But as far as I know, that is what he does. He architects and he lives with his girlfriend. I managed to steal him one day for lunch, and I felt like he hadn't laughed that much in years. I could have told him a chicken crossing the road joke, and the chicken and rice he was eating still would have fallen out of his mouth.
I admit that I'm being selfish. And maybe his girlfriend (who I know and like) is all that he needs. But is this growing up? I don't know. Show me that undulating arm. Give me the humid, mosquito summer. The Cutlass has long been scrapped, but let's go for a ride.