I miss him more than I can express. Through all the long years, though all the silent spells and the distance, there was always a chance of reconnection. I don't know that there is now.
We met when I was about 14, and he a year older. We were junior councilors at a bible camp. The staff was small, so we few became fast friends for the four or five summers we worked at the camp.
He moved to Denver before me. And I knew he was having a rough time of it. He often couldn't afford a phone, and this was before it was easy to access the internet. We found one another after I came to the area for university. He would occasionally sit in on a class or two.
Our conversations were always intriguing. He was crass, not at all PC and an aspiring comedian. However, his intelligence really knew no bounds. He may not have done well in school, but he knew how to think. We would have conversations about religion, politics and other random things. Many overhearing us might surmise we were on drugs, but we never did that together. He was almost uncomfortably touchy in the beginning. But it was okay with me.
Things began to change toward the end of my undergrad. He was attending a Messianic synagogue, and I was dabbling in queerness. We were finding ourselves.
I came out to him shortly after I graduated. He took it well enough. I don't know if he was surprised or not, but he didn't leave me. He was against all of it because of his beliefs, but it didn't really change our relationship. We had many more deep conversations regarding my transition and how I felt about religion and the like. There was never a question of whether or not we'd still be friends.
He was Messianic for some time, studying and truly trying to fit his life into the structure of religion. He ended up abandoning all pretense of Christianity and decided to take the plunge and convert to Hasidic Judaism.
Essentially, he had to come out to his friends and family as a "non-believer", which is a big deal. Of course it was no sweat for me to accept, as I didn't really have a religious stance. But many of his friends abandoned him because of his decision. Many condemned him for remaining friends with me.
Throughout all this time, we never really saw much of each other. Each of us was busy working and socializing. I was in a relationship and working out the effects of testosterone. He was studying and absorbing all sorts of texts pertaining to conversion. Occasionally, his phone wouldn't work.
But we made sure to grab a beer every now and then. Catch up. Chat.
Things did change. He stopped touching people. It was a religious thing, men weren't supposed to touch women, and apparently I still counted. I respected his uncertainty. But I miss those hugs.
He realized that in order to fully convert, he'd have to leave Denver. He had his tattoos removed. He stayed on the Western Slope with his mom for a few months to save money, then he moved to New York.
Earlier this year, one of my oldest friends left without saying goodbye.
I realize it was probably easiest to do that. To take the plunge and never look back. That doesn't stop me from missing him.