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Eric Engel

United we stand

I always tell people that Kyle and I reached for the same bottle of glue the first day of kindergarten. It may sound cliche to some on the streets who have not felt the benefits of a friendship that has lasted most of their life, but it doesn’t to me. It is an experience that has had a key role in shaping the fundamental elements of my persona. It is a vessel on the sea upon which I have always found buoyancy. It is a word that I have used often due to the consistency of its definition. It’s a friendship I would not hand over for every penny on the planet.

Kyle and I grew up in the yard, launching Hail Mary’s through the recesses of grade school playgrounds. We found the streets through many jam sessions on the hind quarters of the school bus as it rumbled down the country roads. We blared KISS and Black Sabbath records up in his room and would count the stars as we laid flat on our backs on the deck at my parents’ house. We’d speak of girls and goals, our hopes and our frustrations, the rules meant to be kept and those meant to be broken. We were inseparable but for the mandates of two unique perspectives.

We grew, and so did our ambitions. We polished off high school with as much debris flying from our plates as was allowed, and then some, and we moved forward to our adult lives with our heads in the clouds and our noses fresh above the many scents of the earth. Kyle started a band, and I began writing for the newspaper. As can only be hoped for, we both expanded in our philosophies and priorities, making for ourselves comfortable surroundings. The fact that those surroundings were not identical increased our respect for each other rather than diminishing it.

When I left for Arizona, our mutual excitement for the adventure was sky high, but he missed my wild blaze of eyeball as it burned out of the laughing grin of the jester’s cleverness, and I missed his mountain to be climbed upon each time I needed a word to echo the logic of sturdy footholds throughout the amphitheater of my atmosphere. We grew like two stallions who had once been free between the forest fingers but now found a row of fence posts dividing the pasture into this strip, and that. I sacrificed the daily extension of my ears in his direction, and he sacrificed the longing of a brother in arms for the recognition that spirits find themselves within the wind, wherever it may be blowing. It was tough on us both.

When I came back home, he was the first one to know about it. We reaffirmed our “lifers” label as naturally as any suggestion can be presented or accepted because we have always known that what we share does not rely on time or space for survival, like weeds without a prayer next to the roots of those forest fingers.

He met a gal, and she was his fancy. I could hear it in his voice. On the road to a concert one afternoon, he told me he had found one of those stars we used to search for, said he was going to hold onto it. I was as excited that moment as I used to be when we’d catch a match head dragging across midnight for a momentary light.

They decided upon Mexico, and I had no complaints. In truth, I had a few, but my stretch toward him does not allow for judgment or animosity in that I’m too busy making certain that his exposure to me leaves him comfortable and energized. The month finally arrived, and the anticipation for the trip burned holes in the pockets of my pants, as I seemed to lose all otherwise. The moment arrived, and I ran across the sand to a view shoulder to that I’d never had up to that point, and will not again as long as I live.

The streams rolled down my cheeks, and the cheeks of the groomsman beside me because Kyle has always been one of our great friends. They were not tears of anger or frustration, but fountains of fulfillment and finality as we watched our brother during his flight into the ocean. The beach was left behind, and we the team became one unit stronger, one star brighter.

That I know what it means to have a friend, and to be one, I only have to think of you. I am proud to have a man of your character in my company, and I rely on you now as I did when we were children and as I will when we are fathers. It is not the view above you or below you that I confide in, but the one beside you. The flesh of your bark is the freshest my forest leaves have ever sensed amongst their branches. Run free, oh stallion, and find how deep the ocean goes. Our pasture will always be seen in shades of green, with the gates blown wide open.

Congratulations to Kyle and Ashli Fisher. A friend could not ask for better.

Eric Engel, formerly of Tiskilwa but now of Peoria, can be reached by e-mail at eazywritin84@yahoo.com.