We met at the beginning of my eight grade year. Both of us were nerds. Outcasts. Our friendship seemed like the most natural of selections.
He was sitting alone in the Cedarcrest cafeteria at a table in the corner closest to the doors that exited to the courtyard. He was reading comic books but there was nowhere else for me to sit. So I sat. He said "hey" but didn't look up from his reading. At that moment, I felt like a loser, sitting at the table reserved for the rejects. What I didn't realize was the kid sitting across from me, dressed completely in black, and nose buried in a Wolverine comic would become one of the best friends I would ever know.
Outside of Saturday morning cartoons and reruns of Adam West’s Batman, this kid was my introduction to superheroes. My parents wouldn't buy comic books so I read whatever he brought to school. Wolverine. The Dark Knight. Ghost Rider. Punisher. Spawn. Silver Surfer. The Watchmen. Occasionally the X-Men. He was drawn toward the anti-hero, so they were the first comics I ever read.
We spent the year talking about these characters and geeking out over their exploits. Every day during lunch. Then we would both head off to our classes ready to resume the geekery the following day.
The next year, he was gone. Due to some health issues, he missed both semesters. We didn't see each other until my sophomore year. I was surprised to see him in the drama club and we reconnected as if we hadn't lost contact since junior high. A couple years older, the topics of our conversations widened. He was still a comic book geek, but we added shared interests in music and movies to our discussions. We were both crazy about a girl. Two different girls who shared the same name: Heather. The first time the two of us hung out together outside of school was to watch Heathers - the 1988 movie starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. It seemed appropriate considering where we were at during that phase of our lives.
As we got older, our conversations gained depth. We began talking more and more about life and God and girls. Then we began talking about our hopes and fears. We talked as teenagers about our dreams while the whole world still laid out before us and anything was possible.
By the time we graduated high school, we were spending nearly every weekend together. Eating at Taco Bell. Going to the movie theater. People watching at the Everett Mall. Playing video games. Playing poker at a mutual friend's apartment. Or debating philosophy at midnight out in the middle of nowhere under a sea of stars. He helped me get a job at the record store where he worked and we began hanging out on a daily basis surrounded by two things we loved: movies and music.
My friend was a metal head. Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Megadeth ruled his music collection. But he loved Counting Crows. The song, Mr. Jones represented the entirety of our friendship, from our days as a couple of junior high nerds into our mid-twenties, trying to figure out how to adult effectively.
He was my Mr. Jones. In turn, I was Mr. Jones to him. He has been on my mind a lot lately.