Before I even finished saying the words, Big Jimmy released the stretched surgical tubing that was holding his little porcelain projectile, and as quickly as it snapped forward, the back window of a parked silver Honda Civic shattered into smithereens and vanished before our very eyes. I had never seen anything like it. And I don’t think Indian Jimmy had, either. We both looked at each other worriedly. Justin punched the gas, and we fled the scene of our crime.
Big Jimmy started whoopin’ and hollerin’ like he had just spun exactly a dollar on The Price is Right wheel. Justin joined in, snorting and laughing and saying things like “you ballsy mutherfucker” and “shit on my balls, that was good.” He liked to add the word “balls” into most everything he said.
I thought we were done. I hoped we were done. We weren’t.
Justin pulled up to another car a couple miles over, and Big Jimmy destroyed another rear window. Again we roared off into the night. I slid down deep in my seat and prayed to find the words that would help get me out of it. By the looks of it, Indian Jimmy was doing the same. We were seconds from being slammed onto the ground in handcuffs. I just knew it.
“You guys try one!”
Justin shouted it as a command more than an offer.
I just looked at him. “I’m good man. I don’t wanna do that crap.”
“Suit yerself,” he said and held his open hand out toward his more criminal friend. Big Jimmy placed the wrist rocket and a piece of porcelain into it. Justin set the weapon in his lap and kept driving.
He didn’t ever stop, and eventually headed back toward our dorms.
Thank God, I thought as he parked his truck, and our night of crime came to an end.
We all grabbed our half eaten McDonald’s and started our trek inside. My fries were cold, but I had lost my appetite so I didn’t really care.
Suddenly Justin stopped walking. He set his food on the ground, loaded the wrist rocket with his piece of porcelain, and he launched it straight at the back window of a red sedan parked outside our dormitories.
As the glass shattered and disappeared, he and Big Jimmy began laughing hysterically, and they both immediately sprinted toward the entrance of the building. Indian Jimmy and I followed their lead and we all ducked inside, undetected.
I was done. “Later,” I said as Justin and Big Jimmy hooted and high-fived. Indian Jimmy was already disappearing into his own room.
Without another word, I slipped quietly into mine, closed the door behind me, and sat on the edge of my bed in silence for at least the next half hour.
No part of that had been fun for me. Those were people’s cars they were messing with. It was people’s paychecks. It was people’s safety.
The longer I sat, the angrier I got. They had put me in a bad situation. They had put Indian Jimmy in a bad situation. They had brought their vandalistic tomfoolery onto our home turf.
And they were laughing about it. I think that’s what bugged me the most. They had no remorse for it. They didn’t care who it affected and how. They didn’t care about anything, really. They were rebels without a cause, and I finally understood that term.
Before college, my brother and I would join in with our other friends and hit unsuspecting vehicles with water balloons. We’d doorbell ditch our neighbors. We’d toilet paper other people’s houses. Hell, once we stole and stockpiled toilet paper for six months and then toilet papered the entire street.
This, though… This was different. This wasn’t fun. At all. This really affected people.
The next morning, I woke up feeling slightly better about life. We hadn’t gotten caught. Cops hadn’t come pounding on my door during the night as I had feared they might. I had learned my lesson, and simply wouldn’t go anywhere with Justin or Big Jimmy again. It was a Saturday. It was a good day to go have fun with different friends and shake it all off.
I pulled on a pair of board shorts (hey, it was cool back then, and yes, so was free-balling it) and a t-shirt, donned some flip-flops, and stepped out into the hallway. Tall Curtis was standing in the corridor looking perplexed. He spun around and immediately blurted out, “do you know anything about people breaking car windows last night?” My heart tried to retreat into itself, and I forced myself to keep my cool.
Tall Curtis lived three doors to the east of me. We had hung out several times. We talked and laughed and joked every time we saw each other. He played for the school basketball team, was perhaps a little introverted, and in general he was a really nice guy.
“No, why?” I said as innocently as I could.
He groaned. “My girlfriend was hanging out last night, and when she went back out her car window was smashed in. The cops said it happened to other cars around town, too. I know you guys went out. You didn’t see anything? You don’t know anything?” He was angry. And somehow I sensed that he knew we had something to do with it.
“Sorry man, I have no idea. We went out, but I didn’t see anything.” I swallowed hard. “That really sucks, dude. I’m sorry.”
I didn’t know why I was lying. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I didn’t break the windows. I didn’t plot it, or go smash the toilet, or drive around recklessly wreaking havoc. And still, I felt responsible. And I worried about what Big Jimmy or Justin would do if they found out I squealed. So I lied.
And Tall Curtis knew I was lying. I don’t know if he saw it in my face, or if he knew something before he asked me, but he knew.
And he wouldn’t talk to me the rest of the semester.
I lost a real friend that day, and I learned something.
Losing real friends hurts.
As the semester went on, I resented Justin and Big Jimmy more every single day. Nothing else ever happened with them. I never saw them vandalize anything else or cause any more problems. They never tried to make me feel small for not enjoying their illegal fun. I just resented them because they put me in a place where I lied, and my decision to lie made another friend not trust me or like me anymore.
Justin and Big Jimmy were not my real friends. They were fleeting friends. They were friends that could have disappeared, and I honestly probably wouldn’t have noticed.
My silence on their behalf did nothing to help our fleeting friendship, and it did everything to destroy what I had and could have had with Tall Curtis and his girlfriend.
At some point, as Tall Curtis passed me for the twentieth time without saying a word or even acknowledging my existence, I made a vow that I would never put my fleeting friends over my real ones. I would never again lie to a real friend to cover up for a reckless one. And I would never again keep my mouth shut to protect the guilty.
Because, you see, real friends are not easy to come by. Fleeting friends are a dime a dozen. And it’s never worth sacrificing our real friends for the fleeting ones. When we do that, we tend to end up with no friends at all.
Dan Pearce, from my book: The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man
Last Chapter: The Glorious Spot in My Jeans…
Next up: Ratted-Out By My Child
If you would like to start from the beginning, or catch up on a missed chapter, you’ll find all the chapters I’ve published so far by clicking here.
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