They were like the prologue for a coming of age film, an assuring glimpse at how adulthood will frame their childhood adventures. John, with his salted hair, and Perry, with laugh lines softening his eyes, fell into the couch beside mine talking and laughing with the fluid shorthand of longtime friends and the loosened inhibitions of Summerfest beer. They were neither obnoxious nor loud, but generated an energy that pulled me in like static.
“Ours is a timeless tale,” John boomed when I asked them to tell me their story. His smile was confident and his blue eyes were sharp behind his glasses. That he answered me with his best movie announcer voice signaled that he was also a seasoned wise guy.
“Not timeless,” Perry said, admonishing John with a shake of his head. They were both dressed casually in short pants and short sleeves. Perry’s shirt was neatly tucked. He turned to me to repeat, “It’s not timeless. You can’t say it’s timeless.”
“We’ve been coming up here for years,” John said, his thick hand slicing the air in front of him. “It used to be, like, an enormous pack of us back in the day.”
“Not a pack,” Perry corrected with a sideways smile. “It was, like, eight of us.”
“Eight can be a pack,” John said, turning his shoulders to face Perry. After they exchanged a few rapid rounds, John sliced the air again, his vintage Schlitz t-shirt sloping the curve of his stomach “Okay,” he conceded, “we were a large group.”
They were practiced in this sharpening of one another, this joust. They’ve been friends for more than 25 years, meeting in high school at the northern ends of Chicago. They agreed that they had become instant friends.
Even after handing me this point of fact, I couldn’t help imagining much younger snapshots of them: knobby knees with scratched and examined scabs, bicycle races, rocks in their pockets, swapped comic books, and exploring together. Always together.
“He’s been my best man twice,” John said.
“I did a pretty good job both times,” Perry said when I asked for which wedding he had been the better Best Man. “Although, I might’ve done too good of a job the second time.”
Perry snickers at a memory and John cosigns by looking back over his shoulder and tossing a laugh to his friend. John had been engaged in a separate lively discussion with the couple just joining our circle-of-couches community, but still managed to train an ear for one of their private jokes. Always, always together.
Within the span of thirty minutes, John and Perry had turned our sitting area into a studio party. There’s a talent agent charting the arc of his career. A young couple sighing that they’d been awkwardly confused as siblings all night. The mysterious would-be emcee wrapped in a head scarf and unseasonably heavy clothing. The managing editor with a love for comic books. And we’re all laughing. We’re all letting loose. We’re all at ease. We’re all drawn to the alchemy that is Perry and John.
When they return to their suburb, they’ll return to their very grown up selves as executives and family men. They will commute. They will negotiate. They will work in the yard. They will consume news and media. They will manage their expenses. They will plan for another summer. They will navigate new scenes in their endearing, “timeless” tale. Always, always together.