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This must be the place

This must be the place

The instant the guitar chords echoed from the Mexican restaurant speakers, a slight grin emerged on my face. Immediately, the Asheville traffic disappeared from my urban patio view, where all I could see was that old farm town — far away physically, but oh so close emotionally.

“Amie,” the 1975 AM radio gold hit single by the Pure Prairie League. There’s only one other person in this great big and beautiful world who knows just how I adore that melody, and yet it’s been two years since I spoke to him, let alone refer to him by the title I bestowed on him some 19 years ago — best friend. 

That first day of middle school, I didn’t know a soul. Sure, I had acquaintances from my old Catholic elementary school, but most of them disappeared into their respective social circles once we realized how little we actually knew about the world, let alone the trials and tribulations of properly navigating the rough waters of your early teenage years. 

And when I got onto the cross-country bus, en route to my first invitational race, I stood at the top of the steps, looking up and down the rows of upperclassmen. Just before I gave up and was ready to sit in the dreaded front seat next to the coach, a kid my age, who looked as doofy and vulnerable as I did, motioned for me to sit with him. 

That initial interaction set the tone for our 17-year friendship. We didn’t have any friends, but we had each other. And from that mutual bond, we grew as people, ultimately becoming some of the more popular kids in school by the time we walked across the stage as graduating 12th-graders. 

We snuck out of our parents’ houses and went to concerts. We took off after school and smoked a joint in my rusty 1989 Toyota Camry, cranking the stereo and yelling in excitement over the always-elusive “three-in-a-row-radio-gold.” We hit up weekend parties and also went on spontaneous road trips to places never heard of, let alone visited, in Upstate New York. We went skiing at Jay Peak and Whiteface Mountain in the winter. We went swimming in Lake Champlain and hiking in the Adirondacks in the summer. 

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For some reason, beyond my recollection, “Amie” became the anthem of our adolescence and impending adulthood. Each time we went to local bowling alley, in search of girls and illegal drinking activities in the parking lot, we’d throw some change in the jukebox and blast some PPL. And each time I was back home in the North Country on college break, I’d track down my best friend, only to head for the nearest bar with a few extra dollars in hand for the jukebox, for some PPL and midnight shenanigans. 

But, eventually, the cracks of our friendship began to show. First, when I took off for the Rocky Mountains following college graduation. Second, when he got married, had two kids, and became a family man. And yet, we always seem to find enough cement to patch up the foundation of “us.” 

But, the final straw came shortly after I left for Western North Carolina. It seemed my dear comrade found himself battling some serious demons, of which I won’t delve into, though I will say it led to a punch thrown in anger at a gathering in my hometown a couple of years ago — an eerie silence swooping down between the two parties, one which still remains. 

These days, I hear from mutual friends on how he’s doing. I don’t ask them to update me, but they do anyways, seeing as I won’t be the first to blink in this Cold War of eternal bonds between human beings. They want us to rekindle the friendship, the madness that always glowed so bright, where others would be uttering, “I wish I had a best friend I’d known that long still in my life.” 

Personally? I don’t know if we’ll ever bury the hatchet. To be honest, I’ve moved on with my life, a conscious decision to rid myself of any negativity from my existence. I don’t regret the actions that led to where we stand today, which happens to be nowhere near each other. I will say, however, when that song comes on, good ole “Amie,” it’s a time machine. And not a transport out of nostalgia, but of sincerity, where I remember fondly who we both were back then, our genuine selves, and bittersweetly stare out into the abyss, down the separate roads we’re both currently on.

Sure, “Amie” is a love song about some girl. But, isn’t the truest love between two friends, two souls who will never pass judgment, and will always be there for you when the world come crashing down and you retreat to the safety of those who know you best? I’d like to think so.

“Now its come to what you want you’ve had your way / And all the things you thought before just faded into gray / And can you see / That I don’t know if it’s you or if it’s me / If it’s one of us I’m sure we’ll both will see / Won’t you look at me and tell me…”

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