The Third Beatle

So I fucked up yesterday. Kinda. Don’t get me wrong – I think I expressed everything I want to express, got my message across pretty clearly. I’m as proud of the writing I produced yesterday as anything I’ve written in the last couple years, so it’s not that I fucked up as in the writing’s bad, or I wish I hadn’t written it.

I just left someone out. Someone important. And that’s Chris.

I honestly don’t remember if Chris was there that afternoon, when Glen first came up on the schoolyard – I don’t think so, because Chris and I really became friends when we were in the third grade, and Glen introduced me to D&D in the second grade. On the other hand,  the three of us all met each other back in preschool, so who the fuck knows? It doesn’t really matter, anyways. Whether he was there from the beginning, or shortly thereafter, is really inconsequential. Glen, Chris, and myself were the gaming group. A couple people hovered in and out – but at the core, from second grade until we all went to different universities, it was the three of us.

I was originally going to call this post The Fifth Beatle, because I left Chris out of my original post about gaming. But I decided not to because I felt the title would suggest that Chris was somehow in the background, or not really a part of the group, or somehow secondary to me and Glen – and that’s just not true. Not even a little.

Chris was the quiet one in the group – the one who was pretty much up to do anything, and only rarely had a specific idea of what that anything should be. And that trait makes it very difficult to write about my early relationship with Chris, because when you have two outgoing guys like Glen and myself around, the quiet guy tends to not be the one who sticks out in your memory 20 years later. So I’m going to do my best to explain this third pillar of our geeky triumvirate.

Teenagers are, by their very nature, virtually incapable of introspection so what I say now is something I realized only several years after we’d all moved on to carve out our own paths in the world: Chris was the glue that kept the three of us together. Glen and I were both the outgoing ones – and its a simple truth that guys who like to talk, need someone to talk to. The truth is that, when we were younger, I was never very good at listening to anyone else talk for too long. Same, I would guess, of Glen. But Chris? Fuck man, that guy was a champion listener.

Case in point: Chris and I spoke on the phone last September (maybe August) for the first time in a year. We were both moving away from Ontario. I think I spent most of the conversation prattling on about some ideas I’d been kicking around for a novel about religious vampires, and him making the occasional observation or suggestion. Like I said: champion listener.

The point I’m trying to make is that I think both Glen and I had a friendship with Chris that existed parallel to our group dynamic – one I don’t think Glen and I shared with each other until years later, when he moved across the country with his mother. Without Chris, Glen and I probably would have driven each other insane in a couple of years, and by the time high school rolled around we’d be nodding to each other in the hallways, and that’s it. It’s worth noting that I managed to get under Glen’s skin (or Glen managed to get under mine) a couple of times a year. A week or two would go by, each of us ignoring the other, each of us hanging out with Chris. Chris was never the messenger, but he always made sure we knew what the other was up to. Then, as if by magic, we’d all be hanging out again.

Sneaky motherfucker.

Ravenloft Boxed Set (1994)
Ravenloft Boxed Set (1994)

By way of comparison? I think I have been angry at Chris three times in the twenty-three years we’ve known each other. And only seriously pissed at him one time, for a particularly egregious violation of the Pax Testosteronem. Naturally it involved a girl. We solved that one in typical guy fashion – by never discussing it. Ever. Ahhh, teenage angst, how ridiculous you seem upon looking back.

This post isn’t really about gaming, or inspiration, or whatever. My love of the gothic horror genre came from Ravenloft – another D&D campaign setting, one that Chris introduced me to. My taste in movies and video games were definitely influenced by Chris. And of the three of us, at least at the time, Chris and I were probably more into books than Glen (although now that I think of it, that part really took off after Glen moved away with his mom when we were all 15 – so maybe he got hardcore into books too, but was on the other side of the country at the time?).

About a month ago, Chris updated his FaceBook with a status message about being “out of surgery”. I fired off an email right away, asking wtf? For all I knew, he was on his death bed. Turned out it was a pretty routine procedure, back thing, so cool. But in the day it took to get the reply, I’d already cast an eye toward figuring out how much a flight was going to cost – and how far I’d need to cast the net, and across how many credit cards, to book it. Last time Chris and I sat face to face, Glen was in the same room – it was 2006. And maybe we’re not “the group” anymore. Almost certainly, actually. But they’re both brothers to me in every way that matters – and that’s not the sort of thing that fades with time.

It was those two who taught me that family wasn’t really about blood, and that your truest of friends are family. And that, I suppose, is what this post is really about – setting the right tone for everything that’s to follow. Because when discussing my nerd pedigree, there are two names that must always be mentioned before any others. One is Glen, and I talked him up yesterday. The second is Chris, and now you know his name too.

Both of them were there, the day Rikus threw the Heartwood Spear. And I know most of you out there don’t get the reference. That’s cool. You don’t need to.

Tomorrow, I write the post I had originally intended to write today before I realized my oversight, explaining just why Dark Sun is the shit.