Stay Back... Or I'll Make You Laugh

Last week I went to lunch with my best friend Mark. Seeing as how I don't out much these days, it was much needed. After we finished he said, "Let's go to the mall and act like teenagers." Keep in mind we're both 37 and have ADD, so what could be more perfect than a mid-day stroll through a building full of shiny objects meant to stimulate impulsiveness? It was a grand time. We acted like idiots.

Other than my wife Ashley, Mark and his wife Erin are the two people in the world I am the closest to. He's a heavy-weight boxer; she's a feisty Barbie doll. Before I married Ashley, they were who I went to. No, actually, they were the ones that came to me. They saw how much I was hurting during my divorce, and how my self-confidence was shriveling as a result. But rather than just empathizing for me, Mark and Erin stepped in and propped me up until I could walk on my own again. Their methods, which I won't go into, were a little unconventional, but they worked. I am forever grateful. That's real friendship.

In my life, I have moved many times, made many friends and only to let them drift away once my address changed again. Mark and Erin have been the only exception to that. Sure, Facebook has recently afforded me the opportunity to reconnect with some very special people from my past, but the difference is my connection with Mark and Erin has remained a constant even when I left to Chicago and then Arkansas. This is a truth that has both amazed and scared me.

Why? Because I don't allow myself to get close to people or for them to get close to me. It's unclear where this comes from as my childhood was stable and my life has been relatively trauma-free (knock on wood). I'm not going to analyze the issue here, but I do find an irony and a paradox in this. The irony being that, for someone who shuns closeness, my sense of humor (which I seem to be short on these days) tends to draw others toward me, while the paradox is that being funny (or trying anyway) functions as a wall "protecting" me from those same people. Only a few, like Mark, Erin and my wife, ever get past the gates.

After checking out the mall, Mark and I came back to the apartment and watched stand-up comedy shows with Demetri Martin and Mitch Hedberg. Some of you may remember Mitch Hedberg. Funny guy, probably one of the funniest I can think of. He died in 2005 at the age of 37 of a drug overdose. So did John Belushi (age 33) and Chris Farley (also age 33).

Despite laughing to point of tears, I still couldn't help but wonder how high the walls were around Mitch's and the others. Did they ever let anyone in, or was the door always shut? How much pain were they trying to bury? I looked over at Mark who was doubled over and grabbing his ribs. Seeing him made me laugh all the harder.

Here's to you Mitch. It's a damn shame you didn't have a Mark or an Erin to let in.

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