Poster Boy and I had spent months on the road together. First, traveling the U.S. in a van, working side-by-side for insane 16-day stretches, 15+ hour days, days in which we fought, and spat and snapped at each other, but days in which our respect for one another grew as we totally nailed the job, kicked its ass and wiped with it.
We explored cities we’d never seen before, we befriended or alienated locals, depending on where we were, we ate gloriously though cheaply, (The best barbeque in the world in North Carolina, greasy cheese steaks in Philly—wiz wit—deep fried cheese curds in Wisconsin, his first oyster on the half shell in pre-Katrina New Orleans) we destroyed hotel rooms, we saw kickass bands in strange cities and made friends we’d never see again, we nursed hangovers while the other drove long hours down the highway. We made out at the top of the empire state building.
Then we went to Europe, where we ate mushrooms in Amsterdam, twice, and I freaked out the first time, and he freaked out the second time, we both got scabies from dirty hostel sheets, we saw the Beastie Boys in a squatter village tent in Rome, we got drunk everywhere, we slept on trains side by side, wandered the Irish countryside where we ran into a redheaded farmer in rubber overalls walking a cow down a road (we asked him for directions, and his accent was so thick we just smiled and nodded), we were confused for Germans everywhere we went, failed repeatedly to speak the local language, got lost in a drunken fight in Venice, got so poor we stole bread from a breakfast buffet in Prague, we had a funny hangover day in Dublin. We made out at the top of the eiffel tower.
After a couple of months, time was up. We went back to New York. We got tattoos in Manhattan, went to our favorite Jewish deli. We were jetlagged together. Then we flew back to the West Coast. Boarded our last plane.
It used to be that as soon as you got off the plane, your family was there to meet you. We all know that in the post-9/11 world, you weave through the terminal, past security that's roping your family off, because your loved ones don’t have boarding passes. So Poster Boy and I walked through the airport with our heavy, smelly backpacks pulling our shoulders down. We were at our home base airport, so we knew when we got to the turn around which our parents were waiting. We stopped.
We looked at each other, and we kissed. We were terrified. We had not seen anyone we’d known for a long time. We hadn’t been away from each other for more than a few hours. And around that corner, standing teary-eyed, were both of our MOTHERS. And our DADS. We looked each other in the eye, squeezed each other’s hands, and both knew there was no way to avoid going. It was done. Our unit was about to be splintered. It was all over.
And that moment, right before we looked away, just before he and I each turned the corner, just before he and I and let go of the other’s hand: It was beautiful. It was perfect.