I got a message on facebook this week with some sad news. My oldest friend in the world has passed away. Rather than dwell on the guilt that immediately kicked in from having lost touch with him and with his family since I moved to the UK, I've decided to write about my memories of Josh.
We met when I was five. My mother and I had moved in with her new husband, and down the street was a hellion of a little boy to whom I was immediately drawn. He was barely contained chaos. Sweet chaos, but chaos nonetheless. We ran up and down the street, played fairly regularly, and then... it happened. The infamous Beer Bottle Incident. He... relieved himself... into a beer bottle and poured the resulting liquid over my brand new scooter. Can I remember why he did it? Not a chance. I gingerly wheeled the tainted scooter home and vowed never to speak to that... that BOY... ever again.
The joy of being a kid is that "never ever" can sometimes just mean "for about a year". I don't remember what drove me to run down the street and ask if Josh could come out to play, it just seemed like a good idea. Luckily, he was a kid too, and had also forgotten why we'd fought in the first place. Thus commenced (after that single year long urine-induced hiccup) the adventures of Josh and Gabs.
We built tree houses in his back yard (which led to Josh stepping on a rusty nail and requiring a tetanus shot, and to yours truly taking a firm hold of a spiny caterpillar while tying two branches together and having my hand swell up like a balloon). We dug huge holes for basements to clubhouses (which undermined the foundations of the clubhouses and saw me ride one frame to the ground like a surfer as it collapsed). We played video games, and on his monkey bars (which saw both of us at one time or another land flat on our backs on the ground, gasping for breath). Wow, reading over that paragraph really makes me wonder how we made it through our childhoods with all our limbs intact...
Josh was the most physically inclined person I'd ever met. He could turn cartwheels in ever decreasing circles around the front yard like a spun coin. He could scale the pine tree next to his house in seconds flat, a feat I never managed even once. The main tree in his yard, I could manage that one... at least until his dad cut off my preferred access branch, then I was earthbound while I watched him dangle from branches by one arm like a primate.
Our teenage years saw us getting into a slightly different sort of trouble. Josh and his friends started smoking weed, which I refused to try, but luckily for me it didn't disqualify me from hanging out with them while they laughed like idiots and scoffed huge piles of Little Debbie snack cakes. I could never understand how they were so hungry... *lol* Naivete, thy name was Gabs. Josh, being technologically minded, fashioned a motorised bong from an old speaker and a computer fan. I would sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to run down the street and sit in the final incarnation of our never ending quest for the perfect tree house, and laboured under the misapprehension that our mothers were none the wiser until a few years ago when my mother mentioned that the muddy tennis shoes under the window sort of gave me away...
I started dating one of his friends when I was about sixteen. It was hardly a match made in heaven, but I was young enough not to care that he was dumber than dirt. What I didn't realise was that Josh had developed some feelings for me over the years, which he managed to hide for the first few weeks of my "relationship" with his mate. When I realised what was going on, I ended it with the friend. Josh and I gave it the old college try, but the kissing always ended with us in hysterical laughter, so we found a balance by staying friends and not dating each others mates.
I don't know where his life went when I moved to the UK. I heard he was married, but I don't know if he had children. I don't know what he ended up doing for a living. I hope he was happy with how his life turned out. I know his family must be in bits from the loss, and I hope they know my thoughts are with them, no matter how long I've been away. I loved the guy, he was a great friend. RIP Josh Jones.