There was a point in my life when something was missing. I had no idea it wasn’t there. But one night sitting at the bar at Rio Bravo on Holcomb Bridge, I met Kevin and knew almost immediately that I’d been missing a best friend, and he was it. I met my future wife Jodi there too around the same time. The Rio Bravo bar, as it seems, had a fairly significant impact on my life. Then for nearly a decade, Kevin, Jodi and I would continue hanging out at bars, talking about movies, books, computer games, history, politics, everything… anything. The three of us might have been referred to as inseparable. It wasn’t quite like that, but we did do a lot of things together.
Years ago, somewhere in the middle of our friendship, I announced to Kevin over a couple of beers at North River Tavern that I had no regrets in my life. He was perplexed by this, I think in part because he, like many people, had several, perhaps many, regrets. As we discussed the subject I explained to him that a person, for better or worse, is a sum of their experiences. That who you are today is a result of everything you have done and everything that has happened to you, and by that reasoning, if you were happy with where and who you are in life, you cannot regret anything. By regretting some mistake you made in high school, you were invalidating everything that had happened to you since because that mistake had ripple effects throughout your life. The best you could do, I told him, was to realize you wanted it to have gone differently and learn from it, so that it doesn’t happen again. You don’t dwell on it, you don’t while away the hours thinking about what could have been. Instead, you take control of it and use it to make your future the one that you want. His position, if I recall correctly, was that I was full of shit, and we spent hours going back and forth trying to find something in my life I truly regretted.
Most of our talks would be like this. While on rare occasions we would discuss things in agreement, Kevin liked to take up the opposing side just to make things interesting. The thing about Kevin is that, at his core, he was an asshole. He was, what a Texan might call, an ornery son of a bitch. And I mean in that in the best possible way. It was actually probably one of his finer qualities. You could be discussing something with him and even if he was out of his depth and completely wrong in every possible way, he never just took your word for it, you had to prove it to him. He made you work for it. It was annoying… it was frustrating… but when you’d made your point, when you’d proven it, it also felt so much better than when someone just acquiesced to your side.
Another of his better qualities was that Kevin was fiercely loyal. He’d take a bullet for you, even if you weren’t in danger of being shot. Even when you asked him not to. His heart always was in the right place even if his actions weren’t. Sometimes I think he just liked the fight.
Kevin was my best friend right up until these two great qualities of his collided. My wife, who was at the time still just my fiancée but recently upgraded from girlfriend, had become unemployed and had remained unemployed for longer than she probably should have. Kevin took it upon himself to hate her for it because he knew I wouldn’t. He fought with her, and she fought back, and sometimes it got so bad that I had to walk out of the room. I asked them both to stop, and she tried, but Kevin persisted. And in the end it was Kevin’s doggedness, his ornery nature, in this matter that drove the wedge between us.
At some point after that, at one of the few times we did get together, Kevin told me he understood what had happened, and, calling back on that conversation we’d had years ago, he said to me, “It’s hard not to have regrets when you are at the bottom, and while I have less regrets every day, I think I’m going to hold on to that one for a while.” And all I can think right now is, “Me too.” I regret that I allowed our friendship to fall apart without much of a fight. And some day I might be far enough from all this to learn something from it, but right now I think I’m going to hold on to this one for a while.
One topic that came up often for discussion between us and a number of our other friends was religion. I think Kevin loved the topic so much because of its incredible complexity, the tightness to which people hold to their beliefs, the conflicts between differing beliefs, and the fact that so little of it can be proven which leads to everyone, despite how wide spread their views, being equally as right as everyone else. It appealed to his love of discourse. In my life, I have varied in my level of participation and belief in religion and God. I’ve gone to church and I have abstained from going. I’ve believed in one God, in many gods, in ancient mythic gods, and even entertained the idea of no god at all. But right now, I sincerely hope that there is a God and there is a Heaven, and that Kevin is there, and that from time to time he’ll get a beer with God, and with a wry smile argue to His face about how He doesn’t exist.