As kids, they swapped lies, shared dreams, fought over girls, worked on cars, all the stuff young men do. Over time, they traveled different paths but kept in touch. His personal achievements led to a degree of fame and wealth but that wasn’t the fate of the other two. Tom Gallagher became a preacher raising five kids in an impoverished rural area constantly besieged by natural disasters and awash with illiteracy. Though uninterested in religion himself, he admired Tom’s devotion to establishing food banks, learning centers, and providing care during times of great need. He looked forward to seeing his childhood friend at the celebration of life for the one who never managed to figure it out and get his life on track.
After high school Adam Fitzgerald worked in fast food joints, stocked groceries, and did a plethora of odd jobs without real interest or achievement in any endeavor. He would hear from Adam when he needed a loan or a place to crash but as time moved on those moments faded as he eventually started saying no. It wasn’t that he was cold-hearted or unconcerned with his friend’s welfare. It was simply that he saw the escalation of a parasitic lifestyle and didn’t want to participate. Too many of the locals became involved with drugs and he’d watched enough of them devolve and realized Adam was more willing to party than work.
His career took him to New York and the fast pace of big business. He wound up with a corner office with a magnificent view of the city and a hideously expensive apartment overlooking the river. He never married but enjoyed the company of beautiful women who had their own goals to pursue instead of a life-long mate. His company provided great benefits, plenty of vacation time, and yearly bonuses that swelled his savings. He became an epicure who enjoyed dining in the vast array of restaurants and seldom ate at the same place twice. He often visited galleries and acquired a collection of art that dazzled visitors to his home. Life was good.
Meanwhile, Fentanyl invaded America and people started dropping like flies. Every emergency service in every town became overwhelmed by the epidemic, and relatives grieved at the continued loss of loved ones. Though he occasionally smoked a little weed he’d always avoided chemical drugs and when it came to Fentanyl, he was happy to have never tried that. Dying for temporary pleasure seemed like a lousy tradeoff. Now, he was flying home to bury someone he’d loved like a brother in the early years.
The flight was bumpy. Air turbulence was so severe that the pilot considered turning back but they eventually cleared the weather front and touched down without incident. As he reclaimed his luggage, then ambled through the terminal he dreaded looking into the surely pain-filled eyes of Adam’s family. He wasn’t sure how to deal with that since they’d always been in denial and hadn’t tried very hard to help him find a better path. He didn’t blame them for Adam’s choices as each person is responsible for their own welfare but still felt that with more effort things could have turned out better.
After greetings, hugs, and condolences, he walked down the aisle of the funeral home to view the body before taking a seat. He was shocked at his friend’s appearance. The cosmetician couldn’t disguise the ravages of life-long drug abuse and had he passed him on the street he wouldn’t have recognized his childhood pal. He sat quietly in the back during the service and subsequent funeral. The best part of the day was reconnecting with Tom Gallagher and giving him a check for his food bank, then sitting down with the local social services director and pledging to develop a trust fund to support a crisis intervention/drug rehab center. Hopefully, a few lives could be salvaged from ruination. All they could do was try but he understood that people can’t be saved from themselves. The flight home was both a relief and a time for quiet reflection. He knew that he would never go home again as life always has more to offer to those willing to participate.