Everyone needs a Ted
The cover story this week has made me think about college. The rewards of friendships formed and the memories I made during those years might possibly outweigh the first-rate education I received at Marshall University. Me and Randy Moss.
One person that kept coming to mind was my friend Ted (not his real name). We’ve known each other since kindergarten, and ended up at the same college. Ted came around like a stray cat. He’d be my best friend for a few months and then he’d slink off to other things.
I say we went to college together, but I’m not sure he ever went to class. I never saw him with a book; I never heard him say: ‘“Can’t go out; I have a test.’” He was always available for a good time ‘— going to the mall, to the park to run, out to dinner. Eventually he figured out college wasn’t his thing and got a full time job.
The dude slept in my apartment more times than he slept in his own that first year. He lived just across the alley, but never seemed to quite make it over there. I think he was a little lonely living by himself, and there was always something going on at my apartment.
He’d pass out in the oddest places. On occasion he’d be carrying on a conversation with you and the next he’d be on the floor. It might have been low-grade narcolepsy, or maybe he just had too much to drink. One time I found him in the walkway between my house and another with trash stuck to his face. Another time he was leaned up on the side of the couch and then he all of sudden disappeared. He had fallen between the couch and the wall. We would have left him there, but his legs were blocking the door and there was a party going on. One time, he passed out on the couch and I found a chicken sandwich shoved under it’— maybe he was saving it for later? Who knows.
Before a homecoming football game one year I picked him up to go over to a friend’s house. Ted got in the car toting two bottles of vodka and a jug of Kool-Aid. He was hammered and it was 2 p.m. Before we knew it Ted was hanging off her balcony, screaming at fans on the street below.
I hid the bottles of vodka and we never found them again. I’m sure the friend’s brother found them as a pleasant surprise one evening.
Ted took me to my first drag show. Growing up in a small town like we did (Ripley, W. Va.; pop. 3,279), activities our parents wouldn’t have condoned seemed delightfully sinful. I didn’t go that often; it made me depressed that some of the queens had better legs than I did.
Ted never met a stranger. He knew practically everyone on campus within the first semester. We’d go with friends to clubs and dance until closing when they kicked us out of the bar. Fun with Ted was two-sided. While it was mostly a good time, I regretted feeding his bad habits.
Ted lugged my crap all over Huntington where my roommate Erin and I moved three times in our five years at school together. (Just for the record I was on the four-and-a-half-year plan; she was on the six-year plan.) He was always around to carry a box or hand out unsolicited decorating advice.
Ted was a bit of a drama queen. Once our friend Jason pulled him off a roof. He was threatening to jump. Later on, I just had to shake my head at him. The roof only had an eight-foot drop, but as akways, the humor was laced with sadness. He’d call me at three in the morning and claim he was going to kill himself. More than once my roommate set out in search of him looking at all the major bridges in town because he’d said he was going to jump. He’d never talk about the incidents in the light of day, as if the sunrise chased away his problems.
Ted had problems with his family. They’d rather ignore Ted being gay than have to deal with it. The partying only muddied his reality for a few hours. If he was the life of party then no one was judging him because he was ‘fun.’
‘“You get to keep those shoes?’” I asked Ted as he looked at me with tear-filled eyes. He probably wanted to flip me the bird, but couldn’t, since his hands were shackled to another common criminal dressed in an identical orange jumpsuit and flip-flops. The call from his roommate had came earlier in the morning asking if she could borrow $500 to get Ted out of jail. He’d gotten a DUI the night before. I’m not sure what the source of his tears was’— maybe out of thankfulness or just plain embarrassment. He vowed to not drink again. It didn’t last long.
Ted’s more in control now. A few weekends ago I saw him at a wedding. We had a great time, but we weren’t the life of the party for once. Our group still hangs out given the chance, but marriages, mileage, and children seem to get in the way.
It makes me sad that we aren’t as close as we used to be. But I know it’ll never be the same either. We’ve grown up, but still hang on to the memories. And we rehash them every so often, each story becoming a little grander with each telling.
I just hope the new students in town find a ‘Ted’ of their own. Everyone needs one to get them through college, not to help them study or encourage class attendance, but to stir up a little fun, and as a reminder of how things can get out of hand.
To comment on this column, e-mail Lauren Cartwright at firstname.lastname@example.org.