I want to tell you about my friend Nino. I am not sure what to write or how to start this or if there is a point that I want to get across to you. I just want to write about him because I miss him.
Nino and I met when I was 18 and he was 24. Not to sound too corny but he walked into a bar and that was it, destiny was made, we were to be forever friends. Ok, kid, that was corny, but that is actually how it happened because sometimes with some people it really is that easy. I was working as a bartender and he was friends with the owner and agreed to help out that night. He walked in, smiled at me, took a seat and started talking as if we had always been friends and so I returned the favour and then, like magic, suddenly, we had just always been friends. There was no build up to a close bond, no great deal of shared experiences there was just an ease and comfort that was almost instantaneous that night. I suspect that was his talent because as our friendship ventured further from the bar, I saw that familiarity in the exchanges he made with others.
At that time in my life, the best way to describe myself was awkward, I played a part in company and often critiqued the replay. I suspect many people at that age do, some people call it "finding oneself" others call it "losing oneself."
My father had just died, resulting in a part of me dying, but, as that was happening, another part was awakening. It was nature and no matter how much I begged and pleaded for the world to stop, it wouldn't, not even to catch my breath. I left home for the first time, and in my new environment, I struggled to decode the new rules. I was never that personally or socially confident and with the death of my father what little confidence I had, crumbled. The foundation of support, my childhood home, seemed to be now in disarray. When grieving, families can sometimes come together, sadly, mine didn't, it spread out and my safe place, my home, became vacant. I would go home, often, but it was filled with ghosts, memories of family dinners and parties, or chats around a fire. Sometimes, I would feel a whisper of a person walking past or, from a distance, watch my mother read the paper, rarely were there words exchanged.
My friendships were going through transitions as well, with so many leaving for university and moving on. I was lonely, angry and as said before, awkward. That last descriptive was a gift given to me by years of socially trying to fit in but never really feeling my place within the group, whether real or perceived, realised externally or just believed quietly within, we'll never know, but in my mind I lived in the peripheral until I met Nino.
Throughout the years, life throws challenges and we all weather those challenges differently and sometimes little demons form from the scars left behind. During late nights and long talks, I told Nino of my demons, he didn't judge me or look down on me, he simply smiled, pulled me into his beautiful world and reminded me of how strong I was. I fought and won many battles with him whispering in my ear.
Nino was special and he believed I was special and soon I believed him. If someone as lovely as him could care for me then maybe I wasn't as awkward as I thought. Soon, I started to gather other Nino's, wonderful people, who I loved and who loved me and all my honest imperfections and I no longer needed to play a part.
The other day, as you were trying to work your way through that social maze, you looked up at me and said, "You don't get it, Mum. It is not like it was back in the 70's in Connecticut! People aren't nice like they were in the old days." Well, firstly, I will have you know, I wasn't just a child of the 70's, I was also a child of the 80's and not everyone was nice. In fact, not everyone is nice now. We create our own beautiful worlds, and we have to choose who to let in because not all will be respectful of those worlds. I told you that you only need one good friend in life, just one. It isn't just because that one good friend will help you to create magnificent memories that will make you giggle and sigh in years to come but also, because that one good friend will remind you of how special you are and how lovely life can be and they will give you the prototype for the people you will allow in your little world.
When I moved to the UK, it was before either Nino and I were techno savvy and life happens and sometimes people lose touch, sadly. You get busy and you say, I will make the effort tomorrow, and that becomes next week and then soon years pass.
Nino finally joined the social media universe and I was excited to see him and I told him so. He replied by saying that now I could see how old he had become. I just said that in my memories he remained eternally young. However, that last response was a few weeks delayed in coming. I had seen the notification of his comment and kept meaning to respond and that day turned into that week... and when I finally did, well... I am not sure he had the chance to read it. Social media told me he died and I am devastated. I just sit here, this morning, coffee to my side, computer to hand, thinking of him-hundreds of unanswered questions, floods of memories, incredible sadness for his family, especially his little girl, who deserved to have him in her life for longer. This morning, I just sit here missing him.