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Letters on Tuesdays – That Friend You Hate to Love

A young man on his journey to make “F-you money”. Another one of my successful brothers from college.

Dear Wilton,

I have been very fortunate to have met and made friends with many great men so far in my young (somewhat, but probably not to you) life. As a kid, you have met many of them: Charly, Chicco, Michael, Ivan, Dan, Hien, Rambo, Nathan, and the likes. Most of them, it was a smooth ride to friendship from common interests and backgrounds. Other friendships, and perhaps you have experienced this, grew out of competition and contentious relationships. You know the old Chinese saying, “不打不相識” – unless you fight first, you won’t be friends.

That literally sums up my friendship with Dan. To me, he is brazen and witty, sometimes callous, sometimes caring, but more often than not, a huge thorn in my side with his stinging banter. If he was a superhero, he would probably be more along the lines of Deadpool or Flash (but probably less comical) than say Thor or Batman. Yet, as much of a pain in the behind as he can be, since I’m usually on the receiving end of his barrage of wordplay (to put it kindly), he is a hell of a friend. He is most certainly one of the friends, if not the one friend, I learned the most from.

Where do I even begin. We met on the basketball court during our freshman year of college; I played against him and his merry band of ballers from Dardick. Almost from the get go, he was trash-talking me this way and that, trying to get under my skin. Since we played the same position with similar styles, we were in each other’s face all game long. Of course, back then, I didn’t back down from a challenge though I usually end up playing pretty angry. (As an aside, I think I ball best when I’m pissed off, but then Nathan and Dan might claim otherwise.) I was pretty sure he really disliked me after that first game. I don’t think I liked him too much either, but I figured he was friends with Nathan and Rambo for a reason. What a contentious and inauspicious start.

I know you are still a few years from college, but remember a hobby is a really good way to make friends, at least in college. It’s funny how basketball brought us together. By a stroke of good fortune, I ended up being roommates with him, Nathan, and Rambo. Over the years, I grew to appreciate his personality and his style. Turns out, we are very similar in many ways, which is probably why we kept rubbing each other the wrong way. Yet, because he constantly pushed and challenged me in so many ways, I really grew as a person. He taught me how to banter, though I am still pretty rudimentary. He spurred a ton of my poetry in college. He competed with me in almost everything: basketball, Dynasty Warriors, dancing, poetry, and the like. What I appreciate most, however, is that he taught me how to roll with the punches that life throws by throwing punches when life doesn’t. After it is all said and done, he was there for me throughout the bad times.

There’s a feeling, at least for me, that we don’t like to back down from each other and admit that we really care about each other. It’s probably a lingering bit of that Asian machismo and stoicism we have been exposed to. It might also be because of our intense competitive spirits. Whatever it is, I probably never really expressed my appreciation for him properly. If you ever have the good fortune to have a friend like this, be sure to do what I didn’t.

In many ways, I have come to believe that it is important to have a friend like Dan. Someone who will not give you slack and call you out when you mess up (though Nathan and Hien are also pretty good at this, but they are too much of a teddy bear). Friendship is not just about supporting you unconditionally. Friendship is about pushing each other to become better people. A lot of times, you don’t get to pick and choose your friends, but when you do get the chance, look for a Dan.

With Love,

Your Brother

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