I hope you all enjoy this. This is a long outline of sorts, but 98.4% true! PART I The last hour at work can feel so long some days. This day felt particularly long as I had planned an exciting evening for myself. Note that an exciting evening for me is a nice bottle of wine, some good music like John Legend, and cooking a good meal. I was particularly looking forward to this night as I was on a diet - correction - lifestyle change plan, and I could actually have more than negative 3 grams of carbs. I normally hang around the office a bit after we close down, but on this day, I moved rather quickly in getting to my car. I do not think I said goodbye to anyone on the way out of the door. I stopped at the grocery and liquor stores on the way home to get my favorite bottle of red and the items I needed to make my Italian sausage meat sauce to serve over pasta. I was on my second glass of wine, adding the final chopped herbs to the sauce, and singing along to John Legend's "So High" when the phone rang. I seriously debated on whether or not to take the call. Should I even look at the phone to see who's calling? I decided to at least look, but made no promise to myself to answer. The caller ID on my cell phone flashed, "L3." Lawson John III, who our friendship circle referred to as "Trip" was calling. We had not spoken in a few months so I decided to answer. I picked up the phone and opened with my usual, "Hey man, what's going on?" When trip began speaking I heard something in his voice. I was not sure what was going on but something was definitely different. He barely laughed when I started asking, "What?" to everything he said. His southern accent was thick, and I always understood him just fine. It was just one of our things. As I poured another glass of wine and began eating dinner, our conversations slowed. To help the conversation move on, I told him that I knew he did not call me just to tell me about the new lighting in the examination room at his practice or the new medical coding person he hired. "So, why are you really calling?" I asked. After taking a deep breath he asked, "Have you heard, yet?" "Heard what?" "He's in jail. He finally did enough to get put away. I don't even like thinking about him, but this news made me," he answered. "Man, that is great news. It's about time. I'll pour another glass of wine, and you go get whatever kind of Budweiser you have so we can celebrate!" Trip calmly replied, "I don't even feel like celebrating. In an odd way, I'm kinda sad about the whole damn thing. If this shit had happened today, I think things might have been different. There's all kinds of anti-bullying messaging out there. They have commercials, billboards, training sessions; you name it." "Trip, why don't you raise up your shirt and look just above your right hip? Reach down and feel that scar, look at it. I see the twin one he put on me everyday! That son of a bitch tortured us for years! He cut us with a box cutter, and we were too scared of him to fight back or to say a word to anyone about it. Are you still lying to your wife about it being from climbing over a barbed wire fence? Look, we need to celebrate this. When you said he was in jail, I felt safer in that moment. That's damn ridiculous considering how long it's been." "Tim, you're right. Oddly, I feel safer, too. I have my own medical practice, and a beautiful wife, and two amazing kids. He didn't stop any of that, and I do want to celebrate. I was planning on going up to my hunting cabin this weekend. You need to come with me. My family is at my wife's sister's place for another week. It'll be fun. We can so some hunting and fishing, drink some beers, and grill out." I laughed, "You just described a whole lot of stuff that I'm not going to do beginning with going to the woods. They will take my Black Card if I take off with your Hitler-youth looking ass into the middle of nowhere. They make movies about this, and the brother is always the first one killed off. No sir! No way? No how!” Trip laughed the whole time I was talking. The mood of the conversation had changed so quickly. After he told me how funny I was a few times, he said, "Call your secretary, let her know you're taking the next two days off, pack your shit, and I will be there to pick you up at 5 am." He then hung up the phone before I could say anything else. After cleaning up from my meal, I began to think about all the contrasts this whole situation created for me. The racial contrast between us was the superficial one. That one is easy to see. I was from one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, and I was bonded with someone from one of the wealthiest families in the southeast. No one really understands how and why our friendship exists. When I came out, it was Trip who drove from medical school with Lynn, his fiancé at the time - now his wife, to where I was attending grad school to check on me. He introduced me to Lynn as, "my gay best friend who I didn't know was gay until someone else told me which made me question whether or not he was really my best friend because a best friend would have told his best friend about the gay part long before his best friend found out about it from someone else." Trip could always get his point across in the best ways. Benny put us through Hell for years. I would not wish that on my worst enemy for even a second, but I am glad that I did not have to go through what I went through alone. There was at least one person who understood. I am glad that I went through that with Trip. To be honest. I was excited about going to see this cabin in the woods. Trip and Lynn kept talking about how it's not the typical hunting cabin. Hunting and fishing are absolutely the last thing on my list to do. Trip has been wanting to take me hunting for years, but I refused. I began thinking that he intentionally used this moment to get me up there. Before I finally turned in for the evening, I put a 6 bottles of wine in one of my bags. I figured if Trip was going to have a six pack, so was I.