“…You who are on the road must have a code that you can live by….”                                                                                                      Graham Nash

I learned early on there are certain things you do and certain things you simply don’t. Not to a friend. Not to another guy. Never. Abetted by a seasoned father, facilitated certainly by my cast of friends, I’ve (if nothing else) grasped the unwritten rules that only in recent years have been dubbed The Bro Code. It’s a system that not only  works but makes sense—and if you think about it, honors an ethic of brotherly love.

I had little use for it early on. Never dating in high school, wedding my first girlfriend, I was never really out there. Like in high school: Bobby was Wally Cleaver; Stuart was Eddie Haskell-Lite  Me? I was just Lumpy Rutherford.  Rules mattered not as I mattered not.

Fast forward some decades. I’d married, divorced. The world had changed and my world had changed, but the rules had not.

I remember Bob’s call—  mid-90’s perhaps.  One of his friends wanted to ask out my ex. So the call came in: “Did you have a problem with it?” he asked.  (Actually I didn’t, and Bobby well knew it).  Still, it was the RIGHT thing to do…to give me the courtesy of the call.

Contrast this with what happened on Ed’s divorce. “Would you go out with his wife?” We were sitting at Caribou—Ed, me, and this guy.  Always willing to stir the pot, I turned to the third:  “Would you go out with Ed’s ex? I asked him, (never dreaming he’d answer). “Of course,” said our friend, (turning to Ed), “ Would you mind?”

The silence was deafening that moment, and I knew from Ed’s glare he would never forget it. (That was years ago, maybe four, and the guy called her). Hold the thought….

Sometimes, of course, even the best make mistakes.

Like…..   I’d been spending time with someone in a short-lived, nice but specifically uncommitted series of interactions when mitten drinnen I met someone else and all bets were off. Within days I’d cut cords decently and predictably, no one seemed to care.

OK. One person did.

“Aunt Helen’s concerned I may run into so-and-so,” I told a buddy at breakfast.
“What’s the difference?” said my pal, “She was seeing another guy all the time she was seeing you.”
“I beg your pardon?” (It wasn’t jealousy that took me aback. I was blown away, however, by the fact that my good, good friend never told me).

“How long have you known?” I asked                                                                                                                                         “A while—but I knew you didn’t care.”                                                                                                                                        “I DON’ T care. That’s not the point. You had an obligation to tell me.”

And still he pushed back: “It wasn’t important.”                                                                                                                   “Are you kidding me? The fact that you didn’t tell me is important. I’ve been violated!”                                          “You two weren’t exclusive,” he defended.                                                                                                                             “Not by her—by YOU!”

My friend never got it. Ever. Here was a guy that had taken bullets for me yet I could see in his eyes he just didn’t grasp the gravity of the situation! And I could sense right on that continuing the discussion would be fruitless…that I could never legislate this morality.

This sequence, fortunately, was the exception underscoring the rule. Indeed most of my friends, from Rowland to adulthood through recovery honor the code.

—-Like mid Y2K’s, when Ed wanted to ask out someone I’d dated. I got the call…from him…as a courtesy. Not that I’d ever say No; it mattered not. If he really chose to go that route, though, he owed me the call. Squatter’s rights? Perhaps.

—-Or like the lifelong friend that had a chance to spend time with a girl I never dated, but had had a junior high crush on. I got the call.

…Which leads me back to the thought we’ve been holding. You know: the dufus at the now-defunct Caribou Coffeehouse that wanted to date Ed’s ex. I bumped into the guy last week—after many months.

“Hey,” I asked him (as if it had just occurred to me), “How come you never called Ed’s ex? The window was open.” After a slight pause I continued: “You need to follow up on that.”

“I don’t have her number,” he pointed out in naivete.                                                                                                        (This was too good to pass on). “She’s on Facebook,” I noted.                                                                                     “Good idea!” he exclaimed.

For a moment I thought to tell him I’d been screwing with him. For a moment I had a conscience. But only for a moment. Instead I did the next best thing, calling Ed, warning him.

“I can’t believe you did that!” he roared (His is a deep, deep growling laugh).
“Oh, please. I had to.”

He too then had a conscience…and called his ex.

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