As close as Adam and I were, I never saw much of him during school breaks. Over the summer, Adam and his family spent time at their lakeside cottage in Michigan. During Christmas break, he was either closing the cottage or traveling to visit other family members.
From the outside, his family looked perfect. Adam’s dad worked for one of the largest companies in our city. He spent his 9 to 5 holed up in a gray cubicle, adorned with his degrees from Indiana University and Cornell. Adam’s mother was a thin, blonde who was very soft-spoken. She worked days, too, but always cooked dinner for her family and cleared the table afterward. Adam also had an older sister, who went to graduate school in Oregon and was active in her sorority. The family went to church as often as they could and kept in touch with neighbors.
When I visited their home, as I often did, I always looked forward to talking with Adam’s parents. They seems happy and genuinely interested in what I had to say. Typically, they asked about school, the dance team I was on, the school newspaper I wrote for, and my plans for college. While they were cheerful and pleasant, I knew that if I were to blurt out something they didn’t want to hear, they wouldn’t be so soft-spoken.
The more I got to know Adam, the darker side of his family came to light. Often, I’d stop by Adam’s during the weekend, usually on a Friday night. The same group of guys would be there, gathered around a bong in Adam’s backyard or a case of Rolling Rock in his basement. Adam and most of his friends has been drinking since they were in 8th grade, which was unheard of to me. Although I’d heard stories upon stories of their drunken antics—getting wasted off screwdrivers after a half-day of school, only to puke in Adam’s bathtub—I hadn’t been witness to many.
During one of these booze-induced evenings, Adam admitted to me one of the darkest secrets of his family. His mother was an alcoholic, masking Adam’s early drinking seem like more of an issue than I realized.
I couldn’t believe it. The perfect picket-fence-museum-religious-wealthy family was fraying at the seams. He told me about his mom getting help and how she often relapsed when his father went on business trips because she thought he was cheating on her. Trips to the cottage were sometimes hell because she packed shampoo bottles that were filled with alcohol.
Over the years, Adam’s older sister served as a protector. Adam told me he remembered nights when he heard his parents fighting and she would sit with him in the dark.
On the lighter side of Adam’s family, the side I knew, they had a Monday night tradition known as Italian Night. This event involved a trip to the local Fazoli’s—a fast food joint that serves meatballs and lasagna. They are notorious for their bread sticks, which are unlimited with every meal and are served in a basket by someone making rounds of the restaurant at least 60 times saying, “bread stick?”
One lucky Monday night, Adam invited me to join his parents for Italian Night. I was a little nervous—I’d survived several evenings at Adam’s house, but I didn’t know if I’d last an entire meal putting on a fake smile while slurping down spaghetti.
When we arrived at Fazoli’s, we were greeted with a framed picture of Adam’s family—they had been awarded the Oscar of Fazoli’s trophies: The Family of the Month Award. Adam’s parents seemed delighted to see me; his mom even made a polite remark about how I was always so pleasant to visit with.
Although I was so close to Adam and even talked with his family a lot, the dinner was slightly uncomfortable. His mom was just getting over a death in her family and I wasn’t sure how to treat the situation. His parents were always so pleasant to me and my friends, but I still wondered what was beneath the surface. I wanted to know what they thought of me just because I didn’t go to church, never went to a private school, and was more interested in liberal activities like newspaper and dance, instead of band or environmental club.
I eventually found out.
* * *
The first time I fell asleep next to Adam was in college. School was out for winter break of our sophomore year, so I drove to Bloomington on my way home, back to Indiana. Adam had invited me to stay with him for the night before we both headed home and I gladly accepted his offer.
I made it to IU, we went to dinner with his friends, had a few drinks—It was a typical night. Except for the part when I stayed in Adam’s dorm room later, in his bed. It was awkward at first, because we had always kept clear of most situations where it would seem like we were dating. But nothing happened, I fell asleep and everything was right.
We both went back to school for the spring semester and our friendship remained as solid as ever. During that semester, we grew closer. We talked more and talked about meaningful things—I confided in him about dating, school, and my family. When I went home for the summer, I was starting to feel something more, but I wasn’t sure if it would work with the distance. I also didn’t want to lose my best friend if it didn’t work out.