Tom – The Ostrich Man

I have known Tom since first grade. He was my friend that lived the next street over, who for some reason found the stupid things I said entertaining. Often, Tom was the only guy in a group of girls. I have vivid memories of him across the classroom in American History and sitting at our table at Catechism.

He was the kid skateboarding on his half pipe in the backyard, and the friend I couldn’t catch in hide-and-go-seek tag. Seriously, he was freakishly fast and he knew it. He taunted me once, slowing down in speed, allowing me the false belief into thinking I was close to catching him. Each time he casually sprinted away with such large strides that I quickly gave up. It was then that I gave Tom his acronym, The Ostrich Man. I don’t know how I would feel if someone called me, The Ostrich Woman, but Tom was a good sport about it. Again, I am amazed at the dumb things I have said that he found funny.

Since then he has continued to make time to see me even long after I have moved away.

The Infamous Time in St. Pete

Keeping up with Tom, rather trying to keep up with Tom has gotten me into trouble more than once. The worst time, or the best time, depending on how you look at it, is right before going into the new year of 2013. Tom and his family were in St. Petersburg and my sister and I drove up to see them. We pre-gamed during a drinking game called, “ride the bus,” that I haven’t played since and the rest of this story will explain why.

After the pre-game, we danced and drank in multiple bars in St. Pete. Later, I found myself puking outside our hotel and in our bathroom. The next morning I had numerous missed calls and texts from Tom. His third text read, “Bark twice if you’re in Milwaukee.” 

When I met up with him the next day, I didn’t feel much better, periodically going to the bathroom for false alarms. At the worst possible moment, (once my sister was driving on the highway) I had to throw up for the millionth time. Unable to hold it in, I re-enacted Alanis Morissette’s music video, “Ironic” as I leaned the entire upper half of my body out the window and vomited on the side of my car, at 70 mph. I threw up so much I popped a blood vessel in my eye. It was red for two weeks.

That is sadly not the last time I have thrown up after drinking with Tom.

A story I have kept to myself

This is a story I’ve never told Tom. In fact, I debated not sharing it at all. But sometimes the stories you are afraid to say are some of the best ones.

Over five years ago, a couple of us went out in Ferndale and had an afterparty at our mutual friends, Joey and Heather’s apartment. Before Uber, without a car, and at 5 AM, I realized I had no ride and no plan on what I was going to do. Saving me, Tom took me home. On the way, he asked if I wanted McDonald’s breakfast and I agreed, looking at him like the brilliant man he was.

Walking down the hallway to his bedroom, my heart began to pound as I panicked over what, if anything, was going to happen. Suddenly, I wondered how I could’ve been so stupid and found myself in a bedroom of a close friend I had never even kissed. Slowly, I entered, surveying the room, before turning around to see Tom standing in the doorway. He smiled at me and said, “Ok, I’m going to sleep in Alex’s room. He’s out of town. I’ll see you in the morning.” Then he closed the door and left me in a room to myself. I have trusted him ever since.

Partying Too Hardy with Tom

Most mornings after a night out with Tom, I woke up with my hair sticking out from all ends, sweating out alcohol, and feeling like death. Meanwhile, Tom would be sipping coffee, reading the morning paper, and asking what we wanted to do today. I would glare at him like the freak of nature he was and ignore his question. The only thing I was doing that day was dying a slow death.

Once, I stood in Tom’s bedroom doorway, half asleep, half drunk. While he brushed his teeth, I talked about how crazy last night was and how lousy I currently felt. When he laughed I looked at him and realized I was talking to his dad, John.

Another morning, I woke up in his basement. As I sat with my head in my hands, I heard someone laugh and clear his throat. I looked up to find John sipping coffee a few feet away. There was a glass of water and a plate of vitamins on the table in front of me.

Later, as Tom drove me home, I calmly asked him to pull over. “You going to throw up?” He asked as he veered into the parking lot of a miniature golf course. “Yup,” I answered, before swinging the door open. When my vomit was pink and tears came out of my eyes, I heard Tom moan, “Oh, you’re rejecting everything.” The lovely vitamins John lent to save me, were now on the pavement in liquid form.

When Tom Met Meredith

That was the last time I saw Tom before he moved to South Carolina. I knew he was going to meet someone there. I told him that before he left. The immense relief I feel that the person he met, is Meredith, is greater than I realized.

For quite some time I was nervous that my friendship with Tom would one day come to an abrupt end. I feared he would be with a woman who wouldn’t understand our dynamic and vow that he would never speak to me again. Seeing Meredith as this matching light of his feels like a giant exhale. Tom has always been this silly, kind man who is somehow now outmatched by his match. Meredith is this breathtaking relief of a woman who mirrors Tom.

At an after party of a wedding, I watched her attempt to save a moth, that our friend, Joey caught first and ate in front of her. She screamed in agony while the rest of us laughed hysterically. Therefore, I didn’t have the heart to tell her I kill bugs on the regular. Well, until now.

Their wedding is this May in Mexico and I am more than delighted to be a guest.

A Simple Thing That Meant More

After South Carolina, Tom was given the opportunity to travel for work, specifically working in Orlando on occasion. On one particular visit, I showed him my new apartment and we got lunch down the street. Except, the only spots available to my new neighborhood was parallel parking. I failed my driver’s test three times, because of parking. Parallel parking wasn’t even part of my exam. To say I am terrible at parallel parking would be an understatement.

While panicking in the driver’s seat, Tom offered to park my car for me. Much to my astonishment, Tom parallel parked my car, from the passenger’s seat. He literally leaned over me, with his left arm, turned the wheel one way and then the other, while I tapped on and off the brake pedal. It was probably one of the best parking jobs I have ever seen and hands down, the most impressive thing I have ever witnessed to date. Furthermore, it is also one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I could have cried.

Happy 30th Tom. I don’t know how we got here so fast, but I’m glad we are here together. Meredith is so sweet she makes my heart hurt.

Please don’t make me puke in Mexico.

Comment below to wish Tom a Happy Birthday too!

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