Adam Harrison-Friday

“Hangman!” I whisper to my friend Moore. “Hand me the crossword.”

“Dude, I would’ve needed five more guesses,” he whispers back about solving for WAX, passing me the puzzle we’re completing in tandem.

We’re sitting in a church on the Boston College campus in the furthest pew from the pulpit watching — in between silently announcing consonants and vowels — our friend Josh state his wedding vows.

The three of us became close in high school — banter our unifier — frequently hanging out at Josh’s house. We dined at our favorite Chinese restaurant first — all ordering the D4 chicken and broccoli combination — and returned for Josh to stand barefoot in his kitchen, the sole of his right foot resting on the inside of his left knee, shaking kernels over the stovetop. He melted a stick of butter and provided popcorn I judge bowls by to this day. Sitting in the dark and watching movies, we periodically interjected jokes. Moore mentioned the egg scene in Cool Hand Luke numerous times prior to viewing it; when it appeared onscreen, Josh asked if it was indeed the scene in question, leading to insults for believing Paul Newman ate 50 hard-boiled aborted chickens in more than a single take.

Josh deserves credit for hosting us for one reason: his mother. Jane possessed a comically nasal accent — Moore and I parodied it like she was a stereotypical Jewish grandmother — and gross absence of self-awareness. In between ridiculing classmates and listening to Josh play “The Entertainer” on the dining room piano, Jane intermittently accosted him, making Josh immediately wash the dishes or laundry, no regard for the presence of his friends or good manners. She got the vapors if one of the bichon frises — Jupiter, Juno, and Josie — yelped, screaming at Josh to administer Prednisone before instant death occurred. He retreated to discuss various topics with his mom — doctor appointments and parent/teacher conferences within earshot — while Moore and I speculated why his brother, Jeff, was taking his third shower since our arrival. (Jane didn’t admonish him for wasting water; in fact, if she was mad at Jeff, she projected it onto Josh.) It was the most discomfiting, unguarded window into a family I’ve been privy to.

“Joshua, why did you drop the iron?” she indignantly shrieked at him one afternoon.

“I did it on purpose, Mom!” he said derisively, secretly wishing to iron her dress while she wore it.

We filmed a class project parodying commercialism in art, titling our satirical home movie The Blair (Son of a) Witch Project, and shot the bulk of it in the woods behind Josh’s shed. However, we recorded the ketchup-as-blood death scene in his basement, a fact Jane reacted to with her typical level-headedness: she smashed the tape with a hammer. Her most memorable bit of impromptu insanity arose while I was in the living room along with some of Josh’s other friends (Moore was absent). In the middle of Bad Boys II, Jane surfaced with concern that her eldest son’s oral hygiene was being neglected.


“MOM, WHAT THE FUCK?!” Josh yelled back in a rare outburst. Even if he expressed dismay at her antics in private, he wasn’t prone to escalating disagreements in mixed company.





I paused the film, trying to overhear Jane’s logic for her demand, unable to fully discern why Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were interrupted in favor of Josh’s palate. He came back flustered, profanely acknowledged Jane’s madness, and we watched the remainder of the movie like it was an ordinary evening at the farm, laughing once or twice at the episode that had unfolded. He ultimately brushed his teeth to appease her demands, declining to choke his own mother in front of bystanders. (I would’ve created an alibi for him.)

Jane insisted the trundle bed beneath Josh’s bed have hospital-cornered sheets, a puzzling point of pride. In the midst of a sleepover, Jim (Josh’s dad) — they were one of those families where everybody’s name began with the same letter, canines included — must have figured we were asleep as we tiptoed downstairs to listen and determine he was peeping a scrambled channel, the sounds of moaning while a penis pounded a vagina amorously emitting from the snow-screened living room television. Josh deadpanned to me, “His house…” and shrugged. I took a shower in the upstairs bathroom one time — I was that weirdo who had to shower at night — and Josh blurted out, “No jerking off!” Moore and I conferred, deciding that anybody who entered the house — cable repairmen, the neighbors, potentially a stray cat — ejaculated into that drain, the J clan infuriated by their powerlessness to prevent it. Jane constantly insisted Josh watch Letterman with her no matter what else he had going on, an activity repetition led him to grow to admire. It’s debatable if Josh ironically became a Philosophy major in college because he loathed Freud so damn much.

I befriended guys who knew Josh in grammar school but had severed ties with him since. My friend Graham said he’d endured multiple Jane tantrums, too appalled to speak to Josh in their wake. Josh abstained from verifying if his mother battled mental health issues but she was prescribed medications and rhapsodized often, almost gloatingly, of seeing doctors, deeming her knowledge as a nurse’s assistant superior to professional opinions. Having observed my mother’s struggles with depression — Jane only once abandoned her ego to divulge her issues in confidence — I gave him credit for bearing her burden; his father, a kind if defeated man, owned a business and worked long hours while his brother was isolated, mainly playing video games in the basement. Josh and Jeff were adopted — Josh indicated his nonexistent desire to ascertain his origin story — so he entertained his mother’s mood swings out of gratitude, or that’s how I justified he withstood her bipolar inclinations.

Throughout senior year, Josh and Jane taught Sunday School though he forgot to disclose it to me. Perhaps he worried I might find the juxtaposition of his preaching the Good Book to kids while asking me to ship a copy of Last Tango in Paris to myself on his behalf unnerving, too afraid to open it in eyesight of Jane, dreading her commentary on the film’s blasphemous sodomy scene. The three of us remained friends throughout college, Moore and I taking separate trips to see him in Chestnut Hill. (Moore had sex with a Laotian girl during his stopover; I watched Andre, a movie about a seal, with an uninterested undergrad.) Josh dabbled in pretentiousness — he listened to Bach in a sweater vest and suspenders, a pantomiming conductor — and when I swung by our high school as an alum, our old English teacher inquired, “Does he still wear smoking jackets and stuff?”

Josh got me drunk for the first time when I was 19, easily accessing a surplus of elixirs in the family cabinet. Jane sat nearby unaware as he fed me bourbon and 151-proof vodka before driving to cavort with his friends Julia and Missy. The poison paralyzed me: I hit on Julia, Moore’s ex-girlfriend, despite lacking an attraction to her. I implored Missy to slap her “pasty white ass,” her resemblance to an albino communicated via slurring in my suddenly Kahlúa-drenched haze. After blacking out, I pissed on the kitchen table, sliding through the urine puddle headfirst. Too impaired to stand, Missy angrily punched me nonstop on the floor while shouting, “MY FATHER KILLED BETTER MEN THAN YOU IN VIETNAM!” (A harsh but acceptable sentiment considering the circumstances.) I vomited in both Josh’s van and my hat while he drove me home; he put me to bed and cleaned until sunrise to keep Jane off the scent.

The second incident that ensued on behalf of Josh’s charlatan bartender skills concluded with my mother calling 911 due to my alcohol poisoning. Jane was terrified because I’d consumed a nearly lethal amount of sauce as a minor in her home. She disrupted my friendship with Josh by forcing me to sign a contract guaranteeing I wouldn’t imbibe in her house, making me apologize to her for being irresponsible. (In contrast, my mother told Josh, “Shit happens but don’t let it happen again.”) The fallout led to increased discomfort on future visits; I was forever frightened Jane bugged every room. And she kicked my sober presence out of Jeff’s birthday party after a few hours in attendance, “You know how she is” the explanation.

My banishment led to a noteworthy day when I requested Josh’s advice to select a suit for an upcoming wedding. (His clothes horse habits regularly made my mother debate his heterosexuality.) He first stopped to get a haircut, asking me to wait and embarrassingly read a magazine with no warning his locks were being shorn. Josh selected a speckled gray jacket, navy blue tie, and brown slacks for me — opinions were mixed — then we devoured burgers on his dime. The night climaxed with our ritual — seeing a movie — and I returned the favor by offering to treat.

“You think this day can get more homoerotic?” I asked him. “Wanna go to a bathhouse or maybe catch a Cher concert? Worst case scenario, blow some dudes at a gay bar?”

“I guess I should’ve mentioned the haircut,” he said, laughing loudly.

At least I knew he’d brush his teeth after fellating a stranger, no prompt from Jane necessary.

* * * * *

In his sophomore year at Boston College, Josh met a brunette from Vermont named Meredith at an extracurricular church group. He was hesitant to engage her romantically — his previous relationship ended on an unpleasant note — until we talked about it.

“Why don’t you give it a whirl?” I asked him. “You two enjoy Jesus. And one another’s company. Possibly in that order.”

“I’m not sure I want to date anyone yet,” he said, ignoring my joke.

I encouraged him — hoping he explained to Meredith that she’d have to meet Jane, outlining the specifics so she knew what to expect — and they tried dating soon thereafter. She lingered by his side throughout my stays, asking where he was going (the bathroom), why he hadn’t finished a glass of water (he wasn’t thirsty), and if he planned on starching a shirt for Sunday mass (rhetorical). The rare instance she wasn’t present company took place at bedtime; he walked her across the street to her dorm, the two of them averse to sleeping in the same space, reverting to a devout form of Catholicism enforced by preceding generations. (She slept over a handful of nights, dozing on an air mattress, presumably locked in the closet wearing her chastity belt.)

Josh invited me — along with Meredith and friends from their church group — to his 21st birthday celebration at a swank restaurant. He ordered a bottle of wine bearing his surname and gave a speech quoting Jay-Z: “I wanna thank everyone for coming out tonight. You could’ve been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with me. I appreciate that.” True to form, I proceeded to get severely inebriated. He and Meredith brought me to the tiny room he rented in a glorious brownstone near campus; I uncomfortably spoke lewd comments to Meredith, stopping to shriek “DIANA TAURASI!” to celebrate the UConn women’s basketball team winning the national championship. Like good Christians, they forgave me and I departed looking at a real piece of shit in the rearview mirror: myself.

The following year, Josh proposed and they set a July 2006 wedding date. Josh revealed to me that he retired from masturbating to appease God — Jeff sure to pick up his slack — an odd revelation coming from a guy who worked at an adult video store during high school. Despite our budding differences, I kept in touch — Josh habitually not replying to an email for a month — although Meredith often replied on his behalf, acting as his personal secretary. Josh burdened himself by emailing me that Meredith would be out of town in advance of the wedding, inviting me to Boston to commemorate his pending nuptials.

As I approached Worcester on the Mass Pike — driving 88 in the fast lane — I got pulled over. Even worse, I had unknowingly failed to renew my car registration, leading to my Mazda 626 being towed to an impound lot, hundreds of dollars in fees awaiting me. I called Josh to explain; he was grateful he wouldn’t have to clean bodily fluids or perform CPR after I swallowed more liquor than Andre the Giant at his most forlorn. (Moore joked that he’d have served me turpentine in a boot to slow my intake of whatever was in sight.)

In the months leading to the wedding, I warned Moore that I planned on getting historically drunk at the reception, hoping to tell off Jane. Unlike the clemency Josh and Meredith showed me on several occasions, I refused to forgive Jane for belittling me. I rarely broached her borderline abuse to Josh, reserving my true feelings fearing damage to our rapport. I secretly believed he chose a school in Boston — he toured a university in St. Louis prior to enrolling at BC — to elude his mother, leaving Jim and Jeff so they had to bear the brunt of her hysteria. I was well aware of my stupid behavior — choosing to keep drinking was my fault — but didn’t warrant Jane’s outright condescension. I never intentionally harmed her. I’d embarrassed myself enough but gifting Jane with a lasting memory of me hitting my nadir proved too tantalizing to pass up.

Moore drove to the church in his new SUV — he supported my wedding mission but urged me to vomit anyplace but his RAV4 — at one point saying aloud, “Josh is getting married,” a fact I knew having arisen before noon on a Saturday to behold it in the flesh. It inspired awe that our closest mutual friend was, at age 23, already tying the knot. We encountered Josh in his tuxedo — the same outfit he wore on trips to the Wendy’s drive-through, handlebar mustache trimmed and pipe in hand — and he admitted his surprise that we turned up at the church.

“When you asked what time the reception began, I figured you’d skip the ceremony,” he told me.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” I said, primarily obsessed with thinking of additional challenging Hangman words.

Moore and I noticed a pillar with notches carved into it, joking it tallied the number of boys molested by the priest performing the ceremony. (Josh had befriended the priest; based on his stories, I postulated he had more pals in the clergy than fellow students.) We tried like hell but only completed 80 percent of the puzzle. The ceremony wrapped up and I lit a cigarette on the church steps before Jane momentarily conversed with me.

“I saw your name in the paper,” she said

“It was a minor felony,” I quipped, aware she was referencing the UConn Dean’s List.

* * * * *

We entered the Marriott to learn the open bar lasted an hour. I ordered a Jack and Coke, my drink of choice, and was advised they served the inferior version: Dewar’s and Pepsi. The race against the clock set the ugly pace; Moore and I each slugged three cocktails plus I grabbed a beer to use as a chaser. Having eaten only a handful of hors d’oeuvre, the liquor took hold quickly. I meandered outdoors to smoke a cigarette and sipped on a hot bottle of Jägermeister stored in Moore’s SUV; it was 90 degrees out so the digestif tasted less pleasant than usual. I called a friend in the Boston area to make small talk — my faculties slipping — and lost track of time in the process. I re-entered the hall to see the bride and groom’s parents being introduced, sitting at a corner table draining my bottle alone, thankfully clearheaded enough to not disrupt the ceremony.

Once the new couple sat in their elevated seats to survey guests like royalty, I landed at our table, ignoring a variety of the newlyweds’ Catholic comrades.

“You finished that?” Moore asked incredulously about my consumption of the pint of Jäger.

I demanded his keys and stepped back outside, uncapping a pint of Captain Morgan’s hotter than my body temperature. I reappeared — declining to properly introduce myself to those sitting with us — and handed Moore the bottle.

“Everyone, my friend Adam!”he announced.

Seconds later, two security personnel cautioned me that having an open container in the same room as a permitted bartender was illegal. My plea to return the pint to the SUV was granted. I chatted with our friend Ben — the friend who sat with Josh, Moore, and me at the high school lunch table for two years, once mock accusing Josh of committing an act of necrophilia with a teacher’s deceased husband — and he loaned me the flask he received for being a groomsman. We filled it with rum and traded glugs while catching up. Sidestepping an incident with security and spending no money at the bar skyrocketed my confidence.

Moore flirted with a religious girl in a maroon dress named Annie; she rebuked his overtures with an attempt at conversion, his years in Catholic school unnoticeable to her chaste viewpoint. Josh’s longtime friend, Chase, sat with us, periodically eyeballing Moore with an aghast expression, refusing to say a word to me about my drunkenness. Despite my insufficient skills, I opted to dance with the bridesmaids, falling on the floor and grabbing their legs until two groomsmen helped me to my seat, but not before I slapped a girl on the ass (she was Damon’s fiancé, one of the groomsmen assisting me, and she slapped me in the face to show her appreciation). Soon thereafter, Josh and Meredith took the customary tour of the room to say thanks, indulging in unforeseen humiliation.

“Your sister looks hotter than you do,” I said. To the bride. On her wedding day. “Moore brought it up first,” I told Meredith in my defense, kissing her on the cheek. “You deserve this, buddy,” I said to Josh, meaning his wife, not my opinion. They pretended to have been deaf to my commentary on beauty and reward, taking my drunken analysis in stride, mostly indebted I hadn’t tried to piss on either of them.

* * * * *

I disappeared to suck down another cigarette and ask the concierge where to discover the hotel bar. I entered to spot a giant projection screen showing the World Cup Third Place game and ordered a Corona, the pint of rum long gone. Onlookers at several tables watched the soccer game in relative silence. In contrast to my unwillingness to speak to anyone at the reception, I asked the strangers what nation they were cheering for to win the championship the following day.

“We’re from Italy,” an older man said to me, his accent noticeable. “The Azzurri will win!”

“Wow, you’re really from Italy? You know you’re going to lose tomorrow, right? France will kill you guys!” No Frenchmen were within earshot to support my statement.

I ceased harassing the Italians long enough to view the game. German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger kicked an arcing shot from 25 yards away past the Portuguese goaltender. Though I never previously cheered for the German team in my life, I reacted with elation, hollering “SCHVEINSTEIGAH!” in my best (aka worst) pseudo-German accent at them. The bartender witnessed my antics yet continued to serve me, his perception of reality a mystery. When Schweinsteiger scored again 20 minutes later, I sprinted to the screen and high-fived the goal scorer while my newfound Italian enemies glared disdainfully.

Having not seen me for an hour, Moore walked to the bar to identify me hunched over trying to pay the tab with my library card, the entire contents of my wallet sprayed around me. Moore tipped an extra $40 — I spurned overtures to disappear — and asked if I could sleep there before security decided I needed to exit the premises. In my defense, I settled what I owed even if the barkeep waited for the remittance on my terms.

We left the Marriott — no other Europeans in sight to insult — and Moore honored his plan, regardless of my condition, to visit his girlfriend Val. (He had no intention of bringing me home in such an intoxicated state.) Moore filled his gas tank at a rest stop and we walked inside — he wisely deduced leaving me alone was too dangerous — to acquire food at McDonald’s.

“Friday, what do you want? Anything you want is on me.”


“No third, you go now!” the latino man working the cash register said, the language barrier not wide enough for him to know the McThird was unavailable.


I extracted a piece of paper from my notebook — perhaps aware my library card wouldn’t swipe — and insisted on buying third place with third place, my designation for said paper. Moore grabbed me by my necktie and slowly dragged me back to the gas pump. Incapable of forsaking my love of being the runner-up to the runner-up, I asked a man in his car the only reasonable question imaginable.


The man promptly sped away, clearly with enough gas in the tank. I approached a second man — irate at my inability to locate third place — and skipped my question to put my hand on his visage, yelling “FACED!” Moore was contrite to the unlucky bastard, telling him I was autistic and we had buried our father that morning. He immediately forced me into the SUV to bypass the risk of police involvement. Unbeknownst to him, I stole a case of water from the outdoor display and put it in the trunk. Regardless of my condition, I recognized the importance of hydration.

As we got on the highway, Moore called his mother to let her know the wedding was uneventful, and that we were detouring prior to our journey back. He hung up and I contributed vital feedback.

“Your mother is a nice woman. Tell her I hope she gets third place!”

“Why not first or second, bud?”


Extending our trek through chain establishments, we entered Dunkin’ Donuts, Moore hopeful caffeine might sober me up. I emerged from the bathroom and leaked to the cashier that France would win the World Cup, checking with a guy in line behind Moore if he agreed with me. (He unsurprisingly didn’t care.) I ordered a medium hot coffee and as soon as it was handed it to me, I ripped the lid off and drank the entire cup in ten seconds. Moore gawked at me in horror, certain I burned a hole through my esophagus. By now, he was marveling at my antics, finding the surreal displays increasingly hilarious.

Our final haven was TGI Friday’s, meeting Val where she was employed, a bold move on Moore’s part given my conflict with sanity.

“What do you want?” I asked Moore as he parked, mirroring his question earlier. “I’m gonna get a dozen donuts.”

“This is Friday’s,” he told me. “We already went to Dunkin’.”

“My house isn’t here. Let’s get donuts.”

“No, we’re at Friday’s the restaurant.”

“I don’t cook, dude!”

“Fuck it. Wait with me for Val.”

I obeyed Moore by lying on my back in the parking lot, smoking a Black & Mild in under five minutes. Moore spoke with Val quickly, pausing to ask me how I was doing in the wake of defiling my mouth and lungs like they were the graves of my worst enemies.

“I really want donuts!” I told him.

“Fucking A! Let’s go.”

The drive home was unremarkable — I passed out for a bit much to Moore’s delight — aside from my mother’s phone call. I apprised her that I wasn’t drunk, a proclamation she disagreed with upon greeting me at her condo. And I asked Moore 17 different times — he counted — what time we decamped from the wedding. He recapped the adventure and whenever I heard a new name, I awarded the person third place. He informed me the next day that I managed to stomp a footprint on the interior roof of his SUV along with inside the glove box. Yet I fulfilled my end of the bargain: no vomiting.

* * * * *

Moore left Josh a voicemail: “I got AHF back in one piece. Sorry for the inconvenience, but we were both happy to be at your wedding.” It sounded no different than a message from a faceless customer service representative. I braved Italy winning the World Cup alone, my mouth tasting like a mix of used trash bags and sandpaper. In due time, I emailed Josh and Meredith to make amends for my misdeeds; they kindly absolved me, not a word touching on the wedding.

My misguided attempt to enrage Jane resulted in harassment and debauchery best saved for a less ceremonial event, like a cockfight or midget toss. Moore admitted that he had his credit card in hand, ready to put me in a room for the evening, balking out of the fear that literally any outcome was possible unless he strapped me in a straightjacket first. I’m forever indebted that he didn’t ditch me, his kindness emblematic of how he’s treated me all the time I’ve known him. Eight years later, he gifted me a tribute that sums up my absurdity best: a personalized third place trophy topped with a bronze soccer ball. (Fittingly, France lost that day.)

Full of surprises, Josh and Meredith summoned me to Boston in the fall for a football game, Josh omitting an important detail until my arrival: we were eating dinner with Meredith’s parents and siblings. If it was unspoken revenge for the wedding, he earned credit for the seemless execution.

“It’s nice to meet you both,” I told Meredith’s mother and father as her sister stared at me like I had amnesia. They said nothing referring to what transpired at the Marriott.

Moore and I got together with Josh and Meredith subsequent to their wedding, usually on short notice. Meredith called me from the highway ramp into town asking if Moore and I were free to convene that night. I found it rude but she declined insinuating that my half-brother was more fuckable than me. I’m not sure if they suspected I was an alcoholic or too self-destructive to be fixed without realizing it on my own, but I revered their grace. I disliked that Meredith castigated Josh for swearing in her presence, but as the person who encouraged him to date her, I had only myself to blame, dag nammit.

On Easter weekend a couple years later, Moore and I met with them and they mentioned lying about with whom they were dining. (Jane outlawed interacting with me.) Meredith told us she was pregnant — well ahead of the three-month waiting rule elapsing — and I assumed it would be the death knell of our friendship. Meredith gave birth at 4:20 to a girl named Mary Jane, an unexpected marijuana pun from the straightest duo I knew. Burdening their daughter with Josh’s mother’s name was either a moronic decision or a chance for someone in the family to embody it with dignity. I comprehended that life unfurls as a narrative: people come and go, playing supporting parts while only a handful remain in the foreground for the duration. In spite of the unwelcome things I did to kill our accord sooner, Josh valued my company over my fuck-ups. Now he had a family to raise; I was still busy trying to escape my harmful teenage tendencies. We haven’t spoken or emailed in years: they have four kids now, each one surely imbued with their benevolence, much to the detriment of Meredith’s secretarial skills.

* * * * *

Not long after the wedding, Moore heard a knock on his front door. He opened it to detect Jane there to greet him.

“I want to thank you for how you handled Adam at the wedding,” she told him.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” he lied. “I’m sorry for any problems it created.”

She said I required an intervention, citing my immorality and terrible decision-making. Moore hinted that he was no longer interested in conversing, the sound of her voice equal to an ear infection. They briefly embraced before her departure.

“Who was that?” Moore’s mother asked him.


“What did she want?”

“She thanked me because Friday and I prevented an incident at Josh’s wedding. Jeff drunkenly antagonized some Germans and we intervened to avoid a fight.”

“Oh, that was nice of her, huh?”

“I could’ve lived without seeing her again, but sure.”

Although I fulfilled my desire to perform a spectacle to remember at the wedding, the self-loathing had yet to evacuate me. Those I told the story to said it occurred at all weddings, not that such a remark reassured me. When Moore reported that Jane visited him to condemn me, my humiliation vanished and I embraced what happened. She castigated me to make herself feel better, loath to address it with me face-to-face. If she knocked on my door, I would’ve draped a tarp over the fish tank full of tequila, invited her in to chat, and respectfully confessed my mistakes, apologizing on my terms. “Aren’t you impressed I didn’t get arrested?” I’d inevitably let slip out, but upon parting ways we’d hug unenthusiastically, satisfied our final ever encounter was amicable. If the bride and groom were at peace with my reprehensibility, why wasn’t she? I imagined her notifying Josh that she conversed with Moore, Josh conveniently too busy with a mouthful of toothpaste to effectively enunciate his disbelief. And I reverted back to my mindset in advance of Josh’s wedding. I hoped he got divorced and remarried — the particulars irrelevant — not because I disliked Meredith. I just wanted to buy second place next time.

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