I really don’t remember meeting him. I must have been 15, a sophomore in high school, bright eyed and in awe with my first days at a school of over 1400 students after spending the last nine years in a school of 200 (k-12). I don’t even have a first memory of meeting him, but over the next ten years we would weave in and out of each other’s lives. We would be friends, we would lose complete touch for months at a time, we would date – pretty much for minutes at a time. We would drink together, smoke cigarettes (resulting in 3 days of in school suspension as seniors), cry over lost loves, contemplate how to fix the world. Pledge that if we hadn’t married someone else by the time we were a certain age we would marry each other. Plan on going to NCSU together and rooming together if there was any way possible. Not go to NCSU together…. he would go to UNC-W for a minute and then become a marine. We would find each other again before my last year at NCSU by accident at the beach while he was on leave, between the Philippines and Maine, supposedly on his way to Scotland where he would take me when he finally got that assignment. A few dates later he was in Maine and my last year of college had begun. We met other people. He got married and discharged and he and his new wife moved back to NC. She would work several jobs while he went to school and went out on the town with me – completely platonic, discussing the ways of life…. contemplating how to fix the world, picking up where we left off. (His wife didn’t like me much, but she did pretend to well.) She would decide that she wanted to pursue an acting career in Wilmington and he would call to tell me they were moving. Life went on. A while later he would call and tell me that she wanted a divorce and that he would be moving home. Could we get together? Another couple of dates and he was moving to the coast or Florida or somewhere with water where he would transport boats from port to port on the Atlantic. I would show up at my grandmother’s house one Sunday finding my best friend sitting on the back steps waiting to tell me that he was gone. He was gone and I would not contemplate the good and the bad of the world with him ever again.
I don’t tell this story to make anyone sad. I tell this story to let those, like me, who loved him so much, to know he is not forgotten. It is a rare day that I don’s miss him and wonder what our friendship as 40-somethings would be. He was a loving son and brother who thought the world of his parents and brother and sister. He was a tough marine. He was a smart guy. He wouldn’t smile for pictures – football players didn’t do that – but when he did smile it lit up the whole room. He gave hugs that would make you feel like nothing in the world would ever hurt you. He was a good friend who could make you feel like you were the most important thing in front of him.
He would have been 43 tomorrow. I miss you Rodney Hamilton.