Five-Minute Memoir: Andrew Kaufman recalls the day a friendship went wrong

 

The trip wasn't about celebrating Cinco de Mayo. I wasn't even sure what Cinco de Mayo was. Few people in south-western Ontario, the industrial heartland of Canada, did. All I knew for sure was that it was both American and Mexican, which seemed like an odd combination, interesting but potentially volatile.

The real reason Debbie and I'd borrowed a car, spent what should have been rent money in the off-licence, then drove three and a half hours from Toronto to London, Ontario, wasn't because she'd heard that David Montgomery was having a Cinco de Mayo party – it was because Debbie hadn't seen David in about four years and I hadn't even talked to him in about nine. And we both missed him like crazy.

It's easier to explain Debbie's relationship to David than mine. They met at secondary school. They'd hitchhiked across Canada and then down through the American South. In 1987, when I moved from the small nowhere town of Wingham, Ontario, to go to university in the small nowhere city of Kitchener, I met Debbie in an English class. She took me home. Her and David were already living together. They were the first couple I'd ever met who were living unwed. This seemed radical at the time. Not that they were doing it – everybody was doing it – but that they were so open about it. Their parents knew. One of them didn't keep some stuff in a room on the other side of town just to keep up appearances. They had a pet rabbit, a hookah, and an ability to score great seats to the best shows. They took me to see the Pixies, Jane's Addiction, the Grateful Dead. The first time I ever got high was in their living room. The first time I ever felt cool was when I realised that I'd become their friend.

I was 21 when they broke up. We'd gone to Debbie's cottage. They'd started arguing about who'd forgotten the potatoes. They were arguing a lot. This argument was different, cruel. Debbie stormed away. David didn't go outside to comfort her. So I did.

The break-up was hard on him. He slept on a sequence of our couches for a while. Then I lost track of him. As we drove through the outskirts of London, I was four months from turning 30.

We parked in front of the address Debbie had got from the same guy who'd told her about the party. Giggling, we gathered up our booze and headed for the door. The party was raging. David didn't know we were coming, but once inside, it was us who got the surprise. The place was a dump, filled with secondhand furniture. Now we all lived in dumps, filled with secondhand furniture, but this was different. The floor was dirty. The armchairs lacked arms. This wasn't like David. He had never needed money to make his surroundings beautiful. These surroundings were not beautiful. Neither were the guests. Like the furniture, they were worn, dirty, and seemingly broken.

We met David in the middle of the living room. He was very thin. For a long time he just stood and stared. Then he hugged us, held us tight, as if he were making sure we were real. The conversation was hard at first. And then, just as we were all starting to relax, one of his buddies came up and tapped him on the shoulder. David, without excusing himself, turned and followed him downstairs to the basement.

They were gone for a long time. We decided to go down, too. Perhaps they were smoking marijuana, and if they were, I wouldn't say no. When we got to the bottom of the stairs the first thing I saw were the glass pipes. Then the butane lighters. Then my nose filled with the sharp acidic smell of crack-cocaine.

David waved us over. He offered me the pipe. This was the same man who'd turned me on to David Bowie, Kurt Vonnegut and magic mushrooms. What made me say no were his pupils. So large that they blocked out almost all the colour in his eyes, nothing but two ink-black full moons staring at me, asking me if I wanted to smoke some crack.

We were too drunk to go home. We slept on the living-room floor. In the morning, David and his buddies were still in the basement. I didn't say goodbye. I got into the car and I wept. This was the moment that the future turned into the present. What we were going to do with our lives had always been a decade away. But that wasn't true anymore. We were no longer en route, we'd arrived, and where David had landed was lonely and depressing and dark. It was so sad that it had happened, of all people, to David. What was even sadder was that I was willing to leave him behind.

'Born Weird' by Andrew Kaufman (The Friday Project) is available now in hardback. His novella, 'The Tiny Wife', is available now in paperback

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week