If that was a surprise, so was reporting for work the next Sunday.  I found myself working with Alexander Rothrock, home from school and employed in a meat factory.

            “Ethan!”  He exclaimed, embracing me on sight before I could even speak.  I patted his shoulder awkwardly.  We stood in the locker room, where he had accosted me before I could even put on my rubber boots.

            “Hey, Alex.”

            “You’re still working here?  That’s awesome.  Really awesome.  I was hoping you did.  I mean, I haven’t seen you all year.  How was your freshman year?  I have so much to tell you…”

            He was enthusiastic, and it was hard not to be caught up in his exuberance.  We had been good friends in high school.  But I had struggled all year long.

            “You didn’t write.  Or call.  Or email, which has to be the easiest method of communication ever invented, at least for university students.”  I spoke quietly, but my voice was void of any warmth.  It stopped Alex in mid-sentence.  “I would email my friend Mihnea in the room beside mine in the residence just to see if he was there and wanted to go to the cafeteria.  I could have just knocked on his door, but everyone at school did things like that.”

            I looked up at him.  Alex was a little taller than me, but I held his eye like an equal.

            “So where do you get off acting like it’s okay to ignore me for a year, and then be my friend now?”

            His sunny demeanour fell into clouds.  His brow furrowed, and I could see remorse in his eyes.

            “E, I’m really sorry.  I screwed up…” He paused.  “I could make excuses about how busy school was, and life in general.  I got your emails.  I just didn’t make time to answer.  I’m sorry.”

            I looked at him for a moment.  His lack of self-justification was refreshing.

            “No excuses.  I like that.”  I told him.  “You’re my friend, and it shouldn’t matter how long you’ve been away.  But that doesn’t mean you can take me for granted.”

            “No excuses.  I’ll remember.”

            And then we went to work.

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