I have noticed that when times feel tough I tend to braid my hair in to what I call my war braids.
I do this when I feel like someone is trying to hurt me or my family. I do this when I need to do something which requires a lot of what one may call personal strength, something that makes me feel like I am running a risk regarding things that in the whole grand scheme of things probably mean nothing but which at the time feel like they require me to don a bandoleer and hook myself up with an arsenal of weaponry to protect myself and those I love, but also to endure.
I also tend to do this when I know someone is dying. or has died.
This is where my dear friend Cristo Ball, more formally known as Chris Olson.
If there was ever a friend who was able to share in adventures with me, it was him.
We once had to sweet talk our way through a (possibly) illegal cock-fight in the west valley. For 7 hours. Only to have me tell him I couldn’t stand anymore after just a few rounds. The story of how we managed to find ourselves in this spot, are just as amazing. It involves a Catholic Mission. An quirky old gentleman. Our shared ability to speak Spanish with understanding subtle nuances. It was amazing. And as awful as that actual cock-fight was, the shared experience with him was priceless.
We had so very little in common. To protect him I won’t share just how. But there was one simple thing that bound us together in a deep friendship. We both grew up well entrenched in another country. The countries were different, but the language was similar enough, the situations similar enough, that we could look at each other and know what we meant.
Cristo Ball, joined my family for Thanksgiving for the few years we knew each other and lived in the same city. It was always fun to hear his tales and listen to his stories.
We were friends, we were fond of each other and I think we both thankfully proclaimed to our own personal deity that we were grateful not to become any more emotionally involved with each other… It was vital to allow the sharing of our experiences, to dictate the fact that we must and had to be friends, and nothing more. It protected something special, some shared understanding of growing up in a Spanish speaking country.
Oh so many strange little memories of him have flitted through my mind… damn.
Well, the asshole, went and died… the results of what he described to me as “Artifacts from my misspent youth”.
I took it very hard. I wore my war braids as I waited for a mutual friend to let me know that he has passed on gentle in to the night. I wore them for the week following the news he had died. I mentally feel like I am wearing them now as I write about this and him. I still feel a certain heaviness in my heart when I think about it. Partially about being a terrible friend, and realizing I had several emails to which I should have replied. Mainly about how grateful I am for having had him in my life.
I deeply respected him, I think he felt that way about me.
But oh, holy moley… I sure do miss him and I sure do miss knowing he was an email or phone call away.
Our last emails were me begging him to come to my father’s birthday party nearer to him… it was a chance to see some small scale bullfighting. He was unable to come. [insert expletive here]
I feel like I need to get back in the ring and let him see, maybe channel that shared experience so I can envision him with me.
Oh, my dear Cristo Ball… sometimes I hate your misspent youth, mostly for it helping to take you away from people who really, really liked you. I treasure our road trips, and the shockingly countless hours of silence we shared as we took road trips around Arizona together.
You are missed, my dear friend, very sorely missed. You and your miracles in my life make you San Cristobal de las cadenas.