Freight Train is my NFL player bestie, and just like Roomie, I met him at the bar! We became fast friends and feel like we have known each other forever. We laugh a lot about the day we met and blame our chance meeting on the law of attraction. Little did we know, we were two very similar people in search of something we could only get from each other, inevitably our worlds had to collide. It’s clear now that we both got exactly what we needed and have developed a special bond because of it.
The day we met he told me he hated Cleveland. I didn’t look at him like he was crazy, and I certainly didn’t call him a jerk because he played for a Cleveland team and said he hated the city. I recognized the anger in his voice and I didn’t need him to explain because I already understood. When I moved to Charlotte I hated it and I wasn’t afraid to let anyone know how I felt. I was lonely and I took my frustration out on the place that made me live so far away from my friends and family, I took it out on a city I knew nothing about. Yes, it was my choice to move, but if I didn’t I was going to lose the guy. If Freight Train didn’t move he would lose his job. I understood all too well how he felt and it made me sad. I told him we’d hang out and my friends and I would make him love Cleveland. We swapped numbers and he gave me a look as if to say, good luck.
The entire first week we hung out was a complete blur. I was catapulted into a world I couldn’t quite grasp. I was Alice and Freight Train opened the door to Wonderland. Everything was new and exciting but it was also scary and confusing. I lived in a world where I could, for the most part, trust everyone around me. He lived in a world where it was hard to trust people, everybody wanted something, money, pictures, tickets to a game and the list goes on and on. I guess I wanted something too, but I only wanted to learn. I wanted to know what it was like to have a billion Twitter followers, to buy things without having to worry about overdrafting my account, to sit at the VIP table, etc. It didn’t take long to figure out it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and while I was spending time trying to learn about his life, he was trying to learn about mine. It actually came as a surprise when he told me this, but he wanted to know what it was like to be me, to be normal, to go to dinner without getting stared at, to have fun without being judged, etc. Perfectly normal questions for two people whose lives were so different.
One day, Freight Train and I got into one of our many deep discussions. We talked about life and what it meant to really live and it made me think of my dad. Before my dad died he said he wished he didn’t work so much so he could have spent more time with us. I think about that moment a lot and sometimes wonder if I’m really living or if I’m just going through the motions. At this point, my life was a far cry from what it used to be, but I knew I was still missing something and I was after a confirmation of sorts.
I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I found a little gem hidden between all of the engagement and baby announcements, “First 3 people to email us get a free bottle and table this Friday.” BOOM! Fastest email I’ve ever sent. A few minutes later I get a call from the bar confirming my reservation.
I immediately text Freight Train. I was so excited to be able to finally contribute to this relationship. It’s hard having a friend that has money, you want to keep up but it’s just impossible! I try to contribute in little ways, make dinner, buy things here and there, but this particular night I got to contribute an overpriced bottle of liquor!
“BRO! I just got a free bottle and a table for Friday and I’m gonna let YOU to sit at MY table.”
“Ok baller! I’m bringing friends, you know the deal.”
I did know the deal. It meant that he was probably bringing other football players with him and everyone that was out with us needed to be reminded of the rule. No pictures.
At first we had a hard time understanding what the big deal was, but we also didn’t have hundreds of thousands of social media followers. Turns out those billion Twitter followers have plenty of opinions that they love to share. However, this actually turned out to be a great lesson for me. There was something liberating about not posting every detail and every picture on social media. I was spending more time living in the moment instead of trying to capture the perfect moment.
After the rules were established we hit the bar and claimed our table. Freight Train asked me to grab a menu from the waitress, I thought he was ordering food. NOPE. Apparently, there was a whole menu dedicated to bottles of alcohol, who knew?! I was still learning. My friends and I didn’t get bottles, why would we pay $200 for a bottle when it only cost $20 at the store?! That’s one hell of a mark-up! Bottle service, plain and simple, is fiscally irresponsible. I handed the menu over to Freight Train and he ordered. The bottles started coming, one after the other, after the other. The champagne, the vodka and the Patrón. Every time I looked up it was another bottle with another one of those sparklers plugged in the top. We lit that club up!
I was dancing by myself on this box and I stopped and looked around. I stared at the disco ball dangling from the ceiling, the constant rotation made different colored lights dance across everyone’s faces. I looked at everyone, they were all smiling and laughing, not one person had their phone out. My eyes landed on Freight Train and I laughed out loud, I was laughing so hard there were tears in my eyes. I watched as he poured champagne down a friend’s throat. His head was tilted back, he was laughing, Freight Train was laughing, and the champagne was going everywhere except his mouth. He picked his head back up and threw his fists up in the air like this was the greatest moment of his life. I don’t know if anybody else saw, but I saw and it was perfect. I was happy, happier than I had ever been. I knew at that moment that THIS was living, THIS was what my dad was talking about. In that moment I looked at all of my friends and wondered what I did to get so lucky. That night nothing else mattered, everyone left their troubles at the door; Freight Train was happy, I was happy, we were all happy. That night, we owned the world and everything in it and we both found that something we were looking for. Freight Train found a new place to call home, along with some pretty cool friends, and I found a deeper appreciation for the simple moments in life.
We parted ways when the bar closed and as my head hit the pillow I got texts from Freight Train and one of his teammates. They both said thank you and said it was the best night they’d ever had in Cleveland. I couldn’t believe they were thanking me and I couldn’t believe this was the best time they had in Cleveland. I felt stupid for being naïve enough to believe that athletes who had millions had it all. But I learned that first week that their life was a lot more complex than what was depicted through images on Facebook and Instagram; there was a high price they paid for the life they chose. I got a window into a world that has taught me more than I ever could have dreamed, and it will be responsible for hundreds of blog posts I write. Some stories are funny, some sad, and some are just plain ugly, but they all taught me something pretty important.
The day the season ended and he packed up to leave I cried like a baby, Roomie and I both did. There’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with Freight Train’s profession and it’s hard saying goodbye to a friend you may not see again. While he came back a few times in the off-season, he’ll officially be back tomorrow and I am beyond excited. We’ve got more living to do, more memories to make, and a whole lot more to love about Cleveland.