Then Lee began to change. Toward the end of the year, he gave up all of his bad habits, gifting me with an assortment of drug paraphernalia and a big bag of mushrooms he’d squirreled away under his bed. He stopped going to class and began disappearing altogether for longer and longer periods of time. One day during finals week, I saw him for the first time in ten days and asked him what was going on. There was a fire in his eyes I’d never seen before. It scared me a little.
“I have to leave this place, Hector,” he said. (His speech got pretty biblical-sounding sometimes.)
“Why?” I asked.
“I’ve seen the end.”
“The end of what?”
“The end of myself. The universe. Everything. I don’t have time to explain right now.” He looked at his watch. “I need to go.”
He put his hand on my shoulder, fixing me with a stare just this side of madness. “We will meet again.”
That was the last time I saw Lee for more than three years. In the meantime I tapered off the hallucinogens—Lee’s breakdown, or revelation, or whatever it was, had really thrown me—and started doing some actual studying. My grades improved and despite the shaky start I managed to get my degree fairly easily. One day not long after graduation I was at the park down the street shooting free throws. I spent about an hour shooting free throws every day that summer; it helped relieve the anxiety I was feeling about my future.
I hadn’t forgotten about Lee, nor did I think about him very often. But I wasn’t at all surprised to see him come walking into the park that day. It was late afternoon and his thin frame was silhouetted against the setting sun. His head was shaved and he was wearing sunglasses, but I knew immediately that it was him.
He nodded at me. “Hector.”
“Lee. Good to see you again. What’s new?”
One side of his mouth twisted up into a smile. “There is no new thing under the sun, Hector. You know that.”
“Just a figure of speech, man.”
“I know. Let’s go get a drink.”