Jason came back for Christmas. Joanne liked to say that it was because she asked him to, but the truth was that he missed home. No, not home, Dillon – home was in Jersey now, he had to remember that.
Noah was with him, Erin wasn’t. He said she was supposed to come too and had to change plans last minute – something about a work emergency and a colleague being sick – but it was clear something wasn’t right. Jason didn’t say anything to his parents, though.
On his second day back in Texas he went to see Tim. He drove (God, it felt good to drive again!) to his friend’s house on Monday morning, only to find out that Tim didn’t live there anymore.
Jason knew Tim had dropped out of college, of course. His mother told him during one of their expensive weekly phone calls, and then Tim told him too in one of his monthly (ish) emails.
Those emails were mostly full of football news. There were game results, of course. The Panthers and the Lions. Not that Tim went to the games, but everyone living in Dillon knew the results anyway. He seemed to think that Jason would be interested, even though he himself was not anymore – not really anyway. The Panthers were no more his team and he was helping out with the Lions just because of Coach.
Jason didn’t really care about the results either, but it was a way to not lose contact with his hometown. His phone calls to his parents on Monday before dinner, writing to his old friends during the week-end, emailing Tim on Tuesday night, reading Tim’s emails whenever he got them: it was like being back in Dillon, at least for a little while. And reading about Dillon football felt good. It felt right.
Or course, Tim didn’t just wrote him about the games. There were practices, too, the rivalry between the two teams, and the Lions making progress. Vince, a guy Jason had never met, was now QB. Luke, another guy Jason had never heard of before September, looked at Tim like he was some sort of mythical hero (not that Tim used the words ‘mythical hero’, that was Jason translating from Riggins to English). The boy had passion, heart. He reminded Tim of Jason and himself when they were younger. Not that he said that either, but Jason had always been good at reading between the lines, especially with Tim.
In his next email, Jason teased Tim about Luke having a crush on him. Tim replied (27 days later) that he could go fuck himself. Then he told him about Matt’s dad.
Jason knew already: his mum had called him as soon as she found out (which was about an hour after Matt did – news and rumors in Dillon spread as quickly as ever it seemed) and he had called Matt. He’d wanted to be at the funeral, but he was about to close an important contract with a player he’d been chasing for months so he just couldn’t leave New York.
Together with his moving out of home (which Jason found out from a tired Mindy just that morning), and Lyla coming back and then leaving again (which Jason read in one of her emails), he also failed to mention that his nephew was born (but Jason knew from his mum).
Tim wasn’t good at the long-distance friendship thing. Or at the long-distance relationship thing for that matter, considering what happened with Lyla.
Jason didn’t mind. He wrote to him every week, without waiting for Tim to write back first. Tuesday emails, that’s how he called them in his mind: a not-so-good surrogate for Tuesday dinners with Tim at his house, a tradition which was established when they were still in Pee Wee and was only interrupted for a few months in 2006, after he broke his neck and Tim and Lyla broke his heart. But that was the past, water under the bridge. He and Tim were best friends again, and he and Lyla were friends now. That was all that mattered.
In those Tuesday emails, Jason told Tim everything, or almost everything, going on in his life: what Noah said or did, how was work going, what he did in what little free time he had. He told him about Erin too, though less and less as things got worse with her. But he wasn’t going to think about that. Not here in Dillon. Here he could be his old self. If he tried hard enough, he could even pretend like nothing changed since he left, like he’d only been away for a week.
But things had changed. And Tim had changed too, he’d grown up in a way. He was still Tim, but not really. It didn’t matter: Jason had changed too.
Mindy didn’t know where exactly Tim lived now, but she told him he could probably find him at Riggins’ Rigs.
Jason knew everything about Riggins Rigs. Tim loved to talk about it. Jason once got an email only about that, with just a brief mention of Coach and J.D. McJerk, as Tim was now calling him. Jason didn’t really know what that was about. Probably just some Lions-Panthers rivalry.
At Riggins Rigs, Billy told him his brother was home, and explained him how to get there. Apparently, home for Tim was now a trailer in the garden of a woman and her daughter’s house.
The daughter – at least Jason assumed she was the daughter – looked hurt and pissed off as she told him Tim was there, but a blond chick was with him. Jason got out of the car, wheeled himself to the trailer, and called his friend’s name anyway. It would have been weird not to. They were still Six and Riggs, right? And that was what Six and Riggs did.
It wasn’t Tim who opened the door, but the blond chick. She was buckling her belt, her shirt was buttoned all wrong and she turned out to be Tyra.
She didn’t bother finishing to fix her clothes – it was Jason after all – and just went and hugged him. Tim joined them outside a couple of minutes later, his hair ruffled and a smile on his lips.
The trailer was big enough to fit the three of them inside comfortably, but steps and Jason weren’t on speaking terms anymore. So they ended up at Applebee’s, despite Tyra’s protests that she used to work there and she was in Dillon just for a couple of weeks and didn’t want to spend them in that place full of horrible memories. Tim told her to shut up and, surprisingly, she did.
They sat down in front of three beers, and Jason asked them if they were back together.
They weren’t. Tim was over Lyla (she’d been home for almost a week now, and they had just shared a few words outside of the supermarket), and Tyra was mostly over Landry, but things were still complicated. For one, Tyra wasn’t really over Landry. She admitted she was telling herself she was over him, but in fact she wasn’t. Thing was, she knew he would go to some college in another state, and she had three more years at her college in Texas: four years apart were too much. They would meet new people, change, grow up, grow apart.
She’d talked with Landry about it, and they’d decided to be just friends. It had worked for the months that she’d been away, but being back in Dillon made it harder. They had seen each other a couple of times already, and so far they had stayed true to their promise of being just friends. It had been fun and refreshing, actually, but at the same time it left her wondering ‘what if’.
At that point, she laughed and apologized for the over-sharing. She had been Tim’s girl for years, Jason’s lover or girlfriend or whatever that was for months, and yet they never really shared. Maybe a little with Jason, but their conversations were mostly about Tim and Lyla, and then they stopped talking and started kissing and touching.
It had been weird at first between the three of them. It was the summer after the State championship. Lyla was out of the picture, even though sometimes Tim couldn’t help but think about her. Tim and Jason’s friendship was still fragile, the pieces wrapped up together, the wounds still there threatening to start bleeding once again. Jason had been scared of telling Tim about his relationship with Tyra. He didn’t want him to think that he did it to get back at him. He didn’t want to ruin things once again. Most of all, he didn’t want to hurt Tim. Tyra understood, but she also knew that you can’t keep a secret forever. Especially in Dillon. Secrets had a way of coming out, and it was better that Tim found out from them.
So they told him, and Tim was okay with that. He was even happy for them. He was also drunk, so whatever he said about a threesome didn’t count.
They started going out together, the three of them. The boys would pick Tyra up from work and they would go to Tim’s house, the lake, or the football field.
“We should go to the football field,” said Tim out of the blue.
“It’s the 21st of December, dumbass. It’s too cold.”
But they ended up going to the field anyway. The Lion’s field, not the Panther’s – that was off limits now. It didn’t matter to Jason: it was a football field in Dillon, Texas. If it wasn’t the one he broke his neck on, all the better.
Tim had the keys of the locker rooms (he had changed if Coach trusted him his those, considered Jason) so they got a ball.
“Who’s over relationships?” asked Tim, looking at the football like he was talking to it instead of his friends.
Both Tim and Tyra raised their hands without even thinking about it. Jason did think about it, but then he raised his hand too.
Tim looked at him. “Problems with Erin?”
“She’s with another man, they work together. But I’m okay with that. I’m in New York all week and when I go home in the week-ends I just want to spend time with Noah,” Jason let out. Wow, it had been easier than he’d thought.
“Well, relationships are overrated anyway, right?” said Tyra.
They stood (or sat, in Jason’s case) there in comfortable silence for a few moments. Then Tim threw the ball at Tyra and they started playing. Jason called the plays, Tim complained that Tyra couldn’t run them and she shouted at him that she never played football so she wasn’t supposed to know them.
It ended with Tyra in Tim’s arms, and then Tim on top of her, and then her in Jason’s lap. She kissed both of them, and after that she left them on the field and went home.
Tim smiled. “She’s still Tyra,” he said. And what he meant was that she still tasted like summer and Texas. Jason nodded. She tasted like happy memories too.
“Come to New York with me,” Jason said, looking up at Tim for a moment and then at end zone. “I’ve got a couple of guys looking for a personal trainer. You don’t need to go to college to do that. They just need someone to tell them to run in the mornings, and you have been working with Luke for the past few months. Coach told me you’re doing a great job with him. We can rent an apartment together. I’d see Noah in the week-ends like I do now, you could come with me to Jersey. You’re still my best friend, Tim. It’s still Texas forever.”
“Even in New York?”
Jason nodded and his eyes went back on him. He saw him smile just for a moment, but he was serious when he said, “Maybe next year”.
Next year’s in ten days, thought Jason. And he knew Tim was thinking the same thing.