“No offense,” said JJ. “But we’ll never be that kind of friends.”
“What do you mean,” said Ben. It was between periods at the hockey game and the Zamboni was finishing its rounds. The church group had seats behind one goal about halfway up.
“I mean you keep inviting me over. You keep inviting me out for a beer. I haven’t responded. I’m hoping you’ll stop asking but you don’t. Now you’re pressing me.”
“I just thought…”
“We have nothing in common,” JJ said.
“We have the church.”
“We don’t even have that in common,” JJ said. “I’m trying out the church. Giving it a chance. Looking for a connection to God.”
“Have you found that connection?”
“Yes but not like you. You find God in a group of people all thinking the same way. I’m just looking for a different perspective.”
“Well, isn’t a church a group of people who all believe the same way,” Ben asked.
“That’s like being a fan,” said JJ. He gestured out at the arena, the glowing white ice and the milling fans. The throbbing AC/DC and ads everywhere. JJ sighed. “Here’s why we can’t be friends. You actually care who wins or loses this game.”
“Well, we’re the home team. Everyone’s cheering for them.”
“This is minor league hockey. None of the players want to be here. The coaches don’t want to be here. You don’t live in this city. Me neither. I don’t want to live in this city.”
“No one wants to live in this city,” said Ben.
“Exactly,” said JJ. “But you’ve been cheering the whole game as if this is life or death. You actually care or who wins this game between teams of players who want to be someplace else.”
Ben was looking hard at JJ. “You think we’re all a bunch of idiots,” he said.
“No, no, that’s not it,” said JJ. “I’m just saying why we can’t be friends outside of church.”
The home team was emerging from someplace under the stands. The music rose and the crowd roared to life. Ben went to get to his feet then sat back down and leaned toward JJ.
“You must not have many friends,” Ben said. Then he stood and clapped as the players swooped and veered on the ice, warming up for the last period. JJ sat as the others stood around him clapping to the music. He felt like a little kid in a sea of adult legs, trapped and ignored.
JJ thought of the bus ride home with the church group. “That’s gonna be a long half hour,” he muttered. Then he stood with the other 4,136 hometown fans to watch the third period.