“Hey you can sit here if you want” a kid called to me as I searched for a seat on the bus.
The past few weeks have kinda sucked. Early in the summer I moved. I went from a neighborhood where all my friends lived on the same street. I could ride my bike to their house. They could walk down and play on my porch.
Now, I live in the middle of no where. In a small house that has barely enough room for my mom, step dad and my two brothers and I. My step dad is fixing up this bigger house that my great uncle started to build but never finished because he got MS.
I remember my parents sitting down and asking me if I wanted to move. Try a new school out, live out in the “country”. It all sounded so grand at the time. What I didn’t realize that I would move right after 7th grade ended. That meant an entire summer of not knowing anyone. Of just playing with my brothers. Of not meeting anyone new.
School finally started. Were you ever a new kid in school? Trust me, it isn’t fun. Not to mention a sea of white faces and you just moved from a neighborhood that was at least 60% black. Oh and toss in there you’re Asian. Yeah, just try to not stick out.
The kid slides over and tosses his book bag on the floor. I sit next to him. With a big smile he introduces himself “I’m Ben”
“So where did you move from?”
“Oh I’ve heard of that”
“So do you like music?”
“Um I dunno, my mom listens to Boys to Men, that’s all I really know”
“Oh man, my favorite band is Pearl Jam, ever heard of them?”
That moment. That moment right there on the bus. That’s the moment I went back to on Friday night. I went back to that moment as I listened to Eddie Vedder sing “Pendulum” live at a record crowd in Pittsburgh.
Ben and I became really good friends from that point on. Later he invited me to his house and let me listen to his copy of “Ten”. I was hooked. In any mood or any place I can put on Pearl Jam. It’s to the point now that I’m pretty sure I could pick out Eddie Vedder’s voice out of a crowd of thousands.
Ben and Pearl Jam came around at a critical time in my life. Things were a bit crazy. My mom had remarried and they had adopted a new baby brother, we moved from my old neighborhood to out in the country. Ben became the first friend I made when I moved. Honestly, I don’t know how long I would have gone not really talking to anyone at the new school. He helped meet new friends in his neighborhood. That transition from being the awkward new kid at school to having friends was made smoother by Ben and Pearl Jam.
Ben moved a few years later. I think his parents got a divorce and he moved with his dad. We lost touch. Pearl Jam however, stuck. I was never a concert person but I always wanted to go to a Pearl Jam concert. It got to the point where I ended up being a “bucket list” type thing. So when Spotify told me that Pearl Jam was coming to town, I had to go.
As Eddie’s voice rang out with “Nothing Man” and continued on through the night to a cover of “Rockin in the free world” over two and half hours later, I flashed back to that moment on the bus and remembered that not only did Ben give me Pearl Jam but he also gave me friendship.