At night I hang out with Ethan. We drive around with the heater blasting and talk about what we’re going to do with our lives; how this coming year will be our year since this one was so godawful dark. Ethan’s living with a girl he’s in love with. She’s the one, all signs point to. They live in a quiet apartment overlooking Belmont, new, clean, lots of books. I go there a lot and when I’m there Ethan and Jana seem happier than anyone I know. I can walk into their apartment wet from the rain and dripping like a stray dog and full of doom and I sit down at their kitchen table and the whole world lightens up a notch.
Jana’s pretty and smart, tall, slim, dark hair, well-read. She has a nice laugh, a weightless, surprised, ripple of a laugh. Around Ethan you can see a different kind of light in her eyes. I love them around each other and I love a lot of things just by sitting in their presence. It’s healthy, like lying in the sun or walking through a greenhouse or taking a month off booze.
Ethan’s a good man. I don’t say that about a lot of people I know but with Ethan it’s true. He was raised on a farm in Nebraska and his values are strong and his intent honest. One of the main things I learned from Ethan was that you should always do exactly what you say you’re going to do. Whether drunk or sober, if you say you’re going to do a thing, no matter how minor or trivial, you do that thing. Or else you’re not a man. You’re weak. Or worse, insubstantial. Ethan’s judgmental but I like that about him. He’s judgmental in a strong, ethical, resolute way. A virtuous way. Ethan holds high standards for himself, and why shouldn’t he?
(Excerpt from The Growling Mouth by Adam Gnade. Available here.)