Birth in the Afternoon

3:08 p.m. Phone rings.

"It's a boy."

He wasn't the first of my friends to become a father and, I assume, certainly won't be the last. But that it was him calling with such news was the twist.

Not long ago, he was "that guy." The last one to grow up, so to speak. He would call me at 2, 3, 5 in the morning from God-only-knows-where with some story that usually started with "Dude" and ended with "Crazy shit, man." He slept little, drank a ton, tried whatever he was handed.

He was never a wreck by any means, at least not in any sense that led us to believe he needed whatever help we as friends could offer. His problems were different. They weren't about the booze or the party favors, more about the way he kept...moving. Always out late, always out there, always looking to the next scene or club or woman.

To some of us, he had that life we only thought existed in movies. Glamorous nightclubs, beautiful women, exclusive parties, sharply-dressed people, the whole lot of it. When we asked him about it, he would just shrug and say "don't think my life is any better than yours," and that was the end of it.

Until he started opening up. It was a lonely life, he said. Not that he was alone, but that he was living in a world that wasn't based on anything more substantial than what bar, club or lounge to meet at or what was opening this weekend. You never got comfortable, he would say. There were no constants. Nothing to hold on to.

We never believed him, of course. "Grass is always greener," we'd tell him, but he would only shake his head and change the subject. When he met the woman who became his wife and she led him out of the vacuum he was living in, we started to see what he meant. His nights became tamer, his weekends became less outrageous, but he never complained. Never talked about getting old or settling down or admitting defeat or any of the usual macho excuses. Instead, very quietly, he just changed.

Those times were fun, he would later say, but they weren't him. Weren't real. Just a long drawn-out way of looking for what he wanted in the places he knew he would never find it. Some people were built for that kind of life. He wasn't one of them.

And today, on the phone, I heard something in his voice I'd heard only there once before: pure, uncontrollable joy. Finally, he was happy.

About time.