Mike likes to shop. No, he really likes to shop. Like, if you thought Brodeur was a clotheshorse, or if you thought your wife liked to shop, then you'd obviously never met Mike. Bastard always makes fun of my clothes, but at least I don't spend all day in front of a mirror, and I wear a lot of ugly things, but I'd never wear a fucking purple turtleneck. Let alone be photographed wearing it.

He loves clothes, and he loves trying them on. It's fucking boring as hell, and yet, he'll spend forever doing it. He doesn't so much anymore, but after that summer... Trying on clothes all the fucking time. I mean, he could afford it with that contract of his, but I could also buy three thousand weevils, but you don't see me doing that. There was just something about trying on something new, slipping into a different persona, that he liked. Because he'd try on mother fucking anything. Purple turtleneck, case in point. That was sorta cool; the way he'd try most anything on, and wouldn't just reel back in disgust (like I would have--I mean, mother fucking turtleneck?) or judge something without trying it first, but still...

Sometimes you just have to say no. You've got to know your limits. But Mike always had trouble with that, especially after that summer. He knows himself well. I mean, I know myself well, but how well does anyone know himself? I don't mean like you're fucking crazy and you're keeping secrets from yourself, but I fought hard not to be my father's son. I wanted to be ME, desperately. I did a lot of things for the sole purpose of not being my father's son, but that wasn't really me. And it took me a while to find myself, to become comfortable with myself, and even longer to let myself be my father's son.

Mike spent a lot of time by himself. He went up to Canada, stayed with a different family, kept to himself. I know he fucking loves that family; they're like his own. He visits them, talks to them, likes to see the old neighborhood. But even if a host family is warm and welcoming, it's still foreign and not your own. (I don't think I'd ever send my kids away from me. Even if they wanted to go; I'd force them to stay at home and be miserable.) And then later, he went first, and he went to Minnesota. Next hot shot, and I'm sure that ostracized him. Veterans recognize a hot shot; they know he's just a kid, but they also know this kid could usurp their place. It's a strange interaction: simultaneously taking a kid under your wing, and also keeping him as far away and as uncomfortable as possible.

I'm sure Mike didn't do anything stupid. Never heralded himself as the next big thing. Never pissed off any of the vets. In fact, I bet they fucking loved him. Mike loves to listen. He loves to learn, to observe. Respectful little fucking kid who always does his homework. Probably had those vets preening. The thing is, if you're always listening, always observing, you aren't interacting. So he probably spent a lot of those first few years by himself.

I figured out who I was because I constantly had people challenging me. I was stubborn as fuck and had to prove them wrong. I was loud about becoming the person that I was, that I am. I always had to do the opposite of what was expected of me. Show up to training camp in shape? Fuck no, twelve pounds overweight. Dress up for a fancy occasion? Cowboy boots. And when people expected me to do something outlandish, I'd stun them by doing the correct, proper thing.

Mike's averse to confrontation. Quiet, intense listener who grew up, mostly by himself, learning from example. That's a bit of a task. To watch others, and choose the bits and pieces that you like, that you'd like to be. He's learned from fucking everyone he's met. Taken pieces of them. You've got to be awfully mature to do a thing like that. To grow up miles away from your parents and all that you know. To have the ability, the possibility, the fucking opportunity to fuck everything up, and yet not. To have the foresight not to ruin everything.

I would have, probably. I needed guidance. I needed somebody to yell at me. I needed people to drag me to practice. Trick me into trying out for a team. I'm grateful for those people in my life, because they've allowed me the life I lead now. One that I wouldn't trade for anything, I'm that fucking happy.

But that's because people knew I was a fuck up. People knew I'd goof around all day if they didn't keep me in line. Mike wasn't. His surrogate mom at Prince Albert didn't need to scold him, hold his hand, remind him to wash up before supper. So she didn't. I had limits set for me, and I was always pushing them. Constantly. But Mike didn't. He could do whatever, and it was up to him to know when to stop.

Which is maybe why he's still testing the waters, testing himself, seeing how far he can push himself. Trying to figure out who he is. Trying on clothes until he finds something that he likes, and not stopping (dedicated mother fucker) until he does.

That's what I'd like to think anyway. Because nobody likes to think about their best friend being so fucking lost he'd try on a purple fucking turtleneck for comfort.