Monday, October 04, 2010
The Long Haul
Once in a blue moon, my best friend Jim likes to tell the story not of when we first met, but his first memory of me. He hated me.
He swears it was the summer of 1983, and I think it was the summer of 1984. Regardless, I do remember the incident. It was at a party thrown by a couple of friends of ours, Kevin and Jim (another Jim, not my best friend Jim), who were both journalism students and were renting a house together. They had a party on a Thursday night; since there were no classes on Fridays in summer school, the party was well-attended.
Now to fully explain what happened, I have to put things in context. In 1984, it seems like just about every third celebrity was "coming out" as gay, whether they were actually gay or not.
In any event, I got up on a chair, made Kevin and Jim shut the music off and told everybody that I had an announcement: that I was straight!
I discovered later that my future best friend Jim turned to his friend Dan, who like Jim is gay, and is also still a close friend now, and said "Who is THAT asshole?"
Not long after that, I met Jim through Dan, who was already a friend, and we've been close friends since then. Jim later realized, when he told me about his memory, that he'd assumed I was making a homophobic statement.
After that, Jim and I were inseparable. We'd go out together, each others' "wingmen;" if there was a woman I wanted to chat up, he'd be the icebreaker, and I did the same with guys he wanted to meet. We roomed together the next summer while I was finishing up my graduate work.
We stayed in touch after college. He lived in Champaign, Illinois for years, and when he decided to move to Chicago, he took me up on my standing offer to stay with me and my now-ex while he was finding a job and an apartment. He witnessed my ex's abuse-- there's a long-standing joke we have about him not having heard her frequent bouts of screaming at me because he slept through it. He's babysat my son, and was the best man at my wedding to Kim. We've counseled one another through relationships, breakups, job losses and just about any other crisis a guy can have.
This last week was slow at work. I went to bed last night worried; I had a tuition autopay that was due to hit Tuesday morning. I was going to come up about $80 short. I'm working tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday, but by then, the autopay would hit and cost me money either through an overdraft or a penalty for having the autopay turned away. We are so broke now that even the $28 overdraft fee will cause problems.
Right before I left for class, I texted Jim this morning, asking me to call me. Despite the fact that he works nights, he was up already and called immediately (he likes to run to the gym and work out in the mornings.) I told him my situation and he stopped me; "A hundred dollars? Is that all you're worried about? For you to finish nursing school and you to be able to pay for your kids' college? That's no problem."
Since I had to run off to class and he was going to the gym and then to work, he got my checking account number and put the money into my account.
I thanked him profusely and he pointed out that he hates my ex after having witnessed how abusive she was to me, and how she still never misses a chance to be an asshole. He considered his aid to me to be a big "F*ck You" to her.
But for my part, I feel blessed that I've found some people who are in my life for the long haul. I keep coming back to a line from Elton John's song "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters:"
And I thank the Lord for the people I have found,
I thank the Lord for the people I have found.