I have a this friend. He isn't really me while I try to confess to you I have some sort of issue or problem, and he isn't you while I try to get you to figure out it's really you I'm talking about. He's an actual friend. And this post is about him.
We'll call him "JEC". He'll know I'm talking about him, and that's okay. Friends of ours will know I'm talking about him, and that's okay, too.
I just wanted to document our friendship. He's one of my oldest friends, and I had a long phone conversation with him today, and I decided I wanted to write about him today.
When I was a young man of 18, fresh out of a town with a population of 669 people and three months out of a high school comprised of three small towns, I went to college in Liberty, Missouri. It was the furthest I could get away from Ralls County without actually leaving the state--or, that's how I thought of it. I think I could get out a map and find a college that would fit the bill better... but I digress.
I moved into Browning Hall on--if memory serves--August 31, 1985. I just checked. That was a Saturday. I can't remember for sure if it was a Saturday I first made that trek across the state or not. All I know is I moved into Browning Hall, first floor, west wing (room 116, I believe) on that day. I knew my roommate. I'd gone to high school with him. I'm inwardly laughing at my hypocrisy right now for almost telling the Senior I know that he shouldn't worry about knowing anyone when he goes to school--I couldn't stand the idea of a random roommate when I was 18!
Anyway, a couple of doors down there was this room that was tagged just like all the other rooms with the room number and the names on it. In very short time this was replaced with a paper covered in band names I'd never heard of, drawn all... 1985-punky, I guess. I remember the moment I saw it while walking down the hall. If I'd had car doors to lock, I would have. It was one of the first moments I realized I was in totally new territory.
That first weekend, my roommate was not there. I believe he'd gone early for football camp, and had a girlfriend back in Ralls County, and he went back to see her that weekend. I had my apple //c, and I sat with my dorm room door open and worked at my computer. It seemed to work as a way to get to know people. They'd stop by and ask about my computer, make conversation, and there it was.
The door at the end of the hall was very loud. You could hear whenever anyone opened it. So I'd keep my eye on the door so I could say "hey" to whoever walked by--or, if I heard a room door shut, I'd know their room was somewhere before mine (I was about halfway down the hall, directly across the hall from the payphone (younger readers, ask your parents what a pay phone is... and have them explain a collect call while they're at it)).
At one point, I heard the hall door open and close, and nobody walked by. There had been no door-closing prior to or not long after the sound of the hall door opening and closing. Perplexed, I got up and went to my dorm room door and leaned out to look down the hall.
JEC was leaning out his door, looking down the hall, presumably to figure out why my door was open (light from outside would have been spilling out into the hall, you see). He immediately jerked his head back in the room and slammed the door.
I shrugged, thinking "It's one of those guys in the freak room," and went on with my life.
JEC and his roommate Patrick (another great college friend of mine) had taken to calling me "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Man", because I looked a bit like Vincent Schiavelli, who was in the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (I think this is the reason, anyway--I'd typically get him as "actor I most look like" back then--although once I was told I could play Tom Hanks' brother...).
Anyway, what was happening while I was shrugging was JEC turned to Patrick and said, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Man just LOOKED at me!"
By the way, I think before I die I want that on a t-shirt.
Anyway, that right there sums up a big part of JEC. But, of course, that's not all there is to him.
We became close friends in college, and were in many shows together at Jewell. We've written ridiculous musicals together, and were frequently sounding boards for one another's projects. We've mapped out a soap opera spoof series together. All this was years ago. I don't know how much JEC writes any more. I know he gave up reading at some point, even though he's the reason I read Sara Paretsky and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. He now claims to hate reading. I don't know what happened. Or maybe he just pretends. He's the epitome of the Vonnegut quote, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." I think that quote about JEC a lot.
I think the best way to describe being friends with him is saying it's like a well-kept secret. His friends know how kind he is, how soft-hearted he is, and how he does not like injustice and does not like people treated poorly. However, the reason I don't use his name here is so he can continue to pretend to be something other than that. Sometimes, even his friends have to remind themselves of it. Plus we love him, so there's that.
After college, we lamented our lack of college-required jobs together often. There were times we'd talk on the phone and he'd point out we were acting like gossips by saying, "You know, there needs to be a picket fence right on this phone line." He loved my line that I wanted to say to Bette Midler when she was in town: "I don't know if you remember me or not, but I've seen all of your movies."
He wished me dead in a blog the day I nearly died. Because of that incident (and his reaction to realizing he'd wished me dead and I ended up in the emergency room nearly dead), I met the then pastor at my current church.
And I can't hang out with him without laughing. I can't talk to him on the phone without laughing. And I can't get away with things with him--he's not afraid to call me out.
So there it is: I love my friend, and I want him to know it today while we're both on the same planet, so he can read it and complain to me about it. I think I need to write more of these while the subject is still here. And JEC is a good one to start with.