FEBRUARY 2009 – NO. 30
Stand by your man
Rick delivers the verdict over the phone. We've got a window of freedom before the shower. I snap the phone shut and hustle to the car.
Driving down the hill toward a halfway-point watering hole I think about the friends I'm losing to bad marriages. Ray, the funny one, whose wife claimed she couldn't get pregnant but then did, shortly before revealing that the $12,000 in debt was more like $100,000. Bill, the responsible one, who rushed back home to be on time and sat on the couch waiting for a spouse who didn't bother to call. My beloved but changing city is getting too wealthy, drawing gold-diggers, those agents of deception that plague financial worlds and Tinsel Town.
I park the car in a cracked lot with faded stripes and head into Scooters. The door, kept open to provide needed oxygen, frames a gaudy portrait of a room filled with pool tables, smoke, and almost no guests. I walk past a neon Budweiser sign and see Rick perched on a stool near the lottery machines. Walking across the worn carpet I'm surprised by something new in myself: commitment. I realize that I'll do whatever it takes to keep this friendship alive. Even visit Scooters for a time-challenged rendezvous when we should be running free. But at this point I'd rather sacrifice my hand to a Coke machine than lose another friend. Especially Rick, who's grinding toward a first anniversary that promises to be anything but a celebration.
I slump into a chair next to my friend, who's checking something on a blackberry. The time, most likely. Just got here, but can't risk leaving too late. I can't blame him really — no one wants to endure a spouse's pouty look of disapproval.
We roll through our usual opening salvo, a series of gently off-color comments that build on each other, rising in wit and darkness. I choke on beer as Rick grins widely, clearly the winner of today's one-upmanship. Then we cover the serious stuff, financial crises and the like.
The phone rings and Rick looks down at the Blackberry with disdain. He gets gloomy and shifts the topic to wedding showers, making a comment about "painting on a smile." He does these events far too often, chewing up valuable weekends on supposedly happy things he hates but can't break free from. Rick's inability to say "no" is like a cancer that is slowly eating away at his life.
Rick slaps a five on the table, shakes my hand, and heads for the door. These little visits feel like affairs, with one person staying behind while the other heads home battling feelings of guilt. I sip on a beer and watch two bikers rack balls on a pool table marred with cigarette burns. Watching the jovial pair I fight a feeling of childish resentment.
This is modern life, I guess. But I know what I'm going to do. What I need to do. I'm going to stand by my man.
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