Speaking of Friends
Have I ever told you about the guy who used to be my best friend when I lived in downstate Illinois?
He was an English teacher at the local community college — before he lost his job.
Why did he lose his job? Well, besides being a failed novelist, he was an alcoholic and a pill popper and a slob. He lost his driver’s license because he had too many DUIs, and then he lost his job because he kept drinking booze and popping pills and writing novels no one — even his friends — wanted to read.
But he was also a really lovely guy with a great heart.
I went to his house one day after he lost his job. He wanted me to come over because he had a gift for me. I had helped him run errands, that kind of stuff, because he couldn’t drive. So he felt he wanted to give me something. I was okay with that. I understand the need to be thankful.
First, we had lunch, a great lunch of Tequila Sunrises and homemade Mexican burritos, and we talked about novelists we both loved. Most of his favorites were Russians, most of mine were Americans. But that’s okay too.
And then he gave me the gift. I wasn’t expecting anything. I was just there at his place to have lunch and talk about books and authors, but suddenly my friend got up and went to his desk and came back with a beautiful, golden, narrow wooden box. And inside of it was a $100 fountain pen. It was brand new, with the price tag still on it.
I was stunned. The thing was gorgeous, but what do you do with a gift like that? I write all the time, but I never write with a pen. This is the age of computers and iPads. When I write, I write with my fingers tapping on a keyboard. You know what that’s like.
But like I said, the pen was gorgeous, so I took it and thanked my friend. And so now this pen sits on my desk, and every time I see it I think of him and our friendship — even though finally he decided I was a jerk and a terrible person and he didn’t want to have anything to do with me because I wouldn’t lie to the judge when he was brought up on even more Driving Under the Influence charges.
This is my latest column for the Dziennik Zwiazkowy, the oldest Polish paper in America.
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