Fail I can tolerate; falling without grace, I cannot.
I’m in the mood to write but I’m not in the mood to edit. So read or not. It’s all good. I feel like a celibate man who just discovered porn. I’m full and it’s time for the release. So. Blurt.
I had a wonderful weekend. I love a road trip. I haven’t done a let’s-get-in-the-car trip since, well since my brother and I took a week and traveled middle America in 1992. As I straddled the suspicious spill/leak in a men’s room at a truck stop in Stuart Iowa, I realized I’d forgotten rural America. I’d forgotten the cds of Merle Haggard on the gas station counters. I’d forgotten the abandoned farms. I’d forgotten the carcasses of cars left on the weed-filled yards.
He walked into the bar at the Magnolia Hotel in Omaha Nebraska and I hadn’t seen him since 1992. He was my best friend for a year. And then I was the first to quit our pursuit. I left the seminary in December and he left at the end of the year and like combat casualties, we avoided the battlefields: we left the friendship and we left The Church.
One awkward reunion in 1992. A supper shared of trivial conversations and avoided topics and all buffered by our dinner companion: my brother. And then silence.
But I missed him and finding out my heart was broken made it necessary to see him and say a hello and a goodbye. And so he walked into the bar at the Magnolia Hotel and I stopped the tears from skiing down my cheeks and I stood and met him. I smelled the cigarette as soon as my arms reached around him for a hug. I pulled back and said, “You sonofabitch! You started me on Camels!” I remembered. We laughed. And then I said, “I’m tempted to lick your face. I so miss nicotine!” He laughed as we walked to the stools. “Jesus Christ Trost, you haven’t changed a bit!” The ice was broken; we could be our us.
Drinks. Foods. Banter. Caught up with catching up. And then substance. “So are you still Catholic?” Real. Raw. “With a capital R,” I said. “Are you?” “A small c,” he replied. And then the kind of conversation I crave. All about honor and manhood and goodness and careless and sins and souls and God and failures. And I sat back in the chair and I started to cry. No one but God knew I cried. But, I cried.
I’ve wasted so many of my last moments having conversations about nothings and lesses and commons and chatter. Why have I become so content living without content? Why have I allowed myself to skim?
And I’m not talking about “fellowship.” I hate shit like that. People sitting around congratulating themselves on accepting their failures. “I’ve realized I’m flawed but I’ve offered it up to Jesus!” Oh Christ. Bullshit. Challenge to change & amend or shut up. Theology is not about acceptance; it’s about ascension. Baptismal water is for cleansing not floating.
I loved seeing him. He didn’t disappoint me. He reminded me. He reminded me of my theological passion. He reminded me of my uncompromising values. He reminded me that the man I was remains and the memory of who I became will be my legacy. A good weekend.
I have no ending here. Maybe there isn’t an ending. I’m seeing everything so finite now. Maybe life isn’t a noun. Maybe death is a verb. I’ll think about it and ask my friend for his opinion.
The oddest aspect of a friendship / relationship with a drunk is that you find yourself hoping he’ll/she’ll fail. You hope she’ll hit rock bottom faster so she’ll get help and you’ll get her bullshit off your back. It’s so soul sucking waiting for someone’s destruction. So you can wait or you can walk away. I’ve never loved anyone enough to wait or be the martyr.
Am I driven by politeness or obligation or fear? I don’t know. I do know I’m not motivated by intention or altruism. And I do know I’m driven.
I sat on the grass and watched her enter through the gate. We used to be friends. Since childhood. Before puberty. She’s been in my life for most of my life. And then she wasn’t. Her actions toward me were untoward and I walked away. Well, no. I’ve stood staid; I’ve just remained silent. But when I see her I say hello. I acknowledge her without warmth. Out of spiritual obligation and not nostalgia. No longer affectionate. Once in awhile I’d look away from my group and see her across the patio. Am I angry? No. I’m not an angry man. And although I am an Irishman, I do forgive and often forget. So I’m not angry. Am I saddened? No. I don’t think of the loss; I think of the less. She’s less than what I assumed. I assumed loyalty. I assumed fidelity. I didn’t hope; I believed.
We live in an angry and bitter world. We’ve become the Divided States of America. And so I guard myself from a deep seep. I refuse to allow myself to wallow or to stew. So I sat on the grass and examined my conscience. I’m not angry. I’m not saddened. But I am disquieted. No. I’m disappointed. Yes. That’s the adjective.
It’s bigger than the less of a friendship. It’s bigger than the loss of a believed. It’s a reflection of my soul. I’ve held a human to an expectation. I took her probity as granted. I’ve considered the word. Disappointed. Not properly appointed. I appoint people to positions in my life: loyal friend. Sage adviser. Amusing clown. Disappointed is a reaction. Disappointed is mine. I’m responsible for disappointed. So now I guard myself. I must avoid my bitter. I refuse to embrace my hateful. I repudiate a sarcastic. I will not have a pointed personality.
I walked into a bar and saw a bartender I know. Now he’s a bartender and not a friend. But we know each other by name. I’ve essentially quit drinking since this heart diagnosis, so I haven’t seen him in a good year. We shook hands and he lowered his voice and said, “How are you?” And I replied I was fine. And he moved closer and said, “No. How are you?” And then I knew my close buddy (who I don’t hear from anymore since I got sick. He didn’t even visit me in the hospital. Now there’s a fuck-you friendship) had told the bartender about my health. And frankly I felt angry.
No one has the right to my intimacy without my permission. I decide who knows about me and my life. I’m a writer. I’m entitled to tell my tales.
But you know what? You don’t call me, visit me, assist me, or ask how I am – we aren’t friends. And I’ll grab my ankles and fuck myself before someone uses me as an entertaining story. My life is not gossip.
There’s one really great aspect of facing death: I so easily and effortlessly remove people from my waning life who make my struggles about them. They can make their own film because they’re not starring in mine. Amen.