Friday, October 12, 2007
A Portrait of Friendship
Dave was a man of routine. Dave was a man who did not like change. He would diligently go to work 5:45 a.m. everday. He had his reasons for not departing from his home at 5:55 a.m. and if you were willing to listen he could list off all the reasons for the acceptablilty of 5:45 a.m. He could give you hours of explanation with great attention to detail as to why he would leave at such a time. But most of us would gloss over the information and know that Dave goes to work at 5:45 a.m. and he has his reasons and not open the book of time with him again.
Dave's job was that of a transit attendant, this job had him housed alone in a the dark caverns of a subway station, with the unfriendly flourescent lights above and no promise of the lights and shadows of the true outdoors to permiate his work space. Dave worked at the busiest intersection of my city for eight hours a day. He saw at least 10,000 people a day, as they crossed his turnstile.The patrons would duly place their tickets, or change into the toll booth and would they would push forward through to their true destinations. Dave was the gatekeeper. Dave would always greet his patrons with a smile, a wee joke or antidote about where they were going. But for the most part, their interaction would be limited and Dave, for the most part, was a faceless man in a booth. A person you greeted everyday with a smile but rarely would you know his name let alone believe he had an identity outside the walls of the tube.
But for all those people, for the 10,000 people plus, and all those anecdotes hovering in the air, it was a pretty lonely existence. Each person would have a place to go, a place to be, and Dave was the facillitator.They, the ten thousand people had about 3.5 seconds to exchange their news of the day. They had places to go. 3.5 seconds, was enough time to say his name and give him a nod or a wink as the pushed on to their destination of choice. None would give him more than a 3.5 second thought.
Dave's existence, with the fabric of thousands walking through his toll was pretty lonely. Dave never complained. It was a living.
Dave had the company of his three daily newspapers. He would go through all the papers and would diligently note any quirky newsworthy items, and he would painstakingly clip out all comics in which he thought caused a smile. He was connected to the outside world through his papers, they were a lifeline of sorts. A lifeline of clippings to friends, friends and their families. A birthday card would often be riddled with at least twelve cartoons directly related to the recipient, no one could ever say a birthday card had no thought given when it came from Dave.
Dave would come to my bar every Thursday night at 7:45p.m. after his shift as a subway attendant. He would swagger into the bar, with his duffel bag loaded down with his news of the day. The bag never carried a work out outfit or change of shoes, just his papers and the remnants of his lunch and maybe the odd pack of cigarettes, deodorant and his endless assortment of keys.
When Dave would come into my bar, he would wear his uniform. I think his uniform gave him a voice. A voice of authority, with the emblems of the station, our city and of our country stitched into the fabric. Dave was patriotic, Dave believed that his job had purpose. Dave believed he contributed to the fabric of our city.
Dave wore a hairdo which was reminiscent of the 50's. His once golden locks, now silver, were slicked back in a perfect duck tail. He wore a black onyx ring which commemorated his twenty years of service to the city. He wore it on his wedding finger though he had never been married. For if anything, the ring he showed his commitment to the subway and all her patrons.
Dave through his trustworthy newspapers, and incredible memory could ramble off endless facts, he could tell you the life span of a mosquito, just as he could with great authority tell you the temperature inside a volcano. He could recall the stats of what the average rainfall would be in London in June, just as he knew the mating rituals of the white rhino, he could tell you about the theory of relativity, just as he could tell you about the election practices of various tribes, his scope was endless. He was a walking trivial pursuit game. He knew facts, he knew solid numbers, the gray of emotions never muted through his conversations. He was always quick with a smile and a fact to accompany it. Dave knew everything.
I had introduced Dave to Stripes, aka Peter. I knew these two men would get along famously as to their natures which to some would seem entirely opposite but to me seemed like a true marriage of friendship.
And for seventeen years it was just that. Peter would laugh endlessly at Dave's stories. He truly appreciated every birthday card ladened down with endless cartoon clippings which would be sent to him. He would drive Dave to every event and they would leave together. They would hold court together and Peter always could laugh at Dave's corny jokes no matter how many times Dave told the joke. Peter never gave away the punchline.They were truly old souls.
When Peter got sick it rocked Dave to his core. He wanted to be supportive, he wanted to give back to his ole friend but there was nothing he could do. He was at a loss. He mustered the strength for one visit to his friend's bedside. No bullet proof case could have protected his heart. And there certainly were no news articles in coping with a friend who was terminally ill. And there certainly were no Hallmark cards addressing it, For if there was, I certain Dave would have at least been able to purchase it. For by buying the card, maybe Dave would not have felt so alone.
And when Peter left our planet, Dave called me.
Stripes died, Bright Eyes.
Now, Peter gave Dave a nick name. A nickname I nearly fully understood. He called him the Captain. Captain Dave, and yet Dave never seemed to commandeer any vehicle I knew of...
But it was a name Dave embraced. A name which gave him the notion of taking charge. And he used it often when talking of his last visit with Peter.
And in ending our conversation it was arranged that the Captain would come to my home and take me to Stripes' funeral.
It did not occur to me that I had never seen Dave drive a car until he came to pick me up, it seemed so out of character to see him out of his uniform, without his duffel bag and in a car. But it did not seem real that we would be going to bury Peter so soon.
But a great deal of things that he did that day seemed strangely in character.
Like the fact that Dave never had purchased a map to go to our friend's new city. He was going to rely on a placemat that he acquired from the local Denny's.
I knew that that placemat had to have been from the last dinner he had with Peter. I knew that it was a fact that he held fast.
But being reasonable, I asked if we could stop at the gas station where I claimed I needed a water when in fact I had to purchase a map.... I would not take the place matt away from Dave, but firmly give direction through another medium. As I understand he had his issues but I had mine as well....And not getting lost on the way to the funeral home was mine.
When we arrived at the funeral without incident I breathed a sigh of relief. And I tried to help Dave along the way. I guided him into the room where we were both embraced by Peter's daughters and by Peter's lovely Joanne.
We then walked through Peter's life together.
And at the end of it all lay our dear, sweet, Peter.
And there we stood for quite a longtime and Joanne came up and asked Dave if he would do the honour of being one of Peter's pall bearers...
Now, dear Blogger please do not take this the wrong way. Please realize that with Dave, he is a logical man, and all that he was experiencing was beyond logic. His heart ached, as his best friend in the whole world was gone.
10,000 people would not know of his pain. But I do. I know how much his heart was broken.
So when Joanne asked for Dave to be a pall bearer.
He said'I dunno Joanne. That casket, that casket looks like the 3000 titanium series, and I think it weighs a ton, WITHOUT Peter in it...'
I just looked at Dave and just nudged him' Dave? What's that?' And how the heck do you know the weight of the bloody casket???
Well, Pendullum, I know, I've read upon them... Why the titianium series???My back... and the weight... and Peter...
And Joanne assured him that he would not have to lift a thing it was all on a pulley system, and he but merely had to guide it down the ramp to the hearse where hydraulic lifts would do all the work... And Peter chose to be cremated so it would be not problem as it was all ramps to the crematorium.
And with all these facts firmly in place, Dave agreed to be the pall bearer...
Now, Peter always loved a good story and he would have loved how Dave knew all those facts about the casket, he would have loved that Joanne was not dissuaded by Dave's initial abrupt refusal. Peter also would have loved the fact that I forgot to turn off my cellphone it rang right at the time the minister guided us to one of Peter's favourite passages. He would also love the various shades of red I turned when I tried to find my phone, in my overloaded purse. I could hear his laughter through everyone else's scorned looks.
But I think the thing that Peter would have loved the most...
And Peter being a good man got his one last laugh.
When we got to the crematorium, when these less than athletic pallbearers were gently guiding his casket up the ramp, these men who were taking their jobs with pride, as they guided their late friend along, these friends were jolted to an abrupt stop when the hydraulic lift broke. And the casket kinda did a plunge and they all had to take quick action to hoist their friend. And all had to carry the titanium casket to its resting place.
I know that it is terrible of me.
But when they all started swearing, arguing and heaving it was too much for me...
They all cursed the Titanium 3000 series.
I looked up to the heavens and laughed...
As Peter so did not want to leave....
But at least he left with a good story...