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.

Oh, Dave....

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.
Dave balked.

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...

44 comments:

Roz said...

wow. you are an amazing writer.

Thank you for sharing

kim said...

Beautiful story Penn.. you truly have a wonderful way of weaving a story that makes me feel like Im there with you ... its such a gift :)

Nice to see you too!

Mamma said...

Thank you for sharing this story with us. I feel like I know Peter and Dave just through this one story alone.

I've missed your writing. It's a treat to have your words to read again.

Mary-LUE said...

Oh, I love this story. It is so sweet and so funny. What happened at the funeral sounds so much like something my late brother and late uncle would have laughed hysterically at--a story they would have told and retold.

And yes, it is good to see your name popping up in my Google reader again!

qofd said...

You really are an amazing writer with a terrific ability to bring strangers to life for the rest of us.

Mamacita Tina said...

Glad you're back.

The story about the casket, the titanium 3000 series and Dave and his friendship with Peter...perfect.

St Jude said...

I love to 'hear' your voice, such a beautifully written story and with such great empathy too.

Stepping Over the Junk said...

I love this, beautiful about friendship...and enjoy it's connectedness to the previous post. Missed reading you!

Sayre said...

awww... poor Dave! I've been a pallbearer before - and we actually had to carry the thing. Imagine this in high heels.

Thanks for sharing Dave - the other half of the Peter and Joanne story!

slouching mom said...

So good to read you again! I loved this. You made it easy for me to picture Dave.

You are a true story-teller.

Charlie said...

A wonderful story about two people no one else would notice. It isn't the celebrities and politicians of the world who are important: It's the little people who make us love them simply because they are who they are.

Thanks, P.

And welcome back--you and St. Jude in two days is a gift . . .

Slackermommy said...

A good story, indeed.

Kristin said...

As always, reading your words is such a special treat...

I've missed you!

Grim Reality Girl said...

Thank you. Your writing lifts me up. I am thrilled when you post a new story because I know I will enjoy the reading. And I did. Again. Thank you!

Attila The Mom said...

Yayyy! You're back! Love love loved this!

Jodi said...

I have very much missed your stories. This was a very good one indeed! Thank you for sharing it, as always.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

What a lovely story! I feel like I know them both now.


You have a gift....thanks for sharing it with all of us!

Beth said...

Such a beautiful, touching story of friendship and laughter. Death cannot take those gifts away.

kim said...

Oh, Penn my thoughts and prayers are with you as you grieve for your friend.

the Brave said...

I love that you introduced us to and gave voice to Dave. I too have missed your stories.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I am sorry for your loss and for Dave's, and of course, Joanne's. And it does seem as if Peter was reluctant to leave and dug his heels in.

I always love the way your stories build to a marvelous ending. You are such a gifted storyteller. Thank you for sharing this heart warming tale of love and friendship, of which the world needs so much more.

Catherine said...

Thank you for giving us another angle to Peter's story. You've been so missed!!!

Jocelyn said...

You remain one hell of a storyteller, with a gift for the use of detail (oh, that Denny's placemat map--got me!).

The hydrolic lift even gave you a climax and resolution. How fitting for a couple of anecdote-tellers!

Amber said...

We are both terrible. I have always envisioned that happening to the casket as well. I think "our kind" should be banned from funerals. :-)

Beautifully written as usual!

Virtualsprite said...

What a beautiful story and such fantastic memories of Peter and Dave. Glad you're back. I've missed you.

mamatulip said...

I've missed you...

Mom Ma'am Me said...

How I love your stories. You bring people to life so that they leap from the screen.

Thanks for sharing this story.

Tammy said...

What an amazing story! You are truly gifted.

carrie said...

An appropriate ending, I think, for Peter - to have his chums chuckling and cursing with him.

You are, as always such a gifted writer and your stories are such a gift.

Thank you Pend.

Kim Ayres said...

Glad you're still around - I've missed your writing

rak said...

yes, an amazing writer indeed. i feel for all of you in your time of loss. i am so happy they were able to marry... the story has beauty even though sad.

Rock the Cradle said...

You are a painterly writer, my friend.

I'm so glad to read you again.

flutter said...

Oh, Dave.

This is rather beautiful, Penn.

Momish said...

I am so glad I got to read this story and that you shared it with us.

It is beautiful how you make the littlest things about a person shine through so brightly. Lovely writing, I feel like I know these amazing people.

I am sorry about your friend.

chicaloungin said...

I have missed you, P.
I don't know why, but the paragraph on his uniform really knocks me!

Lisa said...

You gave me goosebumps lady. You always do.

Wonderful story.

I've missed ya and the fact that you've updated MADE MY DAY!

Gina said...

I am so sorry that you all experienced the loss of your friend.

But I think he would have definitely liked the way he left.

Oh, The Joys said...

Heh.

As much as I hate to admit it, me being in mourning and all...

I'm pretty sure Granny had the Titanium 3000 Series too.

Kevin Charnas said...

HA! He DID get his last story, didn't he? I have no doubt that Peter had a "hand" in that... :)

It's SO GOOD to read you, Pend...

You've been missed. Like crazy, in fact.

Ruth Dynamite said...

I'd love to be a fly on the wall of your life. You notice and make time for everyone - and you are, in turn, blessed with these wonderful friendships. Rest in peace, Peter. Bless you, Dave.

And of course, bless you Pend. So glad you're back!

Mama Drama Jenny said...

I want to meet you just once, so that one day when my time comes you can write my obituary.

You give you character such a voice, such life, you let them speak again.

It's a wonderful gift.

Mrs. T said...

I hope you printed a copy of this post for Joanne.
So funny that Peter seemed to be digging in his heels.
Great story! Glad you're back!

allrileyedup said...

This story put a smile on my face, which is how I think everyone should leave a funeral, with a smile to remember that life is a celebration.

Beautiful post (as always).

BeachMama said...

I am a little late in reading this post, but I feel like I knew Peter and Dave. You see, I worked in a bar and knew several people just like Peter and Dave and even when I see them so many years later, it all seems out of place.

You have a true gift for writing, you see all the fine details in others and are able to put the words together so well to describe them.