After walking around all day yesterday wondering why the hell the crazy man at the bus stop (see previous post) made me so happy, it finally hit me.
It reminded me of Jim.
Jim was my very best friend from high school who killed himself eight years ago.
I had a dream a few years after his death that he was hovering above me in the sky, upside down and dancing. He looked down (up?) at me, smiled a huge smile, and burst into confetti.
The joy I felt in that dream while I was standing there having "Jim confetti" fall on my head was indescribable. It lasted for weeks.
I finally was able to deal with his death after that dream.
Last night I was thinking about him and remembering when I found out about his death. It was so unbelievable that I couldn't cry. But I wrote. I sat down a wrote a letter to his parents describing the times Jim and I spent together and what it meant to me.
It was a bit passive/aggressive,I suppose, because his parents had left him to fend for himself in Montana when he was in 7th grade. They bought an old hotel
as an investment, went back to Arkansas, and left a 13 year old boy to live in a grungy old bum hotel by himself.
His sister later married the rancher across the river from our ranch and Jim moved out to live with her.
They missed out on a great guy. I felt like they didn't really know him.
What follows is the verbatim letter that I sent them. It's long and you don't have to read it, but I think it's important to post. It's my reaction and words only moments after I found out that my best friend was never coming back. If my house burns down, I want to have record of it.
Man, I miss him sometimes.
Jim always wanted me to write a book. I suppose that this will be the first chapter. A best friend that helped me through some of the hardest times in my life is now gone, but I'd like to share what he meant to me. The words do not come easy, but through the tears the memories still have me laughing.
Walking back from "Snappy Service" with Melissa while in 7th grade a new face rode by on a bicycle (no hands, of course) and tossed that first "Hi ya'll" in our direction. That was the fist time I came in contact with Jim. We giggled at his southern accent.
In 8th grade our friendship grew. I have pictures to prove it! At graduation Jim wore his incredibly dapper rendition of a Miami Vice outfit. This included the thin white tie, blue shirt and matching white pants. I'm not sure if he had the Don Johnson white shoes or not, but if he didn't I'm sure he wanted to.
After that, Jim moved away, but came back our Junior year of high school. I remember him coming to visit as some friends and I were heading to a basketball tournament in Butte. He was embarrassed I think to have come over and have us leaving. I invited him along. We all squished into Adam's red VW bug and chugged to Butte in a driving snow storm at approximately 30 mph.
By the time Senior year 1989-1990 rolled around, we were inseparable friends. Since we both lived in un-cool 25 miles from town and were in sports, we carpooled almost every day. This was a bit trying for me when Jim drove due to the fact that whe was absolutely always running late. Mr. Kolski in first period Physics developed a special hatred of our mid-class interruptions.
There were times when I drove my father's pride and joy - the AMC Matador, but Jim had a COOL car. (And I mean cool in more ways than one) First of all it was pretty cool to have a 1960's model Ford Mustang convertible in Dillon. Convertibles are few and far between in that part of the country. The down side to this, however, was the fact that the car had, if I remember correctly, very poor heating. In fact, it might have had no heating at all. Did this stop us? Ha! Of course not. We simply wrapped ourselves heavily in Army Surplus down sleeping bags and away we'd go. Our feet may have felt like dead logs on the end our legs, but there is nothing like seeing the faces of people on the I-15 interstate as we'd drive past them in February with the top down!
Jim was a natural athlete. I never tired of watching him at track meets win the 100 meter hurdles without even trying. While everyone was warming up and preparing for the race, Jim would be eating a sandwich (or something just as ridiculous). He ran effortlessly and never really cared if he won or lost (but he always won).
I remember one night in particular that many people were exposed to the hilarity that was Jim - that I was privileged with every day. Jim was in the school play "Funky Winkerbean". Of course, Jim played the part of Funky Winkerbean because he was a ham. In one scene Funky was taking his trumpet lesson. It was supposed to be a very shakey version of some easily recognizable tune. Jim had been playing the trumpet for a long time at this point and was good enough to really fake it well. Knowing, that this was the last night the play would run, he decided to shock everyone - the audience, fellow actors and even me - by launching into a raucous jazzy tune while sliding around on the floor and climbing over chairs on the stage. It was the most shocking, hysterical, and perfect thing I have ever seen. I laughed so hard I was literally lying in the aisles of the auditorium with tears running down my face. And I was not alone. Jim was a sort of a cult hero in our school after that.
At the end of our Senior year we know that we would be going our separate ways.We were both a bit "high spirited" we did not deal with this realization very well. Actually, we began to fight and pick at each other. By the week before graduation we weren't even talking. One night I confronted him, screaming that he was a huge jerk that didn't value friendships, etc, etc.... By the end of the conversation we both realized that we didn't really want to be without each other. We had become each other's mutual habit. We both had significant others, this friendship was as true and honest and friends could be. No one has given me the feeling of just "being" that Jim gave me. He was so much more than anything I have had with anyone else. I believe he was my true soulmate.
The saddest day was the day that he left to go down south to go the Citadel. He came to Missoula and spent two days with some friends and me. I had to work the day he was leaving. He drove the good ole Mustang up front of the bicycle shop where I worked and come in to say goodbye. There really wasn't much to say, and he drove away after a brief hug was exchanged. I cried and I watched my best friend drive away and leave me wondering when I would ever see him again. And more importantly, how he would ever be the same Jim after being in a military school. That next year, the first in college for both of us, I finally heard from him after he got his phone privileges. He had a hard time that first year. He did leave the Citadel for a college in Arkansas, but ended up returning and completing his degree at the Citadel. He sounded like he conquered a demon when he graduated. I was so proud of him.
The next few years we only kept in touch with the very occasional phone call. I think we were on a six month or so timer. He did moved out to Seattle for a while. I helped him find a place in West Seattle. I was pregnant with my first child when he came , and had her while he was here. I was busy being a new Mom and couldn't figure out why Jim would never stop by to visit us.
Come to find out, he had lost a camera that I had let him borrow and was too embarrassed to tell me. I can't imagine that he would believe I would rather have a camera than a friend. He hated Seattle with a passion and moved back home.
I did see him one more time when I took my daughter back to Montana for the summer. He was staying at his sister's across the river and came to visit.We drove around the ranch on my grandmother's golf cart taking turns holding my daughter Maya. We talked about everything that had gone wrong, and how he could make it right. He had hope and inspiration again. My friend Jim was back.
I've talked to him on the phone a few times since that day. It seemed like everything was okay. That we was still looking for that magical something that would fulfill his dream. A dream that he couldn't explain in words. I was cheering for him from afar. Silently hoping that he would find it, and show me the magic too.