Dan has a good heart, that’s the first thing. And he’s good company. These two are not the same. Other friends can be good company, but their hearts are different.
Dan leaves tomorrow for Colorado to live with some cousins and photograph tourists and ride horses. He’s younger than me; younger than my son even, a good friend I met during a theatre production. Dan is a peacemaker, a valuable talent in the non-profit theatre world.
My son moved to San Diego years ago. They all move west, except the very young artists who choose New York City like Madonna did.
It’s my last day with Dan, maybe never see each other again, and Dan’s still doing chores for me. He pulls errant ivy from the south window. I live in an artist’s studio in Chicago with an 18-foot ceiling in an angled dormer. Second story, steam heat, bathroom down the hall. Tall 1890’s style windows with metal braces support smallish rectangular panes. Sections of the left and right panels push open, except the left panel’s stuck slightly ajar. Roger got it stuck last year when he was fixing it. So Dan climbs onto the ledge and leans way out for a grab-and-yank exercise. It’s August and the sun’s in his eyes. Dan’s got a good heart.
This has been a year of changes. In April my horoscope printed in the newspaper claimed a full moon in Leo, or some such, indicating a fresh start to end all fresh starts. I embraced that phrase to define my life while I quit a job I despised, went on unemployment, and finished a novel where the ending had tortured me for a full year. I hung out with friends in the building and watched them resist the fresh start dictated by the stars.
Later I landed a job teaching; now there’s a fresh start. Rhonda recommended me to the administrator. Roger loaned me a book of resume samples, and Dan and I used a template that seemed to work. I changed professions due to the actions of friends who live in the building of artists’ studios.
So anyway… in August everybody moves, students and teachers. My neighbor Roger is moving in August too, but for other reasons. Roger’s good company, full of stories and quick fixes and self-confidence and needs. I even met a couple of his computer-geek friends some months back.
Dan and I walk to the local health drink shop where his friend works, a young Hispanic woman who once worked in the same restaurant where he quit last year. She agrees to visit when her shift ends, and frankly is surprised the studio is just around the corner. Then she turns up with a couple friends, good-looking dark-haired girls and dressed trendy. They comment on the studio and high ceiling and too many plants. They ask what I do, trying to be polite. “I’ll teach at the university in September.” Pride invades my voice because it’s my first effort in a new profession.
They glance at each other. I’m hopelessly old.
They smoke a bowl and laugh a lot and leave. Sweet kid; Dan’s friend. She needs to pick-up her toddler before six o’clock. After they’re gone, Dan says, “You can see why I like her. Got an ex-husband in prison, though. Too much baggage.”
So later we’re seated at dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant around the corner. I tease Dan that in Colorado he’ll miss Chicago restaurants. Out of the blue he asks if his hair’s okay. He has baby dreads in his hair; it’s never okay. Joe joins us then. My only warning is from Dan, “Once this guy sat outside my house waiting for me with a gun.”
Joe works for Harpo, the production company for Oprah Winfrey, or wants to. Doing a summer replacement job now, but if they like him, then he may get real work. All the young artists are jobbers. They network over drinks dropping celebrity names production company names and brand names of expensive equipment they’d like to own or at least get paid to operate.
Joe’s rough, though, and uses the f-word too often. We go back to the studio where Dan’s other friends drop by for the good-to-know-ya and share a bowl. Joe stays through it all, mostly for the smoke. Dan can see I don’t like him; this year I’m swearing off moochers. Dan even talks differently because Joe is here. Finally, Dan says, “I’ve known him for ten years. That counts for something.”
Unfortunately, I have to agree. I just wonder how Dan knows Joe for ten years but I never met him. Maybe because Dan assumes I wouldn’t like Joe. Something about the heart and how virtue emits a breath every moment. Emerson said that: I plan to teach it in September.
Everybody keeps stuff separate. You know, in separate compartments. Friends and politics and invitations; a transient community. Who can discern it all, huh? Or want to. Each person presents what gets rewarded and keeps the rest quiet. Best foot forward. Roger’s accomplished at this exercise. To me Roger seems pared to the bone like there’s no blood left in him. But time is short, so tonight trends all get bunched together. It’s late when Roger drops by and hugs Dan. That’s so funny to watch. They hate each other and put on a show for my sake.
Roger and Joe talk. Yeah, I knew Areosmith. Yeah, and when I was in Italy…
Then Matt comes by; he’s the newbie who moved in where Rebecca just moved out on her way to New York City. Matt has to leave right away, though. He was called in to run dailies for Vince Vaughan and friends for the movie they’re making in the city.
Roger says he knows all about that.
Joe claims the set is already dismantled.
“Yeah,” Matt agrees. “We’re viewing dailies at a studio Vince Vaughan rented. He lives in Chicago now, you know.”
“So, uh, you been by his place?” Joe asks.
“Is the studio downtown?” Roger asks.
“Good to meet you,” Matt says to Dan and leaves for work.
Dan tells me, “You will like him.”
“I’m hopelessly old,” is my answer.