I’ve been in touch with Sam, an old friend of mine from back home who has cancer and is dying. He is my age, bedridden now, and married to a girl who used to hang out with my little sisters when we were teenagers in Steelton. One time about thirty years ago, right after I got home from the military, I went on a double date with Sam, my girlfriend, and some other girl. Long story short – while we were on the date I robbed a guy. Got about two thousand dollars. I gave Sam five hundred, but then I blew through the money I had and couldn’t stop thinking about the money I had given to Sam. So I robbed it back. I asked around and learned that he had probably given it to his aunt to hold. I went to his aunt’s house and told her the cops were onto us and that I needed the money back. She had it hidden in the filter to her swimming pool. I remember because it smelled like chlorine and she had it wrapped in plastic. Sam and his aunt were both furious with me, and we didn’t speak to one another for a long time, and then I moved away, got sober, etc.
Sam is a good guy.
After I quit high school, I got a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant called Hot Shoppe at the local mall. I hated it. I remember going to apply for it and the woman doing the interview asked me about high school. I probably shrugged my shoulders. Up to that point, everyone who had asked me about high school would follow up with a short, infuriating lecture about “What a smart guy you are” or “Why do you have to be so angry?” But this lady said something about what a tragedy the current educational system was. I was smart enough to know that was the kind of thing you said to a fuck up. Someone who you could care less about, but you wanted to at least appear reasonable, because you needed someone to run the dishes through the machine. Didn’t make me mad like all the lectures, but it was certainly depressing. I remember how those dishes burned my hands. Sam got me a job at the Holiday Inn downtown. He was my boss. He said the trick to that job was to always keep the bathrooms clean. He wanted the bathrooms cleaned at 7am, 11am, and 2pm, and then he said I could “take a little break” in between. He broke into the hotel bar and we’d take our little breaks in there.
He called me out of the blue a few months ago. Saw me on Facebook. He told me about his illness, and we talked on the phone once or twice, and I went to visit him the last time I was home. Earlier this month, I sent him an advanced reader copy of the book, because who knows how long he’s going to last. This whole time we’ve been talking with one another, I wasn’t sure if I ought to bring up the stuff about the five hundred dollars. I was praying about it and giving it a lot of thought. Finally last night we were talking and I decided to bring it up. He totally rewrote history on me! He said, My aunt told you to kiss off and never gave you that money. Really? Ha, ha! I was going to argue the point, but then I decided to just let it go. If that’s how he remembers it, what would be the point?
Sammy, Sammy from Miami! Here’s to you, Sam.