When I got the text message, it took a few minutes for my mind to make sense of it. I had been working long, hard hours lately and things weren't clicking into place like they should have.
"Hi Manda Lynn. Today is my Birthday. I am with my mother at my apartment. Doesn't have to [be] today [or] even next week.. But I am very ill. I was close to death..."
His text message cut off there. My mind reeled, my heart raced, and I grabbed for my keys before remembering I knew the town but not the address for where my friend lived. Immediately I sent a text back.
"What is your address. I will come over RIGHT NOW."
His text continued just then.
"... not long ago. But if you were so kind... a Black and White movie night even if at my own [place] in my bedroom with a chaperon would be nice. I miss you."
It took a few minutes to get any other response. I called a mutual friend of ours to let him know what was going on. Instinctively I knew that he would be worried, but for him to do exactly what I had planned on doing myself meant a lot to me AND to my old friend. He told me "get his address, I'll meet you there."
His next text was his address and I made a mad dash for my car. As a bit of an after thought, I tossed my uniform into the passenger seat. Unfolded and thrown violently, it ended in a spread mess from the back of the seat to the floor, dangling like a loose thread from a jacket. I squealed tires out of there.
On my way I made a few calls. I managed to get the night off work through a little effort, and I haphazardly laughed at the condition of my uniform. It didn't matter anyway. I cried my eyes out and swerved through traffic before realizing I was almost out of gas. I had to fill up or I wouldn't make it there!
Still making calls to get the shifts covered at work, I stood outside of his apartment for a few minutes gaining my composure. Our mutual friend arrived with his wife, and the three of us went up.
Here was my dear old friend, laying face down on the couch. His cheek bones protruded, his temples were sunken, his eyes were hollowed out, but he still had those beautiful blue eyes. He looked up at me weakly and smiled. Me being me, I ran to his side and held him for a long time, kneeling on the floor beside him. I kissed his cheek and held him close, telling him that I was glad to see him. He was thin, but he was still very dignified and wise.
At first his concentration was almost gone. He couldn't pay attention to one thought for very long. He had been very ill. Friends and family gathered around, and yet all he could do was talk to his most recently arrived guests. Struggling at first, he sat up tall.
It didn't take long and my dear friend was talking as he normally would. His family noticed a slight change already. He had a spark back to his eyes they hadn't seen in a while.
"I nearly asked her to marry me," he said to our mutual friends about me. He patted me on the knee, kissed my cheek, and smiled a genuine, heart felt, loving smile. I knew in my heart he was joking. Everyone smiled. "She was always so bouncy and fun, she brightened up my day each time I saw her. She made things better," he said, smiling a little more. I wrapped my arms around him and kissed his cheek back.
When I first met this man, he was my boss. He was what my old company called the Post Commander for the Security Operation where I worked. It was my first day and he seemed almost frightened of me. Still, right off the bat we got along.
I worked with a crew of all guys back then. I knew that I wanted to be treated like one of the Guys, I didn't want special treatment from anyone just because I had hips. In order to make a good impression, I did something I hadn't done since childhood...
In the corner of the office in a small glass case sat a very large, very hairy red spider. It was a tarantula to be exact, a Chilean Fire Spider. Instantly I knew how to win Kudo's points with all the guys I was going to be working with. I didn't want them to think me prissy or girly.
"Oooh! Can I hold it?!"
My boss looked up from his paperwork and laughed. "Really?" He sat there, stunned. "Most of the guys scream like little girls and run from the room when she comes out of her terrarium." He laughed to himself.
We had many things in common, this friend and I. We often spent hours after work just talking about old movies and fine cigars. We had moments over the next few months where he and I were able to help one another. We had philosophical and religious conversations and debates. He was the one who made me open my eyes to the thought of being married to my ex for the rest of my life. He made me rethink my decisions and future. He was right. He was and remains a wise man.
He taught me almost everything I know about Security, about being a boss, a leader and a friend all at the same time. He trained me to do the job I'm doing now without my ever knowing it. He told me as we sat there that I had been his greatest success.
"You know," he addressed our friend as he put an arm on my cheek, "I wanted to marry her if she would have me."
Thinking he was either joking or feeling his illness, I chuckled. Our friends smiled. We all moved on.
Evenutally our friends left and I stayed there. I ate with the family, I helped sing Happy Birthday to him, and I cheered him as best I could. Hours later, he repeated those words that rang so clearly in my head, when I told myself he had been joking
around with me.
"Mom, do you remember about a year ago when I told you there was a girl I wanted to ask to marry me?"
"Yes, Honey" she said to him, smiling at me.
"This is her."
Suddenly it dawned on me. I meant so much to this man that he had wanted to marry me. He knew that he wouldn't be around forever and that there really wasn't anything we could do about it, but he wanted to spend what remaining days he had in my company. I cried again, unabashedly, on his shoulder.
He's a fighter. He's not done yet. He even says himself that he's not fulfilled his destiny and he has so much left to do in this world. I'll do everything I can to help him accomplish those goals. I would risk life and limb for this man, as I know he would do for me.
There are certain people in our lives we call friends. Others we call family. There are even some friends that are as close to us as family. This one person, this friend, is so much more than any of those categories. I have loved and cared for this man since the day I met him. He is a true kindred spirit. He would never judge me or "disagree" with how I live my life. I can't imagine this world or this life without him in it.
He is my Friend.
He's been my guide.
He'll always be my hero.