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  • Life was looking pretty good as 1979 began. I’d moved into my own apartment, a great place, a bottom level corner apartment that opened onto a wooded area and a creek (Neshaminy Creek). It felt like I was out in the country, there. I had a solid job, where I had just gotten promoted from forklift operator to Warehouse Manager. I had reestablished my friendships with my friends in Connecticut – they were what kept me from being a “lonely hermit”, as I would drive up there once a month or so to spend a weekend at Reed and Peg’s farmhouse, where there would always be something going on. That had become the place that everybody from our crew of friends checked in when they were in town. Reed seemed to be solidly in remission from the Hodgkins.

    I was slowly developing a romantic interest in my friend Janet. It seemed that she was just always around, now, and I just liked the way I felt when I was with her. She had helped me find my apartment, and I had taken in her cats, Buckwheat and Alfalfa, surely the coolest cats I’d ever known. Buckwheat thought he was a dog, and Alfalfa was just one cool cat. I just couldn’t figure out how to transition from being friends to going to the next level with her. It was a scary proposition. What if I said something and she just laughed at me? That would be crushing. I had no way of knowing if she was feeling the same things I was. I didn’t want her to think I was like dumb Dave, who always pined after her, but never stood a chance with her. So, I bided my time and said nothing.

    I still hadn’t figured out how to express emotions. I still had them – they just seemed to be buried way down below the surface of the lithium I was taking, and the only way I seemed to be able to tap into them was when I got high. A part of me knew and understood that those weren’t really real emotions, but that was still my only known way of feeling human, feeling a connection to the human race. I still didn’t get high that often, but when I did, I was beginning to do more than just smoke dope. I was doing the opium more, now, to “enhance” the high.

    Reed and Peg decided to rent a camper and take a cross-country trip, to see the Grand Canyon and all the things out west. Reed hadn’t traveled much in his short life (we were both 24), and wanted to see as much of the world as he could, not knowing how long he’d have, with the Hodgkins and all. His father pulled me aside on one of my trips to Connecticut, when they were planning the trip, and begged me to talk Reed out of going. He really worried that it wouldn’t be good for Reed to be traveling like that while he was battling his disease. I refused to cooperate with him, though. If I was in Reed’s shoes, I’d be doing the exact same thing, and I knew how much the trip meant to him.

    He wanted to live, now, and do the things he hadn’t been able to do, yet, while he still had his health. I told Reed about my conversation with his father, and we both just laughed it off. I was never a big fan of his father’s, anyway. He kind of creeped me out. I would learn, much later, that there was a good reason for that. But, that’s another story.

  • They visited me in Pennsylvania on the first leg of their journey. Having them in my world down there was special, it was like having that world blessed by these friends who’d known me for years. My relationship with these guys always reminded me of the relationship between the character Claude in the movie “Hair”, and the tribe of hippies, led by Berger, that he runs into in New York’s Central Park. They were my touchstone to reality.

    I would join them later in their travels, for a week in Texas, where they were visiting David C. and his sister, Susan, a former fiance of mine who was now married with a couple of kids. Susan was another one who I’d never figured out how to make the transition from friends to lovers years before, though we’d both tried. It wasn’t a sex thing, it was an emotional thing. We’d both been a mess at the time, and it was mutually agreed that it was a good thing nothing ever came of our relationship. We both were too messed up then for it to have succeeded. Better that it fell apart when it did.

    Still, it was hard seeing her all grown up, with a family and all, thinking that could have been me with her. To boot, her husband was obviously a real flaming a**hole, and she did not seem very happy with him. She was trying to act like she was, but I knew her, and could see that she wasn’t. A part of me still loved her, and it just hurt to see her like this. But, I didn’t dwell on any of that. I was with my friends. After a day or so with her and her family, we all went up into the mountains and camped by a lake for the week. Me and my tribe, communing in nature. It was a real special time.

    I came back to my world, back to work, where I was developing an inventory control system from scrap that really impressed the owner of the company, who decided to computerize it, so I worked with the computer people to make that work. This was before P.C.’s, when computers were a lot more complex. I was putting in 60 – 80 hours a week at the job, and loved every minute of it.

    A guy who worked for me wound up taking up with Janet. I couldn’t believe it. He’d met her through me, and next thing I knew, while I was working all these long hours, they had become an item. How did that happen? Man, I was going to have to learn to step up my game with the ladies. This “nice guy, good friends” stuff was not serving me well. While I took my time, these smooth operators would come along and sweep them off their feet. How did they do that? It just seemed I was always left out in the cold. It bothered me, but I was still happy, overall, with my lot in life. I still realized how lucky I was to be on my feet, working, not drinking, I had good friends, I was getting along with my family, my time for love would come…or not. I still felt like it was probably overrated, but the loneliness did get to me, at times. I was beginning to get high alone in my apartment, sometimes, brooding over life and love. I was beginning to get back into writing poetry, which I’d gotten away from since my AWOL days.

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