Saturday, April 28, 2012

Off the rails

That's where my friend in Key West is, both emotionally and financially. He wants to move away from there today. Right now. IMMEDIATELY! Except he doesn't have another teaching job lined up, and houses in that market aren't moving. It doesn't help that he hasn't even put his up for sale ...

That's the thing of it. Whenever I suggest something that can help him in the short term, he says, "Yes, but ..."

"You could put your home up for sale so when a job on the mainland opens up, you can just jump on the opportunity without worrying about maintaining two households." Yes, but what if sold tomorrow (it won't) where would we live? (An apartment. It's easier to get out of a lease than a mortgage.)

"You could give Spanish lessons on your own." Yes, but having students over to the house would disrupt the dogs. (You could meet at Starbuck's, or anywhere with WiFi.)

"You could use this time to complete your dissertation. After all, a PhD would make you more employable." Yes, but I don't even know where to start. (Well, hell, I don't know either! I'm a community college dropout, you know.)

I'd be completely frustrated except he is such a good, good man. And this immature willfulness is not like him. It's as though losing his job as a professor at the community college broke his heart, broke his spirit. It confuses me, since he wasn't a teacher here in Chicago and he wasn't a teacher when he first moved to Key West. But he sees himself as a teacher, he loves being part of the academic community. I don't understand what he's going through, but I don't question his sincerity or his pain.

I'm worried about him. He has begun saying things like, "Don't worry, I'm not going to kill myself" and "I know you. You want to come down here and hide all the knives." These references to suicide are new and disturbing.

So yesterday I did something I normally wouldn't. I called his long-time lover and partner. We talked for nearly an hour. On the one hand, he told me that my friend is, indeed, "only interested in one-sided conversations" and isn't in a good place emotionally. On the other hand, I came away reassured that my friend has the support of a partner who loves him very much. He acknowledges that being with my friend right now is not easy, but they are a couple and they will make it through.

They have been together for decades now. They are not (and cannot be) legally married. They don't have any children to stay together for the sake of. And yet here they are, weathering a storm together. For no other reason than that they are in love. I find this very moving.

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