When I'd left The Green a few months ago, my depression was in a second downward spin-cycle. Having learned the hard lessons of self-medication over the last two years, I came back to Portland to try the next step in nurturing my emotional and mental health with cognitive and physical excersises. Calling Alex out of the12- or 14-month blue was the first step in establishing a connection with another human being whom I knew would be receptive. It may seem shallow of me to admit that calling him out to the pub was a loosely devised plan to bend someone's ear to my self-absorbed venting. I imagined, with a social life as anemic as mine, he would be anxious to hang out with anyone who called. Not that I was motivated by some superiority complex to make myself feel better. I assumed his boat was the same as mine. Nonetheless, if I give you half of my sandwich, it's not neccessarily because I wanted to share the enjoyment with you, or even offer support when you ran out of cash; it's most likely because I didn't want the extra chlorestoral in my bloodstream.
Three months later, what started as a habit has turned into an inspiring and amusing friendship. If he and I were intimate, we'd be a regular couple (a joke that some bartenders seem to have missed). Both of us dangerously out of shape, we decided to take up swimming at the community center as a low-impact routine to ease into healthier excercising. For a guy who has difficulty mustering the motivation to make a four-block beer run to the Quicky-Mart — a difficulty typical of depression but probably compounded by his health — I was suprised that he'd taken up daily hour-long walks after I'd talked about my semi-regular jogging routine. So we both had some small investment in living better, why not do it together to make sure it gets done?
At this point I felt I could finally relax the subtle strategizing, sensing that the give-and-take of our relationship was becoming more balanced. For a long time I would have thought, but not admitted, that Alex was my friend for the same reason that mountains are climbed. Because he was there. I have a theory that most freshly found friendships are abandoned, left withering on the vine for both guilty feelings and selfish assumptions. I've observed people, their emotional, mental, sexual reserves depleted, who reach out for support and recharging, quickly withdraw from an enthusiastically receptive new friend under the guilty notion that they can offer nothing to hold up their end of the bargain. And I've seen the selfless offering of comradery rejected by the arrogant assumption that such an offer carries the implicit cry for attention and validation of a lonely social outcast (otherwise kown as the Hot Chick Syndrome). Even though I've resolved that our continued beer-drinking, trash-talking, bitch-slapping good times has nothing to do with such cases, sitting here at a sidewalk cafe has forced me to think about other relationships of mine that have suffered from assumption and guilt.
Driving past the community center was the nearest I'd been to its front doors in almost two years. It's hard to think that it's been that long, but it seems just about right. Summer of 2000 is when I quit boxing and told Pauly that I'd be leaving for Montreal, then Denver, then school. I didn't know if I would be back.
I hadn't called him or visited before now because of those guilty feelings that I hadn't as much to offer him as he had given me before I abandoned him. I had always intended to get back in the ring, to pick up where I'd left off, but not before I was ready to give it my all.
On a Saturday I wasn't expecting Pauly to be there, but there he was sitting on the front bench in his usual spent-looking posture. Watching him from the drive-by, that heavy sense of guilt disappeared in 1/24th of a second and I was thrilled with the anticipation that I would soon be throwing punches again with my coach.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Requests? Beuler? Respond to this entry...