When I was in college, I shared a house with these five guys, but there were two in particular. The rest of the characters changed continually over the two years I lived there, but Jim and Ed were fellow constants. That time in my life was one of frightening instability. I hadn't yet begun to tap Uncle Sam to help pay my bills while I was going to school and was still trying to pay for everything out of pocket, including tuition, books, etc. and on more than one occasion, I barely had enough money to buy food. Before moving into this place, I had been living in my car and I didn't want to do that anymore. There's a long story that goes with this, too, but suffice to say I was suffering wildly from PTSD unchecked, and untreated at the time and I'll go on with my story. This was the only place I could afford to live, so yea, there I was, the sole female in a house full of guys. For the most part they were all nice guys, except that one guy that threatened to throw me up against the wall if I put his dirty dishes on his bed again, but Jim and Ed quickly threw him out.
I had an unusual relationship with Jim and Ed. You'll notice I don't mention either of their names individually so far but always as a pair, and that's because in large part that's how they were and how everybody thought of them. They were inseparable. Neither of them seemed to work and I assumed they were like many in Durango whose parents funneled money to them in the hopes that they were using it for school related expenses. But these guys lived frugal and used any excess expenses seizing every day. They were constantly off on ridiculously cool trips, off rafting the Colorado or backpacking in the Weminuche. They even sublet their rooms a couple of times so they could go jungle trekking, I think. Meanwhile, there was I, desperately clawing my way through college to what I hoped was a better life and sometimes I definitely envied those guys.
Very often, I would be the only person in that house of six that had a job and commitments...and I kept those commitments. Occasionally, we'd have some Foreign renters, guys who were studying flight at Durango Air Service and this house had made it on the map of cheap lodgings while studying, so sometimes I had company studying at the kitchen table, but always there was Jim and Ed, rolling in at 3 am, bringing half of Oreo's Bar with them, shouting and cheering, positively giddy with how much fun they were having and just as often they'd pop on some music for the party-goers to enjoy and I'd be woken up in the middle of the night and lie in bed seething until I just couldn't take it anymore and I'd run out there and scream like a wild banshee til everybody left. My jaw clinches even now thinking about it.
Despite all this, we three remained friends. After a party event like that we wouldn't speak, or rather i wouldn't speak, for days. Then one night, someone would come out of their room and turn on the T.V. and the theme music for the Simpsons would echo through the paper thin walls and drawing everyone in the house to the living room to watch the Simpsons. And we'd bond. We'd share jokes and laughter. Sometimes we'd stay up for awhile talking after the Simpsons were over. Jim and I both smoked so we were often on the front porch together smoking and talking. Man that guy could make me laugh! Occasionally I went out partying with them. It's really a strange thing to think about those days and remember such strong mixtures of anger and friendship. Under different circumstances, this would have been such a fun situation for me. In truth, I was almost more like them than I was different and it would have been so easy just to give in and join the party that was their lives, but I'd been doing that more or less since I was 16 and I wanted my degree and something told me that was more important than anything at the that time.
It was living in this house that convinced me to take out student loans to get through school. I needed other housing options. It was time for me to move out of the playhouse. When I was moving out, Ed asked me why and I said, "So I don't kill you some night." Those guys drove me absolutely crazy sometimes. They were messy, sloppy--basically everything you don't want in a roommate, they were. But they were also kind, giving and generous and they lived in a way so many of us want to live: Absolutely Free. At all times that I could see, they did what they wanted to do and the only speed bump in their otherwise completely trouble free lives was me. I was the only obstacle to party's at the house all the time. I was the only voice that screeched for them to pick up after themselves and take sponge to kitchen counter from time to time. But they never seemed to hold resentments about any of that. They treated me like a sister, or maybe a cousin. If majority rules, I was always odd man out, but they often complied out of what I later felt was something akin to brotherly affection. Somehow, I was part of their tribe and they looked after their tribe.
One fourth of July, I had been out partying with some other friends and had taken off on my own to go watch the fireworks down by the river on the rocks. I ran into Jim and Ed and a slew of their friends and hung out with them. We did a little smoking of the great ganja (sp?). I rarely smoked pot, but i was very, very drunk and so was more open. One of the reasons that I didn't smoke pot, besides the fact that most of the time I actually preferred sobriety, is because a couple of times when I smoked, I passed out and rolled down stairs or something. This time, I passed out and apparently went into convulsions, bouncing around on a bed of jagged rocks, cutting and scraping myself all over the place. Somehow, they managed to carry me out of the there, got me home, cleaned me up, bandaged me and took turns sitting beside my bed all night to make sure I was breathing and had a good pulse. Somebody even managed to find my car downtown and brought it home for me. I woke up early the next morning to see their friend, Eddie, asleep in a chair beside my bed, with a wet washcloth in his hand. Apparently, they also took it in shifts to wipe the vomit from my face and make sure i didn't drown in it as i basically threw up periodically all night. It would be years before I would even think of touching the great gange again. But that's not the point.
The point was that, Jim and Ed, looked out for me, on more than one occasion. Our friendship, given the vast differences in our lifestyles, goals, and yet close proximity, was always tenuous, but it was there and I learned a lot from them. I saw a lot in them that I wanted to emulate and I respected, even while I envied, their ability to be such free spirits.
I didn't know what happened to either of them until yesterday, though I often wondered and wished the best for them. I got a facebook suggestion to "friend" Eddy Chacon and I sent a request, looking forward to filling in the blanks and reconnecting with friends from times gone by. I'm glad to hear from Ed and hear he is doing well, living in New Orleans. Ed told me about Jim. Jim fought brain cancer for 2.5 years, before succumbing in 2009. A strange aside, is that I kind of knew something had happened to Jim after initially connecting with Ed, like reconnecting with Ed hooked up this circuit where important information like that is relayed and I had two strange, strong impressions. One was that Jim was dead. I even spent a few minutes yesterday looking online for an Obit that confirmed my suspicion. I didn't find anything. Then I got Ed's message this morning. The second impression was that Ed needs to paint. Don't know what to do with that, except i suppose maybe pass that impression on to Ed and let the universe take it's course. To Jim, thank you for sharing so many interesting and different perspectives, broadening my own life experience and for all the laughter. Rest in Peace and fly free, far and wide, my brother.