by jean arp
Today I overheard a woman say, "People get on my nerves!" I recognized the voice of someone I know who just about makes you run for cover. She talks like a man with a head full of opinions. She has a sour look on her face all the time, kind of daunting to walk in on. But I know she's not what she looks and acts like and I speak when I see her like she's somebody worth speaking to. I believe her issue with herself is a wretched self-esteem. She certainly dresses like it. She's had a rough life. I can hear her saying, "You ain't a'kiddin, boy." A little bit later at the redlight I saw a woman I know go by I've known quite awhile and she goes about in depressed despair all the time. It's something that happened to her. I don't know what it was, but she never came all the way back. I go about the course of a day seeing people, never wondering what their lives are like, their sorrows, their joys. Other people's business is too complex to try to keep up with. At the same time I go about and see everyone has a lot of good stories in them.
I'd rather know a few people well than several people superficially. Since childhood I've been drawn to people largely rejected by others or ignored. I didn't know how to be a friend in childhood. Childhood is where we do well to learn how to be a friend. But parents don't know either, grandparents don't know. Friend isn't something that's much of an American issue. It's kind of difficult to have friends in the adult world. Everybody is connected to somebody else. Sometimes the other won't allow friends. That's rather frequent. It runs both ways in the genders. Then there's jealousy and envy and so on. But there are people who allow themselves to have friends. Musicians are good at being friends.
After Jr Maxwell left the body, people I knew as his friends told me I was the best friend of his life. I didn't quite believe it. I'd heard him talk about his friends from years past, like Voscoe Edwards he hunted with from when they were boys, went to Idaho with and worked on a ranch in the summer during high school. Jr told me that they had a bad prairie dog problem on the ranch. He and Voscoe were both mountain boy marksmen who'd been hunting since they were 6. They would be sent out to shoot prairie dogs all day. For them, it was just more practice in their most finely honed skill, ammunition as much as they want for nothing. When Voscoe died by surprise, his son Jerry became Jr's hunting partner for as long as Jr continued to hunt. Jerry and I are the same age, graduated from high school same year. Jerry and Jr were mighty close friends. I don't believe I was a closer friend to him than they were. One thing I knew that he didn't figure out until right at the end was that he could trust me absolutely.
Up until then he'd trusted me, but in the mountain way of not totally, which was ok with me. I don't need anybody's absolute trust. How does one man know how far he can trust another man? In a lot of cases you don't want to go there. You might suddenly be expected to hide somebody running from a shootout with cops. In absolute trust, you would do it without thinking. It takes a long time in the mountains. As years went by nothing he told me ever came back to him, telling him I didn't tell his business around. A month or so before his last day he said to me, "We're closer than friends. We're more like brothers." Brother was a sacred relationship to him, so I felt like it was the same as saying I have his trust. There were times when he'd wake in the late evening after dark and I'd be sitting on the porch. He would lie in the bed and worry that I'd left him and would never be back. What would he do? They'd put him in a nursing home for sure. He'd tell me when I came back into the house and I'd explain in a few words he had nothing to worry about, I'm not going away.
I understood his vulnerability and allowed him to make his own decisions. In a way, I freed him of needing to deal with the physical, which was a constant challenge, allowing him to think about things and not worry about being thrown into the lumberyard for the dying. Stepping outside my life for a year and more making it possible for someone I had a great deal of respect for to die in his own bed, qualifies for the heading friend. Friends we were for certain by his last day. Again, I'm not so sure best friend of his life fits me. There was his second wife Lois who was his friend and number one fan. They worked together farming, dairy farming, whatever they did, and worked together as one. He respected Lois immensely. I don't like the need to have the best, whatever it is, the best. I was glad to have Jr Maxwell for my friend. I didn't need to be best. So what for best. How about last? Last is more like it. He had several friends. I've had several friends. Both of us were people who like having friends.
When I heard in the air this morning, "People get on my nerves!" I could only think, what else gets on our nerves but other people. In a crowd of people I feel so many different psychic energies and they intermingle with my own. A lot of people have really powerful energies. One day at Jr's a friend of his came by, pretty far along toward drunk, carrying a quart of liquor that was 20 years old. Jr was at his end of the sofa and I was at my end. I got pushed over to the middle and the jug went back and forth until it was empty and we continued to be upright. I bring this up because his energies were the most powerful I'd ever felt radiating from anyone. It was powerful energy. It was inner rage that went all the way back to age 2. It was like sitting next to a bulldozer with its motor running. I'd never experienced anything like that before or since. He was a powerful force. I don't mean to imply I had any fear. He's not somebody to be afraid of if he's your friend. If he's sharing his liquor with you, you're his friend. He's not going to hurt anybody. His gun will remain in his pocket.
It's been a curiosity that appears to be a natural law that some of Jr's friends felt compelled after he'd died to tell me some reprehensible things about his nature or past actions thinking they were popping an illusory bubble I might have him in, which was not the case. Everything they told me, I already knew and worse where that kind of judgment is concerned. But I didn't tell, because Jr can trust me in death the same as he could in life. They're afraid I held him unrealistically high up. They didn't know the Jr I knew. And I didn't know the Jr they knew. I found it interesting that they wanted to be sure I understood that Jr was just a man. He's sinned a'plenty. He had affairs while he was married, etc. I already knew all that. But I let them tell me about it because they needed to.
I believe the impulse was deeper than any one of them knew, because it was so automatic. I believe it's an honest impulse, meant with helpful intent. I received it as such, because we were his friends. I have a feeling they believed they were filling in some blanks in what I might have known about Jr, not knowing he'd told me everything they told me. I didn't ever talk about what he said unless it was amusing and insightful. I never talked about anything he would consider personal, like his finances, etc. On the other hand I can see that they might have been friendly, but they held resentments for no telling what. History, we call it. Incidents in the past that never healed. Not big enough deal to say anything about, but big enough to chew on like good backer. I suspect they thought I didn't know him very well, because I didn't have any resentments. But I did. There was a time he pist me off really, really bad and it took a long time to get over. I never held it against him once I got over it.