Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pieces of a Memoir

Some years ago, I tried writing a theological memoir. I never finished it, but I think I want to put what I have out there. Maybe I'll use lent to take it farther. Or it'll remain incomplete. I can't see the future. But I'll put up pieces of it over the next weeks. Here's the beginning of the first chapter.

Chapter 1: The First Beginning—The Ground Breaks Open Beneath Me (part one)
I knew Pete for about three years. We met while we were both bit players in an Austin, Texas, production of Juno and the Paycock. Being bit players, we had lots of time to get to know each other backstage.

Had this been high school, we would have been voted least likely to become friends. He grew up east-coast inner-city tough, learned to do nearly any and all drugs (but clean and sober when I met him), and was a free spirit. As an example of the latter, he was an independent contractor, a painter who worked mostly interior jobs, small jobs he could do by himself. He‛d work until he had a little money saved up and then he‛d disappear into some mountains somewhere for a while. When the money ran out, he‛d start calling his network of construction companies to find more work.

Me, I‛m a Texas farm boy, have never even been really blotto drunk, and despite ample opportunities as a theater major, I‛ve only experienced marijuana as second hand smoke. That‛s as "hard" as my drug exposure has ever gotten. Although I aspire to it, I cannot lay any claim to being "free-spirited." Even now, at my most bohemian, I can‛t imagine being without a steady job. I am, after all, Lutheran.

But Pete and I, we became friends. Not close, see-each-other-all-the-time friends, but real friends. There was a depth to our relationship. His apartment was by Town Lake and we sometimes met there for long walks on the hike and bike trail by the water. I told him about my (then relatively new) experiences with coming out as a gay man and he told me something of the struggles he had learning his twin brother was gay. ("Man, until we hit puberty, it was like we shared a mind. He could be across town and scratching his ass and I would feel it. Then suddenly he likes guys and there‛s like this psychic wall that went up.") We shared our grief stories, me with mother‛s recent death due to lymphoma, he with his brother‛s death from AIDS. We were both a little lost. He‛d quite unexpectedly lived into his forties and realized that if he‛d been handling his painting business correctly, he‛d have a younger crew to climb all the ladders. Now that he was clean and sober, he wasn‛t sure he wanted to continue in that business but didn‛t know what else to do, either. I‛d recently graduated from seminary with no intention for ordination and coming out made most church careers unlikely. I had a decent enough job as a bureaucrat at the University of Texas, but I didn‛t really like it much and didn‛t know what else to do. We both felt stuck, uncertain about how to move forward.

Funny how being a recovering drug addict and a recovering seminarian can draw two people together.

(to be continued)

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