It’s probably bad form to offer an apology with a sort of preface, but I’m not sure if I really need to apologize for anything. It’s more of an explanation, I suppose. I’d say an explanation of what you’re getting yourself into, but that sounds negative too, and really there’s nothing to be worried about. Part of it, and I’m not blaming you here, is that this little mill town we live in that you love so much is pretty much devoid of anything to do. And granted I admit that it’s funky and quaint and all that, with it’s weird mix of rednecks and hippies and its slow-motion wrestling match between rural values and college professor liberalism, but it’s a little too far from that college town that we could be living in, so when my two old friends (realizing of course that your introduction to them was not ideal) visited, how was I supposed to entertain them? Again, I’m not putting this on you, but the cold shoulder treatment you’ve given me for the past couple of days seems misinformed.
When my friends got in town on Friday I first took them down to the river to have a look at the burned-down mill because that’s only thing to do here. I suppose some background on Rich and Alex is in order since you came home after they were passed out and left for your yoga class before they woke up. Some years ago the three of us lived in a group of low-rent houses in what could best be described as a working-class neighborhood. Because we had big parties, and because at the time Rich’s haircut and style of eyeglasses gave him a passing resemblance to David Koresh, the residences collectively came to be known as The Compound. Alex didn’t look like a cult leader, but he was somewhat predisposed to listening to Slayer CDs while breaking things. Keep in mind that these men are both professionals now. Alex is in environmental consulting, which means that he dresses up like those scientists in ET and cleans up recently busted meth labs, and Rich is in construction management, which means that he supervises a team of up to three chimney sweeps at a given time. They are far more successful than some of our other roommates from The Compound. These people included an albino drug dealer, an alcoholic hypochondriac, a cigarette smoking bodybuilder, and, for a few months, an “escort.” To my knowledge she never entertained a client at The Compound, and yes, that includes me. I didn’t have that kind of money back then.
These are the types of things we’d been reminiscing about when Rich produced some Valium and wondered if we might want some. I would like to add that Alex and I did hesitate, if only slightly, wondering aloud about the necessity of such things at that late hour, expressing our reservations about pills in general, and reminding Rich of a time at The Compound when he mixed muscle relaxants with alcohol and without warning went from standing up, having a relatively lucid conversation to a complete prone position, then insisted for the rest of the night that he had been sucker punched even though several witnesses testified that he had not in fact been sucker punched but had fallen of his own accord and for no outwardly apparent reason. With that anecdote we found ourselves each washing down a Valium with a beer and staring at the opening credits to a movie, the title and plot of which I don’t recollect. Only then did it occur to me to ask Rich where he’d gotten the Valium, which is when he told us they’d been prescribed for Sam because she’d been having anxiety after leg surgery, but she didn’t need them all. Sam is a 12-year-old Labrador retriever, so a couple of thoughts came to mind: 1) Dog Valium. 2) How did he know if she needed them all or not?
Sometime after that was when you found me outside in the cold, wielding an axe, and you asked me, as you probably remember, “why are you chopping wood?” and I said, “we’re out.” Which is 100 percent true. Never mind that in addition to the woodstove we have central heat. Never mind that Alex and Rich were already passed out. And never mind that it was two in the morning in a sleeping rural village.
Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
So I hope this explains a thing or two. Hopefully you’ll stop ignoring me now that you see there was nothing weird going on. Alex and Rich will be at the wedding, so you’ll get a better chance to meet them then. And by the way, when you came outside in your pajama pants and wool coat with your hair all messy and your face all soft and sleepy, you looked lovely.