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Most of my life there has been one best friend, and a handful of close acquaintances. I don't seem to be able to have multiple best friends. I've seen others do it, but for me, life is simpler in only having to be completely open with only one soul. Sometimes it was a guy, and sometimes a woman.

When I got out of high school, and left the nest to live on my own, I went up to Memphis, Tennessee where my father lived. During the school year, my mother had custody of me. I stayed with he and his new wife, until I wore out my welcome. The impending arrival of a half-sister was enough of an excuse for the new step mother to eject me from the post high school nest, because my room was built for the baby.

I had found a job for minimum wage as a dishwasher, so getting a place entirely on my own was out of the question. I had run into a schoolmate of mine from Mississippi, who had moved to Memphis. It was decided that we would share the cost of a two bedroom apartment. There is a whole story to that experience, but for the sake of brevity, we'll just say that it all turned out bad.

While I was sharing the apartment with my old schoolmate, I started going to a local pub called, "The Bar". It was a fun place and I always enjoyed when I could run the joke, the bar's name lent itself to. When asked, where I was going, or where I had been, I would reply, "The Bar". To which the person asking would say, "Which bar?", and I would reply, "The Bar", with more emphasis on the word The. Okay, a bit slapstick but who says slapstick isn't funny. Anyway, there was a bartender there who was about my age and was from Mississippi also. To protect the innocent and otherwise, I'll call him Fred. Not that it was his name, but it makes it easier to use a name to tell the story.

In Memphis the most popular part of town for many years was Overton Square. It had the best boutiques, trendy restaurants, bars, and city sponsored events. Fred and I found an old mansion, that was in less than pristine condition, but was only two blocks from the heart of Overton Square. I had advanced my work position to a line cook and then the banquet cook. I was making a bit more money, and with Fred's participation we could just barely manage to cover the rent and utilities. The mansion had eleven rooms, a basement and an attic. It was built in 1911 and had four huge columns supporting a porch ceiling that was two stories off the ground. Since neither of us had any money left over, and both the attic and basement were full of furniture that was also in less than pristine condition. It had been top of the line many years ago, but was now tattered and thread bare. It still managed to give the air of a movie set from a different time period, and was the location of the best parties I ever gave or attended in my life. The parade of visitors, parties, and women was never ending.

We had only been there three or four months, and my inseparable best friend and roommate vanished for a few days. Being a guy, I was concerned and thought of filing a missing person's report, but decided that he must have run into the lady of his dreams of the moment, and was playing hooky from The Bar and home. It was rent time, and I couldn't cover the cost of the mansion by myself and had to give it up.

When Fred eventually showed up back to work at The Bar, he was a changed person. Whatever happened that week, he wasn't sharing it with anyone. My anger at losing the mansion gave way to concern over the drastic moodiness and depression that had gripped my best friend. It took around a month before he opened up to me and told me what happened.

He had not had enough money to cover his share of the rent on the mansion and he was depressed about it. He started drinking and drinking and then drank some more. In this state of heightened intelligence he pulled into a remote gas station in Mississippi and held up the attendant at gunpoint. He didn't even get enough money to come close to paying the rent, so he just lay low and drank away the ill gotten proceeds.

This friend of mine, had come from a middle class family that participated regularly with church. The most illegal activities he had ever participated in were some pranks in high school that dealt with the mascot of a rival school. How he crossed over to commit such a serious crime was partially fueled by the booze, but was also tinged with shame for not being able to hold up his end of the bargain on renting the mansion. Frankly, he had gotten away completely with the crime. There were no leads at all, but Fred's conscience was too strong to leave it behind him. His father retained a lawyer, and they managed to get a deal with the district attorney for Fred to turn himself in. The unsolved crime, and his willingness to live up to his mistake, and the fact that no one was hurt led him to a sentence of twenty months in jail, and five years probation.

Fred was my best friend for several years. His moral compass and opinions of right and wrong were so close to mine, that I couldn't fathom how he crossed that line mentally to do such a thing. The booze was one thing, but we had both consumed more than we should have on many an occasion, and never went awry from how we had been raised. Being very young, newly able to drink, and working at a bar provided too easy an access to alcohol and young ladies, but embarrassing stories and hang-overs were the worst result of our deeds. I never could understand his decision to commit the crime, but I was glad that he still had a strong enough upbringing to confess and turn himself in. We drifted apart.

Many years later, when my fiance Robin left me, I called him. The jail time was far behind him, and he was now attending college to study some new fang led machines called computers. There were uncomfortable silences in the conversation, and it was obvious that the special connection we had as best friends was gone. But I was interested in what he had to say about computers, since I was such a die hard science fiction fan. It was that phone call that led me to making the best decision of my life. I decided to go to college and study computers too. It has led me to my own business for twenty years and was at the core of all the interesting things that happened in my adult life.

 

 

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