Sometimes its easy to see the flowers:
But not so easy to see the weeds and poison ivy:
Have you ever sat among the spring flowers to dream and relax, only to realize the next day that you were also sitting in poison ivy? Well, that’s what being with Jason was like…
Jason was my best friend through grade school and high school. Well, not really my best friend, more like my only friend. We shared a back yard that over looked the park, a car (when I finally got one), our class notes (well, mostly mine), a girlfriend (well, she started out as mine, then transferred to Jason, sigh), clothes (ah, he didn’t like me wearing his stuff, but…), beer (my dad’s), ciggys (all mine)…well, I think you get the picture. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get the picture until my senior year.
Jason was the baseball team captain at our high school. In our senior year he led the Muskies to the state finals. Although we only got as far as consolation–4th place–, he was heralded as a small town hero. It didn’t hurt that he was also handsome and assumed to be wealthy, as he was the son of our small town’s banker. What he possessed in knowledge of sports and magnetic attraction was only somewhat moderated by what he lacked in mental capacity and agility. Even though I was valedictorian, Jason and I were neighbors, so maybe it was only natural that we ended up being friends in school. What seemed odd was that our friendship lasted on into college.
I decided to go to State University because Dad worked for a living and thought his son should as well. While we weren’t poor, neither were we wealthy. Dad was conservative when it came to school loans as well as his views on his children working for their education.
Jason decided to go to State University because they gave him a full four year scholarship to play baseball. They didn’t realize, as both Jason and I did, that it would probably take him eight years to get his bachelor’s degree in PE.
One Saturday night in June, Jason asked me if he and I could be roommates at State. We were working on a six pack of Bud Light from Dad’s garage refrigerator stash and had been laying on the hillside between our houses that overlooked the city park. . I was a little taken aback because I figured our friendship would end when we both went our separate ways in the fall. “Why would you want to room with me, Jason? Won’t you have a plethora of baseball jocks whose minds work hand in glove with your own?”
“Well, jeeze Nickers–he had called me Nickers ever since Mom dressed me in what she so lovingly called “young man nickers”–that’s ‘zactly why I wanna room with you. None of those jocks is gonna know how to teach me nothing. You been tutoring me since kiddygarten.” Of course that little speech made me proud of my years of work.
I thought about the many weeknights the two of us spent holed up in Jason’s room, him listening to music in his left ear, drinking diet Mountain Dew and texting with his left hand, while I read the highlighted notes from our chemistry, algebra, world history, English literature, or whatever class for which we were studying, to his right ear. I would alternately beg him to listen or ask him questions that he alternately ignored or answered wrong. When the day of the test came, I would pass with flying colors and he would pass with a D+ or C- or maybe he would just flunk. Then he would be assigned extra work or maybe some cretin of a teacher would give him a take home make-up exam. A take home make-up exam, just what I needed.
“Well, I guess there’s no harm in us being roommates, Jason.” Acting like that was the answer he had expected all along, Jason said the beer was making him cold and asked to borrow my sweater. I took it off and threw it at his head while he laughed and punched me in the arm. Ow, crap, that was right on top of the bruise from the last friendly punch he shot me two days ago. Well, at least we knew where we stood with each other.
As Jason buttoned my sweater over his worn baseball tee shirt, he undid his shorts and slid them down his hips. I rolled over to relieve both of us, as I did most Saturday nights we hung out together. As I did, I pondered the next four years of rooming, and tutoring, this small town baseball star. And I smiled to myself, even as I began to break out in hives and itch.