I used to live right next to Jim. He owned the two single family houses. I don’t remember how we became friends, but I used to go to his house with my college projects and have these profound conversations. Sometimes if I was stuck in my Sociology paper, I would have a phenomenal discussion with him and walk out of there with a complete essay in my head and his typewriter under my arm.
Jim was handsome and eloquent with an Irish brogue even if he wasn’t Irish. Reason why he believed in reincarnation. In my naïve mind I knew he was attracted to me and I had a crush on him, but didn’t worry about it which allowed our friendship to blossom. He was intelligent, knowledgeable, witty, worldly, and 28 years older than I. The type of gentleman that gets up every time a female walks away and stands up again when she returns to the table. There were times when Jim would take me to a restaurant - never a known chain place- rather it was a restaurant with exquisite food known to him and other fellas as he referred to people he knew. He fascinated me with his knowledge of dark beer, and world cultures. He was an avid traveler.
As far as I knew Jim was a bachelor who enjoyed long lasting relationships with some adventures in between. When I had the biggest break up and heartache of my life, I asked Jim if he had ever been in love and knew the pressure in my chest that seemed to be about to explode inhibiting my breathing. He replied in his usual lay back way: “Oh, I suppose a half dozen times. Each time the joy of a new love makes the old heart break worthwhile”.
We kept in touch for a long time and he visited me when my son was christened. Then slowly I stopped sending a Christmas card back and eventually his stopped.
I have passed by the little town of Boonton many times and often stop to get coffee at a Dunkin Donuts that didn’t exist when I resided there. I always think of Jim, but never make the time to look him up. This past Saturday I did. The town is totally different. There were very few landmarks I could vaguely remember making it difficult to find the residence with only a recollection of the name of the street and a faint memory of the house. I am not one to remember details or people’s names. Consequently I didn’t remember Jim’s last name and in all honestly, reluctantly I accepted the fact that Jim could be dead.
I drove slowly pulling over when cars were behind me so I could carefully look for a two single family house, the only thing I remembered. Thankfully there were not that many and then…there it was! A house with a plaque “JWM…” that was it! I got out of the car and rang the bell twice. I heard footsteps, but no one opened. I cracked the door open and saw a tall gentleman walking slowly with a smile on his face. “May I help you?” “I’m going to put your memory to a test” I said as I removed my sunglasses. “I lived next door”. He smiled broadly. We sat down and for the first few minutes I wasn’t sure if he was being polite not remembering who this tenant was, but he soon put me at ease remembering our conversations. He invited me to lunch to one of the restaurants he visits with the fellas. Now slow on his feet, he extended his arm to let me know he was behind me to open the door, pulled my chair and still the gentleman he always was, stood until I sat down.
Our conversation was delightful, his wit impeccable. He laughed when I reminded him that I predicted he’d be preserved in alcohol. “I know I am 80, but there is got be an exception made for me” he said with a smile.
Every so often in between our laughs and witty remarks he'd stop and said "you remain your own woman".
I gave him a copy of my book because he knew I loved to write and he’d proof read my writing many times and because I’m a writer, I give people my book. We said good bye and he looked at me in the way he did before, kind of the same way I did before, some form of attraction, some form of gladness. I don’t know that I’ll ever see him again. I am glad to have stopped and mostly I am so glad to have befriended this eloquent handsome gentleman.