Monday, March 15, 2010

A Day with George


“Cheap cigar smoke smells like dirty elephants,” I say to George every time he lights one up.

“Your stones are no match for my bones,” George retorts.

George always looks contagious. He spent most of his twenties and early thirties in the Army working as a guinea pig. He says they tested all types of super drugs on him. He says it's made him indestructible. He doesn't say this with much conviction, and his ashen complexion and thinning hair don't help his argument, so no one believes him.

George has a laminated black and white photo of Marilyn Monroe that he carries in his shirt pocket everywhere he goes. He bought the picture from a kid at school when he was eleven after seeing “How to Marry A Millionaire” with his older sister. Sometimes when he thinks he's alone, I see him take out the picture and have a conversation with it.

“Yes, Marilyn, we went to Nicko's for breakfast again. I know it's not fancy like some of the places you eat in, but they have a really good breakfast and you know Elvis once at there. I agree, it was another beautiful day outside. Yeah, it will be summer soon. I know, I know . . . you think the summers here are too damn hot.”

George is my oldest friend, he and I have known one another for fifteen years and have lived together for the past three. George was the one who introduced me to, Eliza, my future ex-wife. After she divorced me and made me homeless, I was staying with a cousin of mine and working as the night manager of a liquor store in our neighborhood. One night, George came into the store and told me his dog Barnaby had died early that very morning. George had spent the last eighteen years living with Barnaby and the dog was his one constant companion in that time. George was taking Barnaby's death hard and when he stopped by that night, he told me he might be too lonely to go on. I wasn't sure if he intended on killing himself or not, but it wasn't a chance I wanted to take.

This past Christmas, our neighbor Donna, gave George and myself year-long passes to the zoo because it's George's favorite place to go. When George was a boy, he wanted to live and work at the zoo when he grew up. His father though, was career military and ran a strict household, and George was expected to join the Army after high school. A few weeks in, it was obvious that George was not cut out for military life. He was considered physically weak and too timid. He was sensitive, labeled a daydreamer, and worst of all he was antisocial. His drill sergeant was convinced that he wasn't right in the head. George's father was able to pull some strings and get him a position in a testing and research lab, where he stayed until he received an honorable discharge fifteen years later. George never talked about basic training and most of his super drug speeches were just mutterings as if he was talking in his sleep.

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