The journal I am publishing was written by an guy I met long ago who I lost contact with just after our college days ended. It does happen. He had taught me the finer points of enjoying the company of women during days and nights when the booze flowed freely and life was a volleyball game in the pool. Apparently, the man had something of a serious side to him that I never saw. True, he was out of my sight most of the time and I only knew what he told me. For instance, he told me he was a chef and worked at a small restaurant reputed to be owned by a mobster. Later I came to find out he was to inherit millions of dollars on the death of his mother who I did meet. She turned out to be an enormous woman of titanic anger and force who he was afraid of. Well, we went our separate ways and never stayed in touch. However, several years ago I got an e-mail from his sister who told me that the man in question, my friend from college, had recently died and had insisted that this journal get into my hands.
I don't know why he would put the burden on me. We did have some fine youthful experiences together and, even, shared some secrets. But once life had started, once I had a purpose I had no desire to look the old friend up and no doubt he felt the same way.
The e-mail started in that curious way people have who haven't written, "This is going to sound odd." I thought it was spam at first and was about to delete it when I saw the familiar name in the middle of the text and read in a rush since the name immediately put me back to those days in college when the world was a kinder, more exciting place. Looking back, I can see that, no, it was much more dysfunctional than it is now but the boundaries were a bit tighter in those days.
I e-mailed the sister back and then we talked on the phone. She was very skeptical of the whole thing and sounded like she wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, her husband and she were in the middle of planning a trip to Istanbul and she insisted that nothing be done until they got back in the fall.
Months later we were in contact again and I agreed to drive the twenty-five miles to her house, out in a fabled development in the suburbs where famous athletes lived. When I heard where she lived I thought immediately, "ah, she inherited the money!" She hadn't been specific about her brother's death. It didn't shock me. The man I knew at that time lived dangerously and had spent time in Vietnam as a medic. Or so he said. Even though he had come from wealth, not only did he live poorly and consort with poor students such as myself, but he used to blatantly steal anything that he fancied. Ah, the neighbor had a gear shift knob he desired so he quickly turned his head around and when it was safe, filched the gear shift knob and put it into the flak jacket he always wore. In a thrift shop he had stolen an old watch on a display counter. Yes, even as a young and naive student I understood the fellow had a problem but it mushroomed into grand larceny by the end of the year. Enough to say, with his character truly revealed I had no more to do with him and we left hardly saying anything, although he visited me one time while stalking his old girlfriend. He didn't call it that but he would spy on her in the bushes when she was out with another man.
He had been a colorful character without question and I had never known him to be a writer of any sort. The one time he did write it was for a paper he was going to deliver, orally, to a biology class and he read it for my girl friend and I in very halting, wooden tones as if he really didn't believe what he was writing.
It was in shock then that I read his journal. It was a kind of secret life he lived, a double-life that is exposed on TV shows. The man who has two families in two cities, for instance. Or, the man who fakes his own death and then is discovered twenty years later and has to face the family he's abandoned. I viewed the journal along these lines and was astounded by some of the insight the fellow had developed over the years.
Herein, in this space, will be run, for the amusement of netizens and other creatures of habit, the Journal of one Thomas Kjar. Sometimes the entries will be touched with a bit of commentary after asking his sister to more fully describe what he may have meant by this phrase or that word.
Our purpose is to continue the grand tradition of telling the tales of anonymous people who, too, have consciousness and their daily prayers.
June 27, 2002
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