Friends in High Places

“What’s trump?” I asked looking around the table of friends.

I’d invited everyone over to play cards on a warm Friday night in June.  Zach was upstairs asleep and we were listening to Jimmy Buffett on the CD player in the kitchen as we talked and drank and played.  The one advantage to my current living situation was that I could have friends over whenever I wanted.  It was small consolation, but I was trying to keep my head above water these days.

My friends were concerned about me, certainly after the last bit of news about my father had surfaced.  None of them knew at all what to do or say, but they kept showing up unexpectedly to share a takeout meal or to offer to watch Zach while I went out with some of the rest of the group.  They could sense I was pulling back from them, uncomfortable with sharing how sad and alone I felt.  I didn’t want to always wear the cheery mask that I felt was necessary to keep my friends satisfied.   What was becoming clear to me was that my friends didn’t care if I was sad or bitter; they would do what they could to help me until the clouds parted and I found something in my life to smile about.

“Hearts,” Karen responded, grabbing a swig of her wine cooler.  “So, what’s the latest on the job hunt?” she asked.

“Well, it’s mostly crap.  Summer school jobs go to teachers who are already employed within school districts, not substitutes.  There are more teachers than jobs to go around, so that’s completely out for summer income.  My friend Michelle had an idea, but I’m not sure about it.”

“What is it?” asked Karen’s boyfriend Joe.  Joe was a nice, big, bear of a guy who had been dating my friend Karen for the better part of a year now.  He was easy going, reminding me a lot of my brother in law.  He worked construction and hadn’t gone to college.  Privately, Karen worried that she was a snob for this giving her pause when Joe was as nice as he could be.

“Well, she suggested waitressing.  There’s this place up near the Burger King we all used to work at that has a restaurant and a bar.  They do dart leagues and stuff there.”  Another point in the favor of this place was that I heard that my ex, now home from school, would shoot darts there from time to time.

“Hm,” answered Jewel.  “It’s not a bad idea.  I’ve done it before.  It can be really, really good money in a busy restaurant.”

“I know.  That’s why I’m thinking it might work for the summer as a bridge until I can find a position for the fall.  The problem is that it would be all nights for the most part.  So my daycare place wouldn’t work.  I’d have to hire sitters.”

“I’m sure between all of your friends you could work something out,” Karen offered.  “I wouldn’t worry about that so much.”

“You think?” I asked.  The thought of it actually made my stomach turn.  I was a college graduate.  It seemed somehow backwards to work as a waitress after I’d been employed as a teacher the whole year.  “I kind of hate the idea.”

Jewel shook her head.  “Think about it.  You could make working three nights a week what it took you five days to earn substitute teaching, plus the childcare would be less.  It’s a good idea.  You should consider it.”

Joe nodded.  “There’s no shame in taking a job to get by in the short term.  It’s not like you’re looking on this as a new career path.”

I took a swig of my vodka and cranberry juice.  “I know you guys are right.  I just kind of needed someone else to tell me that it was the right thing to do.  Now, who can beat this?” I said proudly as I laid down the right bower card, winning the game.

I looked around at my friends laughing and groaning, and breathed.  Just a little.  But enough.

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