My One Night With Jimmie

It was a comet dust ride—unworldly and cosmic, fast and furious—and, by dawn's early light, just a cherished memory

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I was shocked and confused by the Facebook message asking if I'd join him Saturday for a day of music and dancing. I immediately assumed he had messaged the wrong person but he referred to me by name. The girls and I hadn't been to hear the band for months so this was particularly bizarre. He didn't sound drunk, just friendly.

I barely knew Jimmie. I knew his older brother John growing up, and remember making out with him one night after a pool party when we were teenagers. But Jimmie? The few times I'd spoken to him were when my girlfriends and I would go hear the band he drummed for. They were a kick; they covered '60s songs: Beatles, Kinks, Stones, Creedence, all the greats. We'd dance for hours.

On break, the band would mingle and Jimmie would inevitably head towards Gayle, Meg and me. They knew him well and received enthusiastic bear hugs but since I didn't, we kept it to a generic "Hey, how's it goin'?" nod.

Without hesitation and to my surprise, I messaged back and accepted his invitation. It isn't like me to be impetuous. I have trouble fitting in with people and rarely go places alone. But I somehow knew I had to go.

When I got there, Jimmie's face lit up as if greeting a long-lost lover. He hugged me with a tender ferocity and it felt good and strangely familiar. I didn't want to let go.

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It was a lovely May afternoon, perfect for an indulgence of taboos: day drinking, snorting coke and conjuring spells. Classic rock and cigarette smoke filtered into the bar from the band playing on the outside patio.

Jimmie took my hand and led me inside. He ordered himself a Bud Lite and asked what I wanted. "A shot of Jameson and a Guinness," I blurted out, shocking myself. I rarely drink whiskey and never drink beer. The whole thing felt surreal and grounded at the same time. I instantly fell into the ease of him.

He introduced me to some friends out back, and for the first time in a long time, I felt happy. Day mellowed into night and I fell in love with the crowd, the music and Jimmie's incredible smile. We danced and laughed as if we'd known each other for years.

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Jimmie, you should know, was married. I met his wife once at one of his gigs. I was now in her home, sitting in her basement, on her couch with her husband's head buried in my lap, crying. We had talked many hours of his desire to repair his marriage, and the death of both parents and his brother all within the last two years. Since then, Jimmie had been burning the candle at both ends with alcohol and cocaine.

Now 58, Jimmie was a well-functioning addict: a contract lawyer by day, drummer by night. But the flames were about to merge in the middle and burn him alive.

We did some lines and sipped red wine while his solo CD played in the background. Drums, guitars and microphones were set up on a stage he had built himself. A talented musician and lyricist, his basement was not only a recording studio but his sanctuary.

I could feel his detachment and despair as if it were my own. I stood up. "Dance with me," I implored. "Let me and the music help heal you." He obliged but said he felt odd dancing to his own music.

"Why? It's who you are. It's your heart and soul coming through the speakers, through your body, into mine. Can't you feel the energy?" I whispered in his ear. His arm wrapped around me, his hand landing on the small of my back pulling me into him.

I felt his body relax and we melted into each other. Between soft, lush kisses on my neck, he sang his lyrics into my ear. I hadn't been close to a man in years and have had my fair share of relationship drama. I raised my head from his shoulder and he kissed me so passionately I could barely breathe. The dance continued long into the night.

I never slept with Jimmie; he was married and I know now our encounter had nothing to do with sex. We both knew a future for us was never in play. It was more of a spiritual healing for us both, a comet dust ride—unworldly and cosmic, fast and furious—and, by dawn's early light, just a cherished memory.

Jimmie entered an outpatient rehab soon after, and has been clean for more than a year now. We shared a few awkward messages catching up but mostly we are strangers again.

I hear he's doing well. I don't attend his gigs anymore—he has his own life and so do I. But when I think of him, I'm overwhelmed by a peaceful feeling and grateful to have connected with a kindred soul.

I just bought his new CD. His music tells me he has found his life again. His lyrics tell me we aren't strangers after all.

Tags: friendship