In my whole life, I've only collapsed at the feet of one man, grabbing his legs and screaming, "I don't know how I'll live without you!" It wasn't my husband. My husband was standing next to me asking, "Who gave her a fifth margarita?" The thought of losing Brandon (and, yes, a bit of tequila) drove me to tears. I knew Jimmy was coming with me when we left North Carolina the next day, headed for a new life in California. Brandon wasn't.
We were leaving Brandon, and a hell of a lot of other good friends, behind after seven years of intense friendship. Brandon and Jimmy started grad school together in 1992 and endured years of ego-killing, soul-crushing bullshit. And that was just from each other. Brandon was our adopted son. We fed him, we comforted him, we abused him.
Jimmy and Brandon study at the table they eventually delivered to the east side.
Brandon always got recruited into helping Jimmy with his chores around the house. Like the time they took a truckload (his truck) of stuff to the Goodwill. At the Goodwill, some old lady showed interest in our kitchen table. Brandon and Jimmy ended up delivering the table and the old lady to her home. She rode in between them in the truck, giving directions, and apologizing, "Don't mind if my bref be stinkin', I just been to the dentis'." WTF?
Here is my favorite story about Brandon: Sometime in the late 90s we developed the habit of eating out on Friday nights, then going to a friend's house to watch The X-Files. (Yes, we are nerds.) The dinners got to be so regular that up to a dozen or more people would show up. This basically meant that we couldn't get a table at any of the decent restaurants in town. We settled for some pretty crummy restaurants: they could handle a spontaneous group of 12 on a Friday night! We ate Chinese buffet often. Blech. One night, at a new (and very mediocre) Italian restaurant, Brandon ordered spaghetti. When it arrived, he leaned over with his nose practically touching the sauce and inhaled deeply. Everyone gave him the "what the hell was that for?" look and Brandon responded, "If it smells like ass, I ain't eatin' it." We all had to agree with his logic.
Every once in a while Brandon would get a girlfriend and drift away from us. Brandon had a weakness for girls in need. He once dated a stripper. The grad student and the stripper, there's an ideal match. But at least she understood his greatest desires: she bought him soft toilet paper. I was like a jealous mother. I hated all the girlfriends. The one I hated the most was the divorcee who appeared with Brandon at a mutual friend's wedding, wearing a red dress and dancing like a whore. We were all more than a little bit relieved when Brandon met Lina. Lina had a weakness for boys in need. They've been sucking the life out of each other for 14 years now.
Six short months after I'd collapsed at his feet, Brandon and Lina moved to California. Turns out I didn't have to live without him after all. Jimmy and I bought a broken-down old bungalow and Brandon was, once again, stuck helping with the chores. Together, they totally rewired that house and halfway re-plumbed it. They tore down sheds, decks, carports, cabinets and they built a shower, a patio, a kitchen, a drainage system, a sprinkler system, and a lawn.
Brandon and his reciprocating saw tear down the carport
Brandon loved finding lost items in our 70-year-old home. Toys from the seventies in the backyard and newspapers from the 50s in the attic, for example. The day that he and Jimmy unearthed a mysterious well (or cistern?) in our back yard was particularly thrilling. We have no idea what it was. Our home was situated on land that had once been an orchard, so we speculate that it was part of the irrigation system. The hole was about six feet deep, but might have been deeper at one time. It was lined with beautiful red bricks and there were three or four clay pipes connected to it, leading away from the hole.
Brandon excavating in our back yard
A few years ago, we left Brandon again, during the "downturn." Brandon suffered through unemployment with one kid in diapers and one on the way. I wish I could've been there more for him and for Lina. I do know now that I can survive away from them, but it sure is a lot less fun. And our windows are leaking.
You may think that Brandon isn't playing with a full deck; he is. But he isn't playing with a full colon. He's got a foot less than you or I because he has Crohn's disease. A surgeon kindly removed the diseased part. If you have a friend like Brandon who shits all the damn time, think about giving to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.