I just had lunch with an old friend of mine.
To be more accurate, he is technically an old boyfriend; while the truth is much more complicated, I'll just say we dated for about a month before he basically said, "I'm not ready" by being evasive and ball-less. We were able to get past that once I realized I wasn't interested anymore, but for a while there, we really couldn't work together. Oh, did I not mention that we were both servers at an Olive Garden? Where teamwork supposedly is key? 'Cause we were.
Anyway, we managed to get our friendship somewhat repaired once he apologized for being an insensitive ass, but then I left the restaurant for a job closer into town. We hung out a couple of times after that and talked on the phone intermittently, but eventually, as it almost always happens, we lost touch. I thought about him from time to time, wondering if he was doing alright.
See, this guy was a rather interesting individual. He was a drug addict and heavy drinker in his early life until he became a Christian in his mid-to-late-twenties, which totally turned him around. The kid with no ambition in life wanted to become a prison preacher, and he had started in that direction. A few times, he started drinking again but was always able to get himself back on track. We had exceptionally deep religious conversations compounded with frivolous video game arguments, at which we always laughed at the juxtaposition of the two topics.
I had always thought that he would land on his feet and hoped for the best for him.
Then I saw him in my office today. As many of you know, I work at the Dept. of Human Services, or, as it was formerly called, the welfare office. It was just strange to see him there, sitting among the other people applying for assistance. Not strange because I think he's better than that - if I had known such services were available when I was going through my rough financial patches, sure, I most likely would have done so - but strange on another two levels: 1) I never thought I'd see him again and 2) he's always been able to make do.
He had this sheepish look on his face when he recognized me. Of course, I was just surprised to see him period, but I'm sure the expression I had on my face didn't help his embarrassment. Luckily, I was not assigned his case - conflict of interest and kind of uncomfortable - and he gave his case worker his number to give to me. I was in an interview with another client at the time, so I called him once she left to see if he wanted to go to lunch.
"Sure!" he said.
Then he asked me to pick him up because he was walking. "My car was impounded."
We went to Ruby Tuesday's (their spring roll thingies are really good, surprisingly) and talked for a good hour. It was just nice to see him and be able to tell that, while he's not in such a good spot, he's still okay. He's had his problems over the past year but he's still positive. Again, we discussed faith and Final Fantasy XIII and giggled at the pairing. We compared each other's past year histories and laughed at our relationship follies. He then made sure that I entered his number into my phone and had me drop him back off where I picked him up, saying that he wanted to go down to the movie theater to apply for a job.
After letting him out of the car on the square, I drove off, thinking about how different our lives had turned out. When we met, we were both measley servers at a chain restaurant, forced to wear white button down shirts and garish ties, and now I'm on the employed side of the office, whereas he's in the lobby. I feel bad for him and wish him the best.
And I really hope the theater is hiring.