A few months ago there came into the bar that I work at a young woman of 21 years of age. She had bright eyes and an electric personality. Her name was Kim. We became friends. Sometimes, after work, I’d go over to the bar that she worked at and would hang out with her. Sometimes there would be a group of us at her apartment. We’d all make Thai food and chocolate cake and play monopoly.
I got to become closer friends with Kim and she let me into her world. I found out that she has gone through more than enough shit in life to cause most anyone to want to give up. But not Kim… she kept pushing along, kept going at it, kept changing the color of her hair (purple, green, pink, etc..) and kept wanting to do what made her happy. She worked her ass off in order to live in a house with a yard with lots of cats. She had that house and wanted to plant things in the yard for the summer.
She had a birthday and I bought her a wooden sun and moon ornament. She loved it and hung it at the bottom rail of the stairs going up to her room.
I can remember one night I had gone into her bar and she had a fire in her eyes… she came over to me and gave me a hug and said “I want to ask you something… just keep an open mind… okay?” I said okay and listened to her. Barely able to control herself she looked at me and said “lets go away… lets go out on the road… wherever it will take us. You’re still young, we’re both good looking, we can find odd jobs to get us by. Let’s live life and see what we can see…you and me”. She wanted to so badly, it was hard not to go. I have been moving from state to state since 89 and I finally chose Oregon as my home and had planned on planting roots here. I declined her offer and she kept asking me. She said that she had asked nobody else but me, that I was the only one she wanted to go with her. It was tempting and the poet beatnik in me wanted to feel the uncertainty of the open road again… but I was 30 and I was ready to settle down.
Kim had a raspy voice, something like a singer who’d seen the inside of one too many smoky clubs. This was due to her history with her disease and such. She said that she had lost her voice and was working to get it back. She had a passion for singing and when she got up on the karaoke to sing, you could tell that loved it. What was more was that from week to week there was improvement by leaps and bounds. One night I walked into the bar to have a tea with her and she said excitedly to me “I’ve got an idea… I want to move to Las Vegas and be a lounge singer… do you think that’s stupid?”. I said that it wasn’t and I encouraged her to do it. When another friend of mine had taken a vacation to Las Vegas I asked her to bring me back some postcards. I gave these to Kim and said that they were pictures of her dream and to not give up.
Kim and I had our moments. We flirted a little bit with becoming a couple but never really crossed that line and we settled back down into being good friends. When I had run into some problems and had run out of people to turn to it was Kim that came to my aid. All that she asked for in return was me to be with her as a friend.
I wanted a kitten for my cat so that she wouldn’t become lonely. I asked Kim for a kitten as she had lots of cats. When the shelter runs out of options for a cat they know that Kim will take it in instead of it being put to sleep. Kim had a batch of kittens and I chose a cute, adventurous one. I named him Achilles.
I got an email from Kim. Things were going bad for her. She was not doing well, she was depressed and the world was crashing down around her. I called her, emailed her, and visited her to cheer her up. When I wrote my letter of resignation at the bar that I work at I called Kim that night and told her that I was leaving the bar and hence there would soon be an open bartending position. She appreciated my looking out for her. She sounded a bit sad and she said that she missed me. I had to get back to work and I wished her well. She came into the bar the next night to see me, but it was my night off.
Friday night, the 13th of July I was working at the bar and there were a few people in the bar and two of them began to talk badly about Kim. Kim is like me, and perhaps this is one reason we got along so well, in that she doesn’t change her self to suit somebody else’s wishes. She is who she is and you better get used to it. I’ve seen her throw guys out of the bar for being jerks far sooner than I would have were I to be the bartender. She had guts, she had nerve, she was electrified attitude and didn’t take any shit. Because of this some people did not like her. And while tending my own bar Friday night I heard some comments about her. I told those making the comments that Kim was a friend of mine and if they should quit the conversation now. They ended the conversation. It was still daylight outside.
Friday night went as usual. I closed the bar, cleaned up, counted my money and I left. It was 2:30 am when I was driving the highway between Junction City and Eugene. I was passed by a Sheriff patrol car with lights on and moving as fast as he could go. He went down the Prairie road area. As I neared Eugene I was met by an ambulance heading toward Junction City. I thought the two incidents connected and I wished them success in their calls. Being that I am a trained EMT and former volunteer firefighter I hoped for the best for them. I got home a few minutes later and I went to sleep.
The next morning I got a call from a co-worker. I didn’t make the phone in time and had to listen to the voicemail. The message didn’t seem good news there was a tension in my friend’s voice. I called her back, still half asleep and asked what was up. She told me she didn’t want me to hear it from somebody at the bar when I went into work but Kim had been killed in a auto accident early in the morning at about 2:30.
It took a minute for it to sink in, but it did and it did so like an acid, eating away a hole and leaving nothing behind. All day long I’ve either cried or have been close to tears. I went into the bar and grabbed a white dry erase board. I routinely put inspirational quotes on them to cheer people up. This time I drew a picture of a stage with a microphone on it. The cord for the mic went to an outlet on a speaker. The on/off switch was in the off position on the speaker and on top of the speaker I drew a vase with a wilted flower and some petals having fallen off and onto the speaker’s top. I drew some roses, as though they were tossed onto the stage by the crowd. While doing this I could only think to myself “Kim here is your stage and your lights”. For a caption I wrote the words “the day the music died”. I put the white board up and simply left. I had no intention of coming back to work tonight at all.
An hour after my shift was to have started I got a call from my co-worker. She was wondering where I was at and if I was okay. I felt bad for putting her on the spot like I did and so I went into work wearing sunglasses. Most everyone knew why I was wearing sunglasses but a few didn’t and would ask me. I would lie and tell them that it was for allergies. But I’d hear some whispered conversation when I would leave the table when some people would explain it to the inquirer. One person asked if I had had a bad day or something as I was so quiet. I simply said that a dear friend had died. The person replied with an “Oh” as if she had stepped into something like dog shit with her good shoes or so. I wanted to say “fuck you too” but I didn’t I only went back around the bar. I went into the office and dialed Kim’s number. Her answering machine came on and her cheery voice said that she wasn’t at home but leave a message and she’ll call you back. I broke down and could hardly speak the message that I wanted to.
“Kim I know you’re not at home and you wont get this message but you were a good friend to me I will miss you” I couldn’t finish I was crying too much.
I went to the bar that Kim used to work and had a tea while I waited for my turn to sing one song on the karaoke. The bartender working tonight was the one working when Kim left. She said that she left on her bike and was going home. But what really got me was that she said “it’s my first loss”. She kept saying this over and over it is her first loss like it is a part of life as a bartender to have customers that go out and fucking die from a car wreck or something. I was hurting too much to care though. I felt the opposite I was ashamed of my profession I hated the fact that I served people alcohol and that they would try to drink too much and go out and drive. Earlier tonight a guy had ordered another drink at my bar. He had had too much by my judgment (which was far stricter tonight than usual) and I took off my glasses and looked him in the eyes to let him see what was going on inside my own eyes. I asked him if he really wanted another drink. A friend of his, who knew what was going on with me, grabbed the guy and took care of him for me. I had lost a very dear friend and now I sat across the bar from a bartender who said, casually, that it was her first before she added the common phrase “what a waste”. Yeah well fuck all of you. What the fuck do you know about a wasted life? All of you fucking bastards who sit on your fucking asses and drink and gossip and get fatter and meaner and complain that nothing goes right in your life and you don’t do shit for other people and you slowly rot away. What the fuck do you know about life or waste? Kim knew what it was to waste life and she was always living it. She was human, she made her mistakes in life we all do but she wasn’t like you worthless pieces of shit who do nothing at all and then casually throw out the sentence “what a waste”. Fuck you all she was my friend.
I got up and sang my song “Tender Years” by John Cafferty.
Oh wo tender years
Wont you wash away my tears
How I wish you were near
Please don’t go tender years
I came home and now I sit my eyes hurting from crying all day my heart heavy and how many times have I wished that I could have had the chance to have been there to save her life to have done something why didn’t she call me for a ride if she was drunk. She knows I would have done it for her. Why couldn’t it have been one of these dumb fucking idiots that beat their wife or some other fuck like that? Why couldn’t it have been someone who didn’t deserve to live there are lots of them walking around why did it have to be my friend Kim a person who when I first met I said to myself that I had to become friends with her because she knew what life was about, she knew not to waste it… she knew why you should live… and though she’s been through some shit she still sang and smiled and laughed.
Kim my dear friend you are missed you will be missed I will count your star in the sky at night and think of you. I love you my friend.