Growing up friends
March 27, 2019
The world changed for me on the Saturday morning of March 16.
I got a phone call from the sister of my friend KC telling me the person I had known since I was 15, had passed on.
I have written about KC in my previous two columns detailing her bravery in living with stage 4 cancer for nine years and her recent decision to go into hospice. She had laughed just two month ago saying she would beat the six month timeframe most people were given going into this type of care.
Unfortunately, KC, who brought so much brightness and fun into my life, and so many others, was not going to be lighting up our world in person any longer.
To anyone who has lost a close friend; I don’t have to explain how surreal the next moments were. I knew KC’s passing was coming, but I didn’t want to believe she was really gone. Just the week before KC had spoken to me. Briefly, but it was her. I told Monica the obvious. I was going to miss her sister greatly.
Then Monica said something that really struck me:
“Of course you are. You and KC helped each other grow up.”
The words rang true.
She probably helped me, more than I helped her to be honest.
I have many memories of us figuring things out jointly and we had a lot of adventures together for many years whether I was living in the D.C. area or just back for a visit.
It should be noted KC was often the life of any party, and that truly is no hyperbole.
When I went to work in one of the largest night clubs in the nation’s capital as a bartender, she was often in attendance, captivating just about everyone she came in contact with.
We were both 25 when I got this job.
This nightclub would probably be compared to the famous Studio 54 in New York during this time, although the celebrities that came through were more political folk and musicians than film stars.
It was a fun place to work.
There were four different bars open at this establishment all year long and two more out on huge deck that opened in the summer. The staff was large. All told, there were 20 to 25 bartenders, five bar backs, 10 or so security personnel, three managers, six DJs and the two owners.
To say the least, I was exposed to a lot of personalities in this crew, but for the most part, I got along with everyone.
One night I went into the changing room and found Paco, a barback who was originally from L.A. He was about my age and I knew this job was in addition to a government position he held. In truth, I didn’t know him well.
His eyes were really red and I figured it was from his party lifestyle catching up with him.
I have to admit, because he was openly gay, I had this sort of prejudice that any effects he might be suffering, he brought on himself due to how he led his existence. I found myself commenting on his ragged appearance as I changed out of my work uniform:
“Shouldn’t party so hard, because it is starting to catch up to you. You don’t want to burn out before you turn 30.”
Paco nodded and smiled at me, saying nothing.
I left the room and I ran into another worker that told me some horrific news.
Paco had just found out his sister and mother had been raped and murdered in their home. His eyes weren’t red from being hung over. He had been crying. When I had made my comments, he had just taken it.
I felt terrible.
I didn’t know what to say.
KC was at the club and I told her what happened. We went outside, away from the loud music.
“I can’t believe he didn’t say anything to me.”
KC told me that I was feeling bad because I had judged a person on a generalization I had about gay people and I had been dreadfully wrong. She admitted if it had been her in the same circumstances, she might have jumped to the same conclusion.
“What do I do?”
She told me it should be a wake up call to us both. We should not judge people by generalizations, but by their hearts and personalities. KC said it was our responsibility to open our minds and throw out prejudice and bias we had against people that were different from us.
We talked for probably an hour and my friend made me feel so much better.
I went inside the club, found Paco and gave him a hug. I told him I was so sorry to hear about his loved ones and I apologized for my words.
He broke down in my arms. KC came up and although she didn’t really know him, hugged him with me.
It was an amazing feeling to try and show comfort and sympathy to Paco with KC being there with me.
I have not really thought of that event in years, but I know it shaped how I could live in other cultures and be accepting even though they were so different from how I had been raised. I also know, it was because KC was there that night, I was able to purge myself of a lot of bigotry that lay dormant in my personality. When KC told me she was going to try and wipe out preconceived notions about people from that night on, I knew I had a special person influencing my life. Her impact has been extraordinary on me. I bet many others will say the same thing.
So although I am heartbroken like so many who knew KC, I am so grateful for having her in my life.
KC is making me grow up some more even as she has left this world. I have come to realize although she is not easy access any longer, she is not gone as long as I exist. Her spirit is alive and well in me.
I take great solace in knowing this.