Things I Learned from R. B. (April 12th, 2020)


Jonathots Daily Blog

(4378)

Episode 11

She was well-known for beauty pageants, plugging orange juice, singing sad songs and heading up a campaign against the homosexuals from her home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Her name was Anita Bryant, and her favorite phrase: “I love the sinners but hate the sin.”

We were still living in Shreveport, Louisiana, when Anita was the hottest thing on the news, stirring up hornets that seemed to have no nest.  Into this environment stepped R. B., right in the midst of the redneck, righteous South.

R. B. was skinny, almost frail—except for the small pouch of a belly which he had begun to accumulate through drinking his beer. His skin was ashen and pock-marked, giving him a face with the appearance of crushed gravel. He sported a huge head of hair growing from a widow’s peak and combed straight back into an Elvis pompadour—circa 1955.

He walked a little funny, leaning forward as he moved, dressed very conservatively and wore his clothes too long, avoiding a needful donation to Goodwill.

His voice was thin and wispy, with a tenor tone.

So in the heightened climate of bigotry sweeping the country, he was occasionally accused of being a “homo,” or having people quietly make the assumption.

Complicating the problem was his lack of interaction with females. Because his ego was very large and his listening skills very small, most women spent about thirty minutes with him before moving on to a better choice.

One night he confessed to me that he’d never been with a woman, explaining that only a year earlier he had discovered masturbation, but felt guilty every time he touched “his own.”

His lack of companionship with women, a daintiness in his demeanor, and an overwrought assessment of his viability made him a target for all the “Anitas” looking to victimize the gay community.

It all came to a head one night after we held our weekly meeting, at a local restaurant our gang favored. The manager was a friend of mine and always gave us a lovely banquet room in the back, where we could stay for a couple of hours, eating, drinking and enjoying our loud conversations.

One night there was a tussle. R. B. was talking to one of the fellows from our group. He explained that he wasn’t dating anyone and had no prospects in his near future.

The chap, lacking grace or style, jokingly asked R. B., “Well, if it’s not working out with the ladies, did you ever think about trying guys?”

It was barely audible to the rest of the table, but R. B. immediately stood up, grabbed the crass fellow by his shirt and threw him to the ground.

This led to a small, brief brawl. A table was knocked over and some chairs flew against the wall. It raised enough ruckus that the manager appeared, wide-eyed with horror. Some folks stepped between the feuding brothers, and I turned to the manager and explained that we had the situation in hand. He kindly chose not to call the police.

Normally in this type of predicament—after two feuding parties have their moment of physical struggle—they calm down, catch their breath and make peace. But oddly, as R. B. sat there, he became more angry—seething, breathing heavily, staring at his assaulter, ready to explode again at any moment.

I suggested we break off the evening and made sure R. B. got into his car as the other party quickly slipped away.

It was so odd—because R. B. never stopped fretting. Right before he started his vehicle, he rolled down his window and quipped to me, “I’m not coming back. I hate him.”

I did not know what to respond. I didn’t feel there was any future in trying to get him to mellow his mood, so I just said, “Go home—and don’t drive angry.”

He didn’t come to our fellowship for one month, two months, a third month. I heard little snippets about what he was doing through the grapevine—finally hearing that he lost his job and was moving to Dallas.

Figuring it was time for me to connect again, I dropped by his house. He came to the door shirtless, unkempt, with a bottle of beer in his hand.

He offered me one. I passed and sat down.

Concisely and briefly, he explained that he hadn’t shown up because he was too embarrassed and wasn’t sure anymore if he believed in “the God stuff” because he hadn’t gotten much out of it.

I chose not to evangelize. I just listened.

Deep in my heart, I believed he was just distressed and would change his mind. But three weeks later when I tried to visit again, his apartment had been rented to someone else, and he was long gone, leaving no forwarding address.

He didn’t contact me.

All I knew was that the last time we were together, he was going to Dallas.

Perhaps to my shame, I was relieved.

R. B. always turned me into a referee. He ruffled the feathers of those around him with his ego and his insecurity, and I was always cast in the role of his defender.

I was tired of being noble. I welcomed the distance between us.

Maybe we were never meant to be close. Perhaps it was just a friendship of convenience.

But I settled into a life—one which apparently was going to be conducted without R. B.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: