Wednesday, December 04, 2019

K is for Kenny (and Joe)

This is the true story of Kenny and Joe: They were best friends since childhood; best friends for life it seemed. They were at the centre of one of the circles of friends which I inhabited. A sports crowd. We played hockey weekly and sometimes golfed or what-not. Kenny and Joe were always near the centres of attention. They were the biggest personalities; informal leaders. Beneath their party personas Kenny was quietly the smart one; Joe quietly the big-hearted one.

Kenny and I took a little trip together, to see a big game in another city far away. We were both fans of that team. This was before the cell phone days. Kenny would have to step aside to make a phone call at an appointed time to get an update from a girl he was sleeping with. Not a girlfriend. Just one he was sleeping with. He needed an update.

I drank alone until he returned to the bar table. “I talked to her,” he said, “and yeah… she’s pregnant.”

I could tell he was pretty blown away. He had already resigned to becoming a father. Ready or not.

They skipped the girlfriend phase and went straight to fiance. She was younger and a little wild and frankly had scored pretty good with Kenny. He was a responsible dude with a good income and lots of his shit together.

She… liked to have a good time. I started hearing troubling stories from guys in the group when Kenny wasn’t around.

Finally I drove Joe home one night when he’d drank way too much. I was surprised that Kenny didn’t take him. I knew something was wrong. We sat in his driveway and talked.

“She tried to sleep with me,” said Joe. “And it wasn’t just flirting either. She practically tried to rape me. He told me all the sordid drunken details. Joe had gone to Kenny, determined not to let him get blindsided by this girl. But Kenny had cut him off almost at once and threatened him: Don’t ever say any bullshit about my girl again or we are through. I’ll never see you again.

“I can’t let this marriage happen,” Joe told me. “Kenny has no idea. He would never go through with this if he knew. Why is he trusting her instead of his lifelong best friend?”

With the wedding just days away, Joe had a terrible decision to make. He could have played it safe and shut his mouth. Or he could risk losing his best friend by telling the truth, in order to save him. He felt he had to speak up. It was the right thing to do; the honourable thing. I supported his decision.

But Joe didn’t go about it the best way possible. He could not summon the courage until the night before the wedding. He was very drunk. This thing was weighing on him; killing him. Kenny was not taking his calls. Joe went to Kenny’s parents home. He needed their alliance. And he was almost like a second son to them.

He showed up at their place, drunk, blurted out the story and said, “We gotta stop this wedding.”

Kenny’s parents were enraged. They kicked him out of their house, told him not to attend the wedding and to never let them see his face again.

Game Over.

After the wedding Joe and Kenny were sometimes in the same dressing room together or on the same bench, or at the same bar but different tables. Everyone knew that something was wrong. The group wasn’t the same after that and not long after I parted ways but more so for other reasons.

The marriage ended in divorce very quickly to no one’s surprise but Kenny and his parents. Yet no reconciliation came out of it for Kenny and Joe.

I’ve been thinking about Joe the last couple days and how he tried to do the right thing; tried to avert what he feared would become a disaster - at the risk of losing a friend and how he went about it badly and the friendship ended for good. It’s a sad story but… I’ve been through something of late and what I think now is that Joe probably feels okay about everything because he knows he tried to do the right thing. It is a great comfort to know such a thing.

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