I felt it coming on and called my wife (henceforth The Judge) to cut short her business trip and come home. I was going to need her help.
I forgot about the Monday morning conference call. It was kind of a big deal. A buddy of mine called my office looking for me after the call. He was my counter-part on a neighboring forest. Great guy; it’s weird to say, cause we are the same age, but he was a mentor to me. Saved my bacon a couple of times. Always explaining the “Byzantine” intricacies of the organization I had recently joined. We spoke on the phone most every day. I was really sick Monday and Tuesday. Apparently he called the office several times Tuesday. He left messages on the machine at home which I was too sick and too embarrassed to respond to.
Another message on the phone Wednesday morning first thing and then mid-morning there was a knock at the door. It was a co-worker of mine. I real bastard, I thought. My buddy had called him up explained that I’d missed an important meeting, hadn’t answered phone calls for three days and that he knew the Judge was away on business. The “bastard” got up out of his chair and drove thirty minutes to my house, and now here he is with concern on his face and in his voice. I assured him I was feeling better and that the Judge was home. He made me promise to call my buddy and to call-in next time I was sick. Not so much of a bastard after all.
Still in my bathrobe I call my buddy. Still real weak, I must have sounded pathetic as I lamely apologized. Then I said the thing we had never talked about, “I have Hepatitis C. I got it from the third wife, the one I told you about.” I waited with bated breath for his response. It went from frustration with me for not calling to concern. He asked all the caring, careful questions I had hoped. It was incurable back then. He seemed okay with it. As the conversation on that topic wound down I heard him take a breath.
I thought for sure he was going to lambast me for making them all worry.
“Third wife! How many times you been married?” Another conservation I hate having. I hesitated and admitted that the Judge was my fifth wife. Then I held my breath again. He chuckled. A kindly, knowing, little laugh. To my relief he said he knew me, that he had other buddies (pilots mostly) how did the same thing. That most people date for a couple of years waiting to see if it worked out, whereas guys like me marry a woman then wait a couple of years to see if it works out. Then he laughed again.
I’d just shared two of my deepest darkest secrets and not only is my buddy okay with that, but he seems to understand and even make light of it. I was never so relieved and happy in my life. At that moment I never loved another man so much in my life. How much did I love him? Two weeks later he was in town on business. I called my buddy up late, said the Judge was snoring up a storm; shaking the whole house and asked if I could spend the night with him in his hotel room. We never talked about that either.