Best friends

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Victor Obe Story

Best friend seems a silly term. Unless you have one. I've had two. I'd never try to establish precedence between the two.

There was a girl named "Tootie" (no kidding) I was close to when about age seven. I remember her Pekinese dog, a guy named Fenwick that we both despised and nothing else. If we'd been sharper we'd've despised his parents for naming him Fenwick.

When we met, I was ten, Victor was nine. It began with a mutual addiction to Superman and Batman. He saw me carrying some comic books and stopped me. Comic book collecting was a rare passion even back then when they sold far better than they do now.

We became inseparable. It wasn't just the comics, nor merely that we were smarter than our classmates. There are plenty of bright people.

It sounds highfalutin but I think we had a nascent awareness of the hypocrisy and vacuity surrounding us. The unquestioned assumptions, the ethical compromises that are daily life for the majority. I don't want to make too much of that; we were in elementary school.

Years later I'd come to realize how different out childhoods were. While his parents were better educated, they were much, much poorer.

They were on what passed for welfare in the early 60s. Living on ice milk and lima beans. Ice milk was the poor person's ice cream. Now it is diet ice cream and costs more rather than less. The philosopher's stone has been found and it is called marketing.

His mother was a bit batty. Probably from the stress of being yanked from a happy childhood into a failed marriage. The first Christian Scientist I'd ever met. I went to their meeting place once but it was too bland to leave an impression. It was a lucky connection for the Storys. The Christian Scientists in Savannah were mostly wealthy. One member would give the Storys food and clothes.

Both our families lived in a white trash semi-project. You didn't have to be poor to live there. I think my parents moved into because they never had skill with money. Maybe it was my father squandering it on liquor, whores and fishing equipment. My mother wore the same winter coat for fifteen years. They were well enough off to buy a house but never did.

Lots of draftees lived in Savannah Gardens. It was mostly rednecks. You did have to be white to live there. Black folks had their own seperate but unequal slums.

Bafflingly enough there was a squalid project nearby. It too was all white. And nasty. The duplexes were build out of dense, chalky matter. If you were injudicious when putting up a picture or beating your wife you had a permanent peephole. Nothing in Depford Homes was ever repaired.

On the side of their quadruplex was a big sign "Jake Story, Attorney-at-law." Victor's father had been a successful lawyer. He'd won an important case against the lumber mills that prevented companies from using sub-contractor status as an excuse for avoiding responsibilities for their workers' injuries. Something had ruined his mind. Perhaps the insulin shock therapy he'd had as treatment for depression. An early ugly example of using chemicals to try to regulate routine parts of life.

Jake Story spent most of his time in bed. That was for the best. He might get up and and play Monopoly but he often did worse. Once during a game he told me I played like a Jew. I didn't know what a Jew was. Many years later I got his message.

Awake and moving he might chase Victor through the neighborhood with a belt. Victor's crime was likely to be arriving late for supper. If he took a cab home he'd wouldn't pay the driver. The poor driver would be lectured on awesome magnitude of his passenger and advised to get out and kiss the ground in gratitude for having been so blessed as to tote Jacob Story home.

My Daddy was starting to be cruel enough to spend weekends at home. Not understanding what Victor was going through I didn't know how good I had it.

To supplement their meager income Mrs. Story molded and painted plaster of paris swans and American Eagles. Neighbor children sold them on commission. The small change helped.

As close as we were Victor didn't know about my attempts to have sex with a couple of other guys. I forgot for years that I'd tried this. I had my first taste of cock. I thought it tasted nasty and refused it. Another guy tried to fuck me. When I grew up and came out I was 'butch' or in contemporary parlance, a 'top.' I don't have any thoughts about this. Just seems funny.

When we talked about it as adults Victor figured his ignorance had been for the best. He felt he'd have refused to having anything to do with me.

Victor told me about masturbation. I remember the first time I did it. I was in the tub. It didn't seem that great. Later when my hormone profile changed I got a much bigger kick out of it.

Victor's family moved back to Alma, Georgia where they'd come from. Bacon County was one of those inbred cesspools where people knew that no one had landed on the moon. All you had to to was look at it to know that it wasn't any bigger than a paper plate.

Once when I was trapped at my ignorant maternal grandparents' I tried to visit him.

Digression about grandma Inez:

She chewed snuff and had Maxwell House coffee cans scattered about to spit in. Unless she was on the porch. Then the front yard sufficed. She went to bed about 9:00 p.m. Not because she was one of those hardy country women who had to be up early doing her chores. As far as I could tell she simply got bored with being alive.

I never liked her or enjoyed our Summer visits. She was too ignorant and Glenville's biggest excitement was cherry Cokes (they didn't come in bottle back then) at a local soda fountain.

Grandma Inez was just scum. When we visited she'd steal money from my mother's purse. Momma never said anything. Partly because she was passive but also because going to Glenville for a week was a week away from my father.

Back to Victor in Alma. His paternal grandmother was still alive, Paly Nebraska Story. By all accounts she was small minded and weird. When Victor's daddy was a child she used to tell everybody that "Jake is the king." Mother love distorted my own sense of self-importance but never did anything like that.

Victor replied to my suggestion of a visit: DON'T. He'd explain later. Once back home his father had lost any semblance or reason.

Ebba, his sister, told me a horrifying story. One midnight when she was a teenager Jake took her to the middle of nowhere. He crawled around on the ground daring the Devil to come up and fight him.

Victor went from being a misfit to a juvenile delinquent. He made every authority figure in Alma his enemy. One of his favorite recreations was vandalizing his high school. While I felt withdrawn and estranged I never thought of doing like that. And I wouldn't have had the nerve. I was jealous.

Foolish me. Eventually caught he spent a year in the Milledgeville Youth Reformatory. Put me there and I would've had the shit beaten out of me and been repeatedly raped like the guy Victor told me about whose prison name was Booty.

It was there that he met John who became his lover.

Victor hated spending a year in Hell but often credited it with his developing a work ethic and responsibility.

Shortly before his release his mother who'd had enough of the "old maniac" divorced Jake and moved to a housing project in Savannah. Garden Homes was all brick townhouses. It would prove a dangerous place to live but it was all an Ms. Adams (as she became) on a fixed income could afford.

Victor showed up with John. That sure changed my life. I was no more like most people than a turnip is like a catfish (huh?). But my sheltered upbringing kept much of life normal, confined.

I learned to drink. Screwdrivers in mayonnaise jars was my first liquor drink. Pot & hash. Psychedelics. Secanol which only put me to sleep as Quaaludes would later.

Victor was one of the most marijuana loving people I've ever known. He started dealing so he could smoke on arising, before going to bed and all the hours in-between. After reading Durkheim and some anthropology he started calling pot his "totem." Victor handled his drugs well. Never interfered with working or going to school. I think he took his finals tripping.

John knew about every high. Like chugging down a bottle or Robitussin-DM. Not a pleasant high but it made you feel strange and that was enough back then.

I had a good time and discovered that I was a fag (which was the fashionable term back then much as queer is today).

The few white people started leaving Garden Homes as it got worse and worse. The rape of an 89 year old woman causing a massive exodus. Victor and John found a neat flat in a Victorian house. Savannah has gentrified massively through the years. With the 'Art School' students there now that flat is probably pretty expensive.

Victor left John for Nancy. I was never sure exactly why. Pot and other drugs often left John out of control. Victor may have become exhausted with coping. Maybe he needed a relationship with a female. I'm sure he wanted a family and children.

John moved to Atlanta. We became involved for a time much to my regret and edification. It hurt me deeply but it got my romantic side under control. I'm the kind of person who will never feel fulfilled unpartnered but moping and weeping is horrific way of wasting your life.

I'd visit Victor and Nancy in Savannah. Or in South Carolina where Victor managed a Pick'n'Pay shoe store after he dropped out of college. And in Chapel Hill, NC when he went to graduate school. At first in Southern History but settling on Latin American Studies. Despising everything having to do with wealth, status and power and focused on the Mexican Revolution.

One the way to Mexico to do some research their car broke down. While they were in Brownsville, TX waiting for car parts they decided to apply for jobs. Just for the hell of it. Having masters from UNC-Chapel Hill worked magic in that that benighted spot most famous for Regan calling it the place the Contras tanks would role in to conquer America. They were both offered good salaries. Being tired of grad student life they couldn't say no.

Victor wound up teaching at an expensive private school. The students included the sons of Latin American 'strong men' as dictators are sometimes called. Nancy had a good job at the local college.

Eventually they got better positions in Augusta, GA. I'd moved to Durham by then and Victor came for a few visits.

After a fun visit where we'd watched trashy movies and had some beer he called me up and ...

It was a crazed stream of vituperation and denunciation. I cannot remember much of it. Don't want to. He warned me to stay away from his family. It sounded like he thought I'd seduce his wife and sodomize their child. To this day I haven't a clue what triggered it. When he and Nancy came back to Chapel Hill to get their Ph.D.s he never called. He was fifteen miles away and we'd known each other for 25 years.

Back in the pre-web days when I was running Psychotronic BBS I had an email account. A big deal back then. Victor must've been looking. I got an email from him "Are you the Richard Evans Lee that I used to know?"

He could've called me on the phone any time but probably was afraid to. We started emailing each other. He never directly apologized but said things that made it sound as though he'd ruined his life, particularly his relationship with me.

Materially he was doing very well. For several years he'd been dealing in pot wholesale. Growing acres of it on government land. A big time drug dealer. But he'd gotten his doctorate and tenure and gave it up. Even quit smoking. He was teaching history at a university in Reading, PA. His dope money had paid for his house.

I was happy. To lose Victor had been like losing a body part. We were different in many ways but we shared to many early experiences. I used to have many an imaginary conversation with him that clarified my thinking.

One day I got an email from Nancy. Victor had hanged himself. He was dead. Whether on purpose or as a silly drunken stunt will never be known. Nancy wanted me to tell Ebba with whom she wasn't on speaking terms. I hadn't spoken to Ebba since she'd descended into New Age goofiness.

I called her. She spent much of the time talking about her father. She was 'processing' him as she called it. She's been doing that all of her life. Reliving her childhood and blaming everything bad that happened to her since on him.

It is pathetic how some folks 'process' their early days all the way to the grave. Some people pick at the past like a scab and never let it heal.

I never liked my father but I'd been badly shaken when he died. Much more so when my mother died. Even with all the years apart she'd remained the tangible embodiment of security. But I didn't cry.

I didn't cry because I tend to be aloof even from myself. Watching myself watch myself.

I cried when Victor died.

[Listening to: Body Movin - DJ Baby Anne - (5:04)]

Comments

Dear Richard, My name is Jesús, I work in the editorial department of the Institute of Historical Research in the University of Tamaulipas, Mexico. I found your blog while looking for information about Victor Obe Story, who wrote an interesting thesis about Tamaulipas story. I was sorry to read about his sad story and send my condolences. However, I wondered if you could help me. The editorial department of the Institute is interested in translating and publishing Victor’s thesis. Could you put me in touch with someone I could talk to about this? Best wishes from Mexico Jesús Hernández

Erm, Victor Story was one of the most important people in my live. Were I live to be a hundred nothing would reverse that. I know nothing about his academic career. Talk about weird selfish requests … !

Thank you for the article regarding Victor Story…we were classmates (and busmates) in Alma, GA many years ago. I recently found myself thinking of him and wondering what ever happened to him, and now I know. He was a brilliant student, and I knew he would go farther than many of the rest of us. I was very sad to hear he had died. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts about him.

Debora

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Thanks,
Richard

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