Walter has been back at my door a couple of times in the past week or so. He called me again last night.
With each contact he surprised me.
He was just "reporting in." Not that he owes me any report.
He and his wife have been living in one of the apartments that our community development corporation owns. They have lived there almost rent free for the past almost four months while they were "getting back on their feet."
Theirs is a story of drug addiction, petty crime and one misstep and failure after another. (Note: If you go back to my post on March 24, 2006 you can read some of my frustration in trying to be his friend.)
The last two times he has visited my house the conversation has been different, as was the phone call.
He told me about the jobs that he had landed. The most recent face-to-face visit included a report of being paid a decent wage. He was on his way to pay his rent. Our property manager is considering allowing him to pay by the week.
The main reason he stopped this last time was to tell me that he had "kicked his wife out." He reconfirmed that decision in his call last evening.
I encouraged him to stay with that course of action.
Sounds strange, doesn't it?
Crack cocaine has a way of turning the world completely upside down.
Crack is her problem, her lover and her game.
And, she is killing my friend with her obsession with dope.
It seems to me--pray that I am correct--that Walter is finally realizing that his attempts to help and rescue her actually hurt them both.
Walter cannot be her savior.
"Mr. James, I just love her so much," he told me, his voice breaking. "But I know that I can't keep doing this. She's killin' me, man."
He is correct.
His only hope is to care for himself, keep working hard and begin working on his own future.
Ironically, that is his only real hope for being reunited with her, if that is to ever happen.
Walter spent time as a player in the National Football League.
He is a strong, handsome, powerful guy.
I've been real tough on him, to the point of feeling badly about it more than once. But I've learned that a naive approach helps no one. The stakes are too high. The struggle of the street blows every Pollyanna approach clean away.
Every time he comes to my door, he is thanking me, as if he owes me something. The fact is he owes me nothing whatsoever.
I told him again that the two of us are really the same. Two men trying to figure out and make it through life.
All he owes me is to take good care of himself because our community needs him to be successful and healthy.
I need him to make it real bad.
He was talking about staying at work, about buying an old "clunker" pickup to work out of and moving to a better apartment. I applauded each of those steps.
I hope he follows through.
As with all of us and our noble plans and claims, only time will tell.
It is his move toward health and light and hope that has driven his wife away.
People cannot accept truth and health and hope and life until they face the lies, the illness, the despair and the death that grips them.
Walter appears to be on the path of a positive journey.
Again, time will tell. I expect that he and I will remain close.
Remember Walter today.