My Friend, Joy

by Gary

I can’t recall when I first met this certain friend of mine. In some ways, she seems to have been a part of my life for ever and always. But in other ways it is as if I bumped into her for the first time only this afternoon. And it’s hard to guess her age. She seems a little older but I think that’s just because she makes me feel so young when I’m with her.

I realize she’s the type that doesn’t stay still long, as I watch her go by. And yet she almost makes me feel that I’m the one wondering busily off to spend time with other acquaintances. It’s somehow my fault that I don’t see her as often as I’d like, yet I feel like the one standing still; just waiting.

This friend of mine is a little demanding if you want to know the truth. Since she’s always on the move, she expects me to get on the move by her side if I want to spend any time with her. You know the kind of friend I’m talking about. In fact, you may know this friend of mine. Or, at least, you’ve caught a glimpse of her. Of course, when you have a name like Joy, it is hard not to cause a scene on occasion.

My friend, Joy, played with me when I was a child in Paoli. We go way back; back to the little dead end street where I grew up. I think she was there the first time I laughed. She is a good friend of my fathers and he always invited her over to play with us when I was growing up. The funny thing is that Joy always came when invited. She never turned us down. It’s not her nature.

It’s strange that Joy has always moved to live near me; at times, living just a few doors down, close enough to stop in often to visit. But on occasion she’d move across town without much notice and be hard to track down. She’s always come off as a little flighty to a guy like me who’s too often stuck in his ways.

Joy even lives here in Mitchell. She loves my son, Collin, who rejoices in her presence as only a five-year-old can. Joy has a little place just down the road from us and we invite her over as often as time allows. And I see her out and about on the town making new friends.

One day, not long ago, I caught sight of Joy slipping through the sliding doors at the Jay C store just before they shut. My thought was to catch up to her and say hello. I wasn’t fortunate enough to speak to her personally in the store but I knew she had spoken to Jeff Tyree before she left. He was bagging groceries with the usual smile on his face, talking to everyone who needed a friend. Jeff always makes me feel like someone is glad I chose Jay C. You can’t put a paycheck to that kind of service. I think Jeff is so nice to people because he knows my friend Joy. He’s just checking to see if you know her too.

I caught a glimpse of Joy driving north on 9th street last fall; driving north from Main Street towards the school. I thought she would go all the way to Hancock Avenue but she stopped a block short and turned left. She parked there on the half-block, dead-end street where the gate is that leads onto the school’s property. The hang out, smoking, fighting gate. Some people might not think Joy would spend time in a crowd of teenagers dressed in mostly dark colors; smoking, swearing, looking for life’s answers. But Joy knows where she’s needed. I wonder if we know. I wonder if we’re brave enough to share a friend named Joy at just the rough spots where people might need her.

Joy never looks down her nose. That’s why she makes friends long before others who are so judgmental. Joy doesn’t even care about political leanings. Why, I saw her march right into City Hall not long ago. I figured I had to see what this was all about so I followed her in. Joy gave me the slip as she often does. But I can always tell where she’s been. Joy had been talking to Mayor Butch. He’s a big man with an easy smile. Butch has known Joy for a while. You can tell by speaking with him. Butch loves this town and loves that Joy lives her too. You can look a long ways past a man’s politics if you need too when you have a mutual friend named Joy.

And isn’t that really the bond that holds us all together: mutual friends. I’ve seen people who’ve never laid eyes on each other become quick pals just because they share a mutual friend. I figure if Joy has gone through the trouble of moving to Mitchell that we should all get to know her. How peaceful life would be if we could all make Joy a mutual friend. You’d never have to meet a stranger. You’d just always be meeting a friend of a friend named Joy.


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