Buckle in, I suppose. Here is part 13 of The Trees. Hope your Wednesday is just crushing it already.
J.R. Lewis lived alone in an old house on 4th Avenue in Tucson that had been turned into a duplex at some point. He had the top floor, which was small, but had everything he needed. At 22, he was in his senior year at the University of Arizona finishing up a degree in Philosophy.
It was odd that his parents were coming down to have lunch with him, but he had too much on his mind to worry about it. He was working on a paper for his Moral and Political Theory class, and it was taking up all his time and thoughts. The more he dug in, the more contempt he felt for one Thomas Hobbes. J.R. could simply not abide by the idea that humans should be willing to give up their rights in order to seek peace.
There had definitely been times this year where he questioned his choice of doing Philosophy for his undergraduate degree. It had seemed like such a good idea three years ago when he decided he was eventually going to law school. This had made his grandfather, Bill, so happy.
Bill Wallace, Jan’s dad, was hoping J.R. would eventually join the firm he started with his partner, Ted Thurman, in San Diego and had even pulled a string or two to get J.R. accepted into the University of San Diego where he had attended law school. Even though Grandpa Bill was getting close to ninety, he would still spend at least one day a week in the firm’s offices in San Diego if he and his wife, Dottie, weren’t traveling. They did spend a fare amount of time in Phoenix during the winter months.
Grandpa Bill had served in the U.S. Navy after high school and fell in love with the area. When the law college opened in 1954, he was in the first graduating class. J.R. loved hearing Grandpa Bill’s stories about those days and had fallen in love with San Diego, like his grandfather, at an early age. He loved visiting his grandparents as often as possible.
If his high school girlfriend, Natalie, hadn’t been going to U of A, he would have headed west but love got the better of him. It often did. While J.R. was often as pragmatic as Jan and looked at everything from every possible angle before deciding, on a course of action, if an attractive lady was involved, logic often flew out the window.
Natalie had dumped him about a month into their second semester in Tucson, but by that point, J.R. had found his niche in the new town. He had joined a garage band with a couple of his PHI101 classmates and gotten a job at Hotel Congress bussing tables. J.R. loved working at the old hotel. The most interesting people worked there.
Jan and Dan had been opposed to the job at first, but when he explained how much he loved being able to pay his own way, at least for his food and entertainment, they relented as long J.R. promised to continue to make school his number one priority, which he did. J.R. believed deeply in being a man of his word. As a devout and vocal follower of Immanuel Kant, it would be hypocritical to not keep his word.
After J.R. and Natalie broke up, he had been despondent for a time, but Brynn Rawls, who he had known his whole life, had come to visit for a weekend to cheer him up. One of her favorite bands, Lenguas Largas, were playing a show at Club Congress, which was a music venue inside the hotel, that weekend and she needed a break from Tempe. Being the same age, Brynn and J.R. spent a lot of time hanging out when their families would get together.
While there had been a lot of innocent flirtation over the years, J.R. and Brynn had developed a wonderful friendship based on respect and trust. J.R. was often the first person Brynn would call if she had a tough day and J.R. would do likewise. Their closeness had bothered a few of their respective boyfriends and girlfriends in high school, but they didn’t care and had learned to only give their opinion about the other person’s significant other if asked.
Because of his job, J.R. was able to get Brynn and her friend, Emily, into the show for free. When he got done at the Cup Café that night, he joined them for the show. Brynn took after her mom, Hettie, in the looks department and people had been buying her and Emily drinks all night even though neither of them were 21 yet. By the end of the evening, they were both feeling no pain.
J.R. gave the girls a ride back to the house where they were staying with a few girls Brynn knew from high school. As they were saying goodbye, Brynn threw her arms around J.R.’s neck and gave him a kiss that was a lot more than friendly. When he recoiled a bit, she just looked at him and said, “You and I have been doing this dance for a long time. If you don’t want to kiss me, that’s fine. But if you do, that’s fine, too.”
From that point forward, J.R. and Brynn spent as much time together as they could without drawing attention to themselves. Neither of them wanted to have that conversation with their parents, although J.R. told Brynn on a regular basis that if he was asked about it, he wasn’t going to lie, especially not with Kant in his ear telling him how to achieve the highest form of happiness.
By the end of the summer of 2014, Natalie was a distant memory, and J.R. and Brynn had fallen into a pattern of being together when they could be together and concentrating on school when they were not. J.R. even let Brynn come to a band practice in August of 2014 and she was not exactly impressed, but she was also not repulsed.
There is always going to be some element of music in my stories, I think.
See you tomorrow.
Entrance to the Cup Cafe...stolen from the internet.