The first memory I have of this character from my life is from last year. It was early spring and I was meeting up with a few people from the dojang at the local track to walk/run. I do not care for running, but if I wish to continue to climb through the ranks, it is something that I need to do periodically. Anyway, this character was stretching off to the side and immediately waved at me once he spotted me. I drew a blank on his name, though he looked familiar. He knew my last name and referred to me as most lower ranking students do, which is awkward coming from someone my age. He later admitted that he could not remember my first name, but was well aware which family I was from, since we are well known at the dojang.
A few months later, he suffered two seizures about a month apart that caused a suspension on his license. He had to go without a seizure for six months before it would be reinstated. This meant he had to find a way to the dojang without his car, a newer model black VW beetle. At first, he tried the bus, but the amount of time needed to catch the bus to and from class was not something he wanted to deal with, so he asked around for people willing to give him a ride. I was among those who replied. For six and a half months, I picked him up and made sure he got to and from class.
This occurred in a variety of weather. It did not matter how cold it got, though, he would always wait outside without a jacket if he was going to Tae Kwon Do. If he was going to Kickboxing, he might have a jacket with him, since we wear short-sleeved shirts in that class. Either way, he would complain about the cold. I had little sympathy when he did not have a jacket on, and told him as much. He was with me through sun, rain, heavy fog, and frost. The street behind his apartment complex is treacherous when there is frost on the ground, since it does not melt right away. More than once, I would later describe how my car slid around the curve. He listened patiently to my frequent rants about the knuckleheads I encountered on the way to his apartment. He also was with me more than once when I had several close calls with pedestrians or construction workers. The most infamous was the kid who went flying across the parking lot above the dojang on his skateboard while on his stomach. It was my friend who spotted the kid and gave warning. The kid wisely took off when he saw the expression on my face as I pulled into the parking spot he had just flown in front of. I am still amazed the kid did not get hit during this incredible act of stupidity in such a busy parking lot.
My friend is easily one of the most interesting characters I know. He is atheist and goth, though he deals enough with the public that he has had to be more conservative with his appearance. For example, his hair is reasonably short these days, though he frequently reflects on the days where his hair was quite long. His facial hair is limited to a goatee, though he has once shaved his face completely just to mess with people, with hilarious results from a couple younger students at the dojang. From what I have seen, his usual attire is more conservative these days, too. This is in contrast with his wife, who colors her hair brightly, has piercings, and dresses the part much more than he does. It is entertaining to see the two of them together. And he has no problem discussing different beliefs about politics, religion, and any other topic.
I consider how easy-going he is to be amazing considering what I know of his background. He did not have an easy childhood and was out on his own at age 14. He met his wife a couple years later, and they have been together ever since through all their trials. After his second seizure last year, he had to quit his job. This did not get him down for long, though, since he soon realized that he could use unemployment benefits to go back to school. He and I have since compared notes on various classes. He was quite anxious around New Year’s due to the fiscal cliff fiasco. They cut off his unemployment benefits for a little bit until that was resolved. I remember being angry and worried. Still, things worked out for him, and I am grateful for that.
He can send a conversation into the gutter with just an expression or one sentence. I occasionally accuse him of trying to corrupt the younger students. I punch him quite frequently in the arm when he does this, though I admit I do not really need an excuse to harass fellow students. And he gets me back at random intervals in class. I once accused him of dancing during a sparring match. He denied it and then showed me what his dancing actually looked like. Had he been a higher rank and not as amused by the fact I was laughing too hard to spar I would have been in serious trouble. We also have a running joke about him frolicking during class and I have told him at least once in the past couple weeks not to do silly dances in the middle of Kickboxing class.
I consider myself lucky to have gotten to know him. He lightens my mood whenever I see him and I can tell that some of the younger guys look up to him. Other guys our age also feel easy around him and will open up when they need to talk to someone. He is a great person to have in life, and I am grateful that he is among my friends.