Beloved by All
My boyfriend Tor’s close friend from high school is nicknamed the Badger. He is nearly 40 and medium-sized and good looking. Sometimes he has a beard. He is very even-tempered, but has a gleeful, at times slightly sinister laugh. The Badger does not live with us, but about two days a week the Badger sleeps over, on the couch if everyone is here, or in our bed or our roommate M.’s bed if someone is gone. The Badger has a perfectly nice place to live but it’s about forty minutes outside of town, in the woods. We call this place the Badger Den.
The Badger is a scientist and teacher who knows a lot about rivers, frogs, and salamanders. He thinks if he can tell enough people things about rivers, frogs, and salamanders, we might all get to stay alive. He is aware this is a long shot, but he just shrugs and gets on with it.
The Badger is beloved by all. The mention of his name never fails to draw a smile or kind word. When he walks into our house it is as if Santa himself had arrived, with one crucial difference. The Badger does not come bearing gifts. He eats, he drinks, he does his laundry here, he is waited upon by man and woman alike. But he’s not like, “Oh, I drank all your scotch, here is some more.” He is more like, “I hope you guys got some more scotch,” and if we didn’t, we feel terrible. The Badger wanted scotch and we did not have it!
If the Badger leaves a ring on the coffee table, it is we who should have given him a coaster. If he comes into the house and it is late and he wakes me up, it is I who should have slept more soundly. Sometimes, at a perfectly normal hour, in the house we pay to live in, Tor and I will be talking and, suddenly remembering the Badger is asleep in the next room, gasp in horror and lower our voices to a whisper. I have gone down to the Chevron at 11 at night to buy half-and-half because the Badger is sleeping over and that’s what he likes in his coffee. Not milk.
The Badger never asks for this. The Badger rarely asks for anything. Of course he never has to ask for anything because before he can even say the words whatever he needs has been set before him.
The deal with beer in our house is that M. mostly buys it, and that he and the Badger mostly drink it. It is worth mentioning though not really getting into that this other guy Mike sometimes comes over and drinks beer. Once in a while Tor or I will drink some of M.’s beer and every other time or so we will get a twelve-pack or even a case as a way of saying, “This will cover all the beers I will drink of yours in a three-month span.” So one day about a month ago Tor bought M. a whole case of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, in cans, and then he went out of town for about 48 hours. When he got back he went to have a beer and they were gone. He asked M. if he had drunk 24 beers in 48 hours. M. was puzzled. “You bought that beer?” M. said.
“Yes, I bought that beer,” Tor said. “Who the fuck do you think bought it? The Badger?!”
M. smiled the smile of someone who has been fooled but can only blame his own foolishness. He told us that yesterday morning he and the Badger had gone rafting. On the way out the door, M. had said, We have to go get some beers, and the Badger had said, There’s beers in the fridge, so M. grabbed them and off they drove to the American River to enjoy a lovely day of rafting, during which time they consumed three or so beers apiece. Then they drove back to Nevada City and the Badger dropped M. off and drove off with the beers, which, over the course of a few days, he consumed.
It is one thing to drink someone’s beer. It is another to smuggle beer out of their house and into your own. “I thought it was M.’s beer,” the Badger said about having taken it to the river. “I forgot it was there,” the Badger said about having driven off with it. “But then you drank it!” Tor said. “Yes,” said the Badger. “It’s beer. What else am I going to do with it!”
We all laughed heartily because who would take beer away from a Badger.
The Badger’s birthday is in June and he enjoys going on outdoor adventures to celebrate. “Outdoor adventures” is a euphemism for “danger.” On one occasion we were told we’d be walking two or three miles in intense heat, which would have been fine, except we ended up walking ten miles, which was not. I imagine the eight-months-pregnant woman in our party enjoyed the day even less than I did. The next year we went kayaking in Tomales Bay on an extremely rough day which the Badger deemed “fine” and during which someone in our party’s boat may have capsized. It was my very first time kayaking, like, except at an amusement park, and everyone in my party just kind of took off ahead of me. The next year, we went tubing, without helmets or life jackets, in a Class III “creek.” It would be a stretch to say that I almost died, but not at all a stretch to say that I could have died, very easily.
Next year I will probably go to the Badger’s birthday party again.
One day the Badger was over and I was doing laundry. I offered to wash his shirt for him so that he could sleep in town and not have to drive all the way home just to get a clean shirt. He said that would be great and I gave him a clean T-shirt of Tor’s to wear and he gave me his dirty shirt and I put everything in the washing machine.
In the morning I was making coffee. The Badger asked where his shirt was and I told him I forgot to put the clothes in the dryer, so he went to the basement and soon I heard the dryer going. He took a shower and drank his coffee and a little while later he went back down to the basement and came upstairs wearing his clean, dry shirt.
“Oh,” I said, looking up from the pile of dishes I was washing, as usual, somehow, even though I am legally single, and childless. “Is the rest of the stuff still drying?”
“Your washing machine does this weird thing where it stops in the middle of spinning,” the Badger said. “I went downstairs and everything was just sitting in water.”
“Oh yeah,” I said, going back in the dishes, only half paying attention. “Well, obviously you figured it out how to drain it, isn’t unclogging that sink kind of gross? Anyway, thanks for putting the stuff in the dryer, will it be done soon, I want to take a shower and the towels were all filthy.”
I looked up. The Badger was just standing there, looking uncharacteristically guilty.
“Did you just—did you just dry your shirt and not take any of the other laundry out of the washing machine?”
The Badger scowled a little. He looked like he was 10. I suddenly understood what he had done.
“Oh my God,” I said. “Oh my God.” I went through the house shouting, “Oh my God.” Tor was getting dressed. “Tor,” I said. “Tor! The Badger is bad!”
Just from the Badger’s expression, it was clear that he had gone downstairs, found a washer full of half-spun laundry, and, rather than reach into the murky sink into which the old machine drained to unclog it, thereby allowing all the laundry to continue to spin, he had plucked out from the wet mess in the washing machine just his T-shirt, which he had wrung out and put in the dryer, by itself. It was, on the one hand, a classic dick move. On the other hand, it is possible that no one has done this exact thing before so it wasn’t just a classic dick move. It was a NEW CLASSIC DICK MOVE.
“The Badger is bad!” Tor said. “We think that you’re innocent, but you’re actually bad.”
The Badger said he was late for a meeting about frogs and jumped into his Toyota Tacoma and sped off.
Last Friday night I was at the gym. It was around eight when I finished working out. I knew M. and Tor were both out of town, and I was a little sad about it being Friday night and having no one around. I drove home feeling lonely and sorry for myself. But when I got to my house, there was the Toyota Tacoma parked in front, and suddenly all my forlornness was replaced with utter joy. Inside my car, alone, I shouted, “Yay!”
There he was, drinking our scotch, playing Rainbow Six. “Badger!” I said. “Wonderful to see you!”
He raised his—well, really, my—glass. “Wonderful to be here.” He went back to his game, and I made dinner, just some sausages and rice and sauerkraut from a jar, and as the Badger ate heartily and without comment, I thought about how he just always seems very satisfied whenever you give him food or coffee or beer. He doesn’t express fawning gratitude, doesn’t promise to return the favor. He just takes it, and somehow, there is no greater pleasure to behold. People worry about being generous, but they never think about being good at accepting generosity. They should, because then they too might be adored.