It rained the first time he left--thick, gray sheets that fell heavily around us as we said good-bye under the art deco awning of the Hotel Monaco. The doormen politely averted their eyes while we kissed and [I] cried and stumbled through the words people say when they know they won’t be seeing each other for a long time.
I’d never experienced a good-bye like that—not when I left for college or went to spend my summers in Puerto Rico, not even when I moved to Italy for the better part of a year. To me it was no more realistic than a scene from a movie or a chapter in a book: the bespoke bellman, the rainy morning, the dark sedan waiting to whisk him off to the airport. It was classic film noir material—very “here’s lookin’ at you, kid.” Except we were both wearing jeans.
I know it’s because I let him in—more quickly and more completely than I’ve ever let anyone else in before. I don’t write about him as much as I do my other friends. There are those that appear regularly—a cast of supporting characters complete with names, faces, and clever pseudonyms. And yet he remains nameless, an anonymous friend lurking in the shadows—an anecdote here, a dinner there, a cameo, a smile, a comment. I still don’t know why I chose to do it this way. I’ll say now that his absence from this blog belies his presence in my life.
This time, the good-bye was a little quieter. A different hotel. A different city. I sat on the bed and watched him while he gathered his things—the glasses I’d helped him pick out, the coat he’d worn the night we met, the wallet that recently replaced the rubber band he’d always used. Everything was familiar. Everything had a story. And as he sat down next to me and placed his arms around me, I realized yet again what computer nerds like me tend to sometimes ignore: no matter how incredible technology is at bringing us together, nothing compares to actually being in the real, physical presence of a person you care about.
I managed to hold my tears until after he left, crying silently in the quiet morning as I wondered how it is that in a world populated by billions there are just a few who can touch us like that. The night before I’d teasingly asked him, borrowing a line from E. E. Cummings (I sometimes quote poetry when drunk), “how do I prefer this face to another?” The reference was lost on him—I suspect he attributed my Yoda-like syntax to the vodka I’d consumed that night—but the question remains.
There is a part of me that wishes I’d kissed him a little longer or hugged him just a little tighter. A part that wishes we’d laughed, danced, talked, and joked just a little bit more. But I know that ultimately it would never be enough. It’s like when the alarm rings, and you find yourself laying there with everything feeling just so--the pillow soft, the lighting low, the comforter warm, and you think to yourself, “oh, just five more minutes...” But then you want another five, and another, and another, until you finally realize that though you can’t even seem to imagine making it to work, you need to get up and go about your day.
I’m sad right now. Like a drop of ink in a glass of water, his departure has flowed through me and altered the color of my day. I know that I’ve used a lot of words, but at the root of it, what I really mean to say is very simple:
I miss him. I miss my friend…