Last night, I got together with an old friend. Greg introduced us circa 1989-ish.
Greg had been my friend for a few years before that fateful introduction. I had worked for him for a while as a freelance copywriter, and then once we stopped working together he even asked me out. He wrote me a seven-page, hilarious letter asking me out and I called him up and said no.
I can’t remember why I said no, exactly, because he was hilarious and handsome and smart. I think I was hung up on somebody else who wasn’t good for me, as I am wont to be.
Anyway, despite that, we stayed friends and would see each other out on the town a lot. He dated some people I knew, on and off, but mostly he was single. I remember being at an after-hours party with him talking until the sun came up about romance and what kind of woman he was looking for and where was she and all that.
Then, circa 1989, he brought the woman pictured above into a loud bar. She had a great jawline and dinosaur earrings. I knew right then she was the one.
“This is Ann,” is what he said. But I was at the table with two other women, and after they left, we argued about whether he said her name was Ann, Nan, or Amy. And henceforth, she has always been Ann, Nan, and Amy.
At some point, I am going to say circa 1991, I moved in with Greg and Ann, Nan, and Amy. They had purchased a giant Victorian house so there was room for all five of us. Bah.
They were working to fix the place up to its former glory. For years, it had been a doctor’s office and had acoustic ceilings and fluorescent lights and so on. I remember us watching Northern Exposure together. They used to complain that my boyfriend du jour and I had loud sex.
When I moved to Seattle, Ann, Nan, and Amy was very good about keeping touch via letter using yellow legal pad and pencil, writing in her neat, tiny handwriting. She only spent money on long-distance twice: to tell me they were getting married and, years later, to tell me she was pregnant.
I always visited them when I came home, and I flew in special for their wedding.
I can’t remember the last time I saw them both, but I’m assuming it was the last time I was in town. I always stopped over to their big, old yellow Victorian, admiring what new things they had done to it and having an hour’s worth of talk with the two of them before they would say something funny and I would leave laughing. “Goodbye, Sparkly!” they’d both say, waving. They have always called me Sparkly.
This winter, Greg died suddenly. He had written something funny on Facebook that morning. And then he was just gone.
I wasn’t able to come to the funeral. I had thrown a fairly large fit at work about not being able to work on a project, so they put me on it, and that weekend of the funeral was the weekend of the project.
I am always the biggest proponent of “go to the funeral,” and I will always regret that I did not. But Greg had been mayor of my hometown, and his visitors took up two rooms at the funeral home.
So, last night I got together with Ann, Nan, and Amy. I’m trying to think if we ever did anything just the two of us, without Greg, before. I have a vague memory of for some reason driving around with just her one day after she had had a harrowing day at work, and the song Highway to Hell came on and she said, “That’s my life right now.”
When we were trying to figure out where we were going to meet, I said I wanted to try a place I hadn’t been to yet. My second cousin has opened up this distillery, so we chose there, but it turns out it is closed on Tuesdays. Who knew a place would be closed on Tuesday?
Me, denied on a Tuesday. God is laughing. Or maybe that’s Greg.
So we went to the next block and walked into a few bars that were open, but every time they seem remotely loud, we would leave and try another one.
“I remember Greg and me being annoyed when we would walk into a bar and the band would just be going on their break,” she said. “Now I just hope the band stays on a break.”
We finally found a quiet outdoor spot, and then we talked about just everything. “Who was that guy you dated who looked like Amadeus?” she asked. “He was the sculptor who lived in Seattle.”
“You’ve just glommed together three totally different boyfriends,” I told her. But I’d completely forgotten the Amadeus-looking guy, so that was a nice reminder.
When the bill came, she pulled out a $20 bill and said she had taken it from Greg’s wallet. The drinks were on him tonight.
As we walked to our separate cars in separate directions, I found myself hoping he had watched us have our drinks. I hope he’s somewhere saying, “Hey, you got together with Sparkly!” I hope he’s rolling his eyes at me when he compares my nonsense to his no-nonsense wife, knowing he dodged a bullet.
Friends come and go, but I’m proud to say he was my friend for life, and his wife will be, too.
Thanks for the drinks, Greg.