How long had it been, since I'd seen you? From back before you were sober, so three years at least. There'd been the occasional e-mails, the rarer phone calls, but we'd kept a pixelated distance between us. I'll confess: I was mostly expecting you to be bald. I was surprised to be wrong.
We'd both worked with David Waggoner in the MFA program at UW, so when I heard he was reading as part of the lecture series at Hugo House, I asked if you'd be going too. I don't remember which one of us suggested coffee, before.
It was good to see you. It always is, in the moments of familiarity and affection we can't help. You look so much more like your father, who I always liked and missed. You pointed it out before I did. "Could be worse: you could be like me, and look more every day like MY dad," I suggested, and we laughed, hard, and laughing it is easy to remember: yes, this is my friend. I've missed my friend. I miss him.
It was hard to see you. Hard to hear about your struggles, different from mine but who can say whose are more miserable? It's not a contest. Hard to look back at who we'd been, hard to recognize who we are now. Hard to hear you are tentatively dating again, however much I don't want or need to invite more drama, or your drama, into my life. Hard to not know what it is I want anyway.
The Hugo House lectures each have a theme. This one made sense, sure, falling the day after Valentine's Day: "Love is the Drug." I'd given that a passing thought: we were going to sit together in the dark while writers read about love? I'm sure there are more fucked-up ways to spend a Friday evening, although in the moment I was hard-pressed to come up with any of them. The theme was love, and what we got was tales of failed and ruined love, relationships gone sour, longing after youth, after the lost, breakups and dissolutions and people left so lonely that they're experiencing the physical manifestation of the word, buying it at the store like a commodity. Two solid hours of devastated, broken-ass hearts. Okay, then. Are there any happy love stories, love poems? Nobody brought any, Friday night, anyway.
And so I sat there in the dark, beside you. Beside my reunited friend and my bitter bitter ex and the man I thought I'd marry and the man who broke my heart, and it was lovely (seewhatIdidthere?) and at the same time I waited and hoped to die, a little bit. Maybe a bolt of lightning, before the lights came back up? Coup de foudre, the French say, falling in love the equivalent of a lightning strike. Maybe Cupid, with a hollow-point bullet. It was all the meta I could buy for $20. I thought, after, that if Hugo House had commissioned a piece on love from me, for this series, I couldn't have made up anything truer than what I felt sitting there in the dark, laughing my ass off and stifling tears. I was telling this story later, and a friend wondered idly with me, how many other dramas were unfolding through that audience, that night, that we couldn't know about? How many hearts were healing and breaking? How many divorces, how many first dates? How many of us shaking our heads, saying yes, exactly, yes. Oh, no.
It was good to love you. It was hard to love you.