My playlist while (or whilst, as my British friends would have it) writing this post:
Joni Mitchell – California [a callback to my first serious relationship, with Julie – roommate of J, below – who handcuffed me to my bunkbed in an episode I feel confident I’ve described somewhere on this blog, because it was – unbeknownst to me – witnessed by a friend of mine]
It’s a Friday evening. T has a date. N doesn’t. I’m sitting at my desk, on my second scotch (Ardbeg An Oa, currently, still – I pretty much alternate nowadays between that and Oban – two polar opposites of scotches), listening to Radio Paradise. Which is my favorite radio source. Listen. Donate. They’re awesome.
I’m a pretty social guy.
In the course of my Friday, I’ve participated in two social gatherings – one, with five of my closest college friends, on a Zoom that a couple more of us have been participating in in various combinations since April 2020. When the common friend of all of us got COVID. For the first of THREE times. Seriously. And the other, in person, with three close friends and colleagues with whom I’ve had lunch on Friday for six or seven years. In person until the pandemic, and again, for the last few weeks, and on Zoom in the interim.
This is the best thing that’s happened to me during the pandemic. By far.
We rotate through. Five or six of us are there nearly every week. When the pandemic began, I was close with two of this crowd. I previously had been close with two others, but our relationships had atrophied. And I had been friends with another three or four, but hadn’t been in touch, really, since college. Which was a long time ago. And two or three? I hadn’t really known. And it’s worth noting: we are friends from a college I transferred away from.
My college career was interrupted, dramatically, by my mother’s illness and death in my sophomore year. I took that year off. I spent one more semester on campus, and another in Scotland, on a program associated with the college. But I never returned. Instead, I spent the rest of my junior year traveling around Africa, before transferring to another school, for my second junior year. [In the short period between Scotland and Africa, I put a friend whom I had been fucking, and with whom I’d traveled for ten days through Wales, on Pan Am flight 103, at Heathrow. Ugh.] So these people on the Zoom all spent four years together, but I was a sort of apparition for them.
Anyway – now, they’re all my close friends.
Today, we were:
N (not me), who intimidated the fuck out of me in college. N was a BIG FEMINIST ON CAMPUS, was/is BEAUTIFUL, and, in our sole social interaction in college – which I remember but she doesn’t – told me she couldn’t see straight because she’d just had the shit fucked out of her by her boyfriend, riding him hard. I’ve got a (completely non-sexual) friend crush on. N has been 300 miles away for most of the pandemic, though she lives not too far from me.
J, the roommate of my first-year girlfriend, who ate so slowly in the freshman dining hall that we were the last to leave every fucking night. And who was known for how much she hated having her shoulders touched. Until recently, J lived 12,000 miles away. She’s moved home – not far from me – recently.
M, with whom I was friendly, but not good friends, and who (entirely coincidentally) was the first cousin of my childhood best friend, so I had known her at a distance since I was seven. M was notable in college for NOT LIKING MUSIC. Like, none of it. M lives 3,000 miles away.
A, the hub of this wheel, the one with all the COVIDs. He and I have been close friends since my third or fourth day of college. I was the first person to whom he came out. He was the first person I told about the crisis that predated this blog, other than M’s cousin, who’s the one who told me, “You sound like a sex addict.”
D was there today. He and I have been friends since I was thirteen. It was largely because of him that I made the misguided decision to attend this particular college. As a prospective student, I (and L, a triplet one of whose sisters I had dated) stayed with D on the weekend of Hurricane Gloria and had a phenomenal time. D and I have a somewhat tortured relationship. We live close together. We have multiple overlapping friend groups. We like each other a lot, but we quarrel like an old married couple. Not too long ago, I said to him, “I’m frustrated; I feel as if we’re locked in a pattern where everything one of us says, the other feels he has to contradict.” It had taken some work, and some courage, to bring this to D. D managed to give me the one response I hadn’t imagined: “We don’t contradict one another!” [He wasn’t joking.] I’ve written, in passing, about D here.
That was the crowd today.
H, with whom I was very close in college and for five or six years thereafter, and who is the answer to a trivia question, is the other regular attendee. She missed today. The return to in-person school has made it hard for her to join at the time we meet, as she’s a teacher. One among the very many great gifts of this Zoom has been the rejuvenation of her and my friendship. And, of our daily competition on the New York Times Mini, which it seems I win about 51% of the time, and she wins 49% of the time. D and his wife also participate. One or the other of them wins the remaining rounding error of the time. H has been through a shit ton during the pandemic. Recently, we spent an afternoon together; I apologized for having been an inadequate friend to her through her travails. “YOU SAVED MY LIFE!” she said. And explained how that was true. A sort of friendship dysmorphia, apparently.
L is an occasional visitor, a good childhood and college friend of A whom I never was close with, whom I like a lot, but whose career doesn’t let her regularly spend an hour or two on a Friday afternoon chatting with friends. She didn’t make it today.
And there are a few others who drop in more infrequently.
Anyway, this ALL was a digression. But it turns out to be the post.
That was my first social interaction of the day. It lasted a solid two hours.
The second was my lunch with my friends and colleagues. We ate. We drank a little. We visited the new home of the other male in the foursome (who is partners, but but doesn’t cohabitate, with, one of the two women). We talked about a whole bunch of stuff, including a difficult situation with which I’m struggling, and about which I hope to write before I stop this current writing jag. This lunch was about 90 minutes.
All of this was meant to be preamble to this post. But, it turns out, it’s amble. Point being? It’s a Friday night. I’m done socializing for the day. T’s out. Our son’s away. And instead of getting into mischief, I’m writing. And drinking. And writing. And drinking.
I once had a writing teacher who said, “If you don’t think, ‘you lucky motherfuckers get to read what I have to say’ when writing, then don’t bother writing.” I didn’t write again after he said that for nearly 20 years. But then?
Well, I nearly typed that sentence outside of quotation marks, instead of that previous paragraph there. And I’ve been writing, here, and elsewhere, for more than ten years now.